Galvanising London’s Fashion Talent
with Prof. Jimmy Choo
Words by Leigh Maynard.
Last week in London, a crowd gathered to the sounds of a piano in a stunning Grade I period building at 20 Hanover Square for JCA Fashion Academy's presentation, where seven MA students showcased their debut collections at the academy's Mayfair campus. The guests, a mix of friends, family and industry professionals, were offered the chance to explore the academy's many stunning rooms, with each presentation situated in a different room, bringing a theme that expanded on the students' collections and ethos.
JCA, a pioneering fashion school and incubator, is the brainchild of designer and Prof. Jimmy Choo OBE and Mr Stephen Smith set up to re-galvanise London's aspiring designers, helping to launch them into the luxury industry through its educational programs while offering studios, co-working spaces, and galleries to help them develop and elevate their work. Each MA collection had its unique signature, underpinned by a drive to produce exceptional garments with quality techniques whilst upholding each brand's integrity and ethos.
MA student Aaiyma explored the concept of 'simple unusual' drawing on geometric shapes, inspiring people to embrace their individuality, with simple silhouettes that drew inspiration from visionaries such as Roksanda llinčič, Issey Miyake and Fernand Léger. At the same time, Mariam Saeed's brand Location-em capitalised on a gap in the market for more elegant, modest options' offering occasion wear that prioritises modesty without compromising on style.' Designer Olivia Black's genderless brand focuses on sustainably produced clothes using surplus materials and second-hand materials to create garments for all. Polly McKevitt's 'Cluttegories' collection comprised six looks focused on retro silhouettes with a contemporary twist.
Rocio Icela Sánchez's brand ICELA BERRA is also sustainably produced, drawing inspiration from 'the ethereal quality of angelic beings' and Saleha Hussain's luxury streetwear brand 'Yasmin' was taken from a middle name that has been passed through generations of her family with a collection that aims to encourage its wearers to 'embrace their individuality while investing in themselves as their most prized possessions.' Finally, Meryem Bertal launched her brand UNBD during the presentations through the medium of dance to redefine the realm of dance attire.
During the evening, Prof. Choo talked to 5Eleven about the students in the program, championing their work as they embark on the next step of their careers. He explained that the academy's inception had been in his mind for a long time, "I met Stephen many years ago. He was teaching at the time in another city, and he said to me, if we can set up the academy, it will be a great thing, so we talked about it for many years, and eventually, we set it up two years ago." The designer explained that since its launch in 2022, JCA continues to attract a wide range of students whose efforts and talent he greatly admires. "The individuals in the show came from different countries, but I had seen some of their work before, and they all were hard workers. It's great for them to show their collections now. I wish them well; they have been working hard, and I believe they have a good future."
As each student prepares to embark on their career, Prof. Choo explains that JCA has equipped them with knowledge on all aspects of business, as the focus of their work mustn't be just on creativity. "They need to have experience and understanding about production and factories, and they need to have somewhere to produce the materials. We have been in the industry for 40 years and have the experience. We have travelled around different parts of the world. We know these factories and the production dealers. Hence, anything that we can help them with, we do. We tell them it's not how hard working you are but the creativity side you must also be good with. Still, you also have to be able to talk to people when you come into the industry and understand things like where you source your materials. And also how you promote your brand. They always say I want to be like you, Jimmy, and I say you have to work hard at what you do and really concentrate as well."
With the recent addition of a campus in Boston Manor, West London, Prof. Choo explained that whilst extending the program was advantageous, there was also an emphasis on ensuring the academy offered a quality education and attracted a range of international students. "We have people from all over the world coming to enrol at JCA, people from China and even my own country, Malaysia. We have Boston Manor, but first, we had to see if the London Campus would do well." Looking at the diversity spanning this season of MA presentations and the exceptionally high attendance at last night's event, JCA seems set to be a successful and essential contributor to the success of London's fashion industry. When asked how Prof. Choo thought the industry could continue this momentum, particularly through this challenging economic period, he commented, "Every time I am at London Fashion Week, I see a lot of foreign buyers and press and come here to see the designers, London has a playful creativity so everyone likes to come here to see the designers here. Not only in London but worldwide, things are not so great right now, but it's important that the young designers continue to do their shows and attract people." With that sentiment in mind, it is without doubt that JCA will continue to be an integral part of that process.