Meet My Team, Part One
It’s easy to think that when you are a small eponymous label that you are a “one man band”, but this could not be further from the truth. The reality is I have a close-knit team whom I work with, who share my passion, and make what I do so much easier and infinitely more enjoyable.
So, I thought it was high time I introduced you to two individuals who help me behind the scenes putting my pieces together, from everything from pattern cutting to hand stitching.
My dear friend, Dawit Adenager, aka Mr. D and I have been working together for the past 10 years. As I was self-taught, Mr D was the closest person I had to a teacher. He has helped me from the beginning of my journey to grow as a designer and become a professional couturier.
Mr D, tell us about your creative journey and how you started designing:
Well. I’m from Ethiopia and I actually started my creative life as a dancer. Gradually, I began making costumes for my dance group. I would say I started designing in 1991. At the time I didn’t know how to sew at all, so I created designs and I had someone to sew them for me.
It was when I came to the UK in 1993, I slowly began sewing and went to Westminster Kingsway College to study. I worked all the time I was studying; I feel I learnt more by doing it that way.
I also carried on with my Ethiopian cultural dance when I was in the UK, until about 2000. And I worked for the National Theatre.
Nowadays I work with Amanda, some other designers and brands, and teach Technical at the London College of Fashion.
How did you first meet Amanda?
Amanda and I met through a mutual work colleague. She knew about the fundamentals of dressmaking but not much more than that. But what was great was that she was a really quick learner.
How did your working relationship begin?
I think we first started working together in 2009, but it was a very gradual process - I would make things and she would just like to watch and that’s the way she learnt. When she started designing and making things, I would look them over and if need be advise her to do things a different way – a more professional way really.
Amanda has always had a lot of talent, passion and determination, which has made teaching her and working with her really enjoyable. And she had always had an eye, especially with her fabrics - her ability to source fabric is really amazing.
When I think back to the beginning - we worked so hard, crazy hard. I would come to her at 5pm and we would work all night until about 1am.
Nowadays, I’m not with Amanda every day but when we work together it is like a partnership. When she needs something specific she just calls me up and we schedule time for me to come in.
The best thing is that I am working with my friend. We help each other, listen to each other and just joke; it’s a lovely way to spend the time.
Do you think that it has held Amanda back at all that she hasn’t had formal training?
No, formal training is not necessary. I see lots of students that come to the College and they learn. But if you don’t have “it” in you or it's not from your heart then it doesn't work.
Can you ever see yourself doing anything else?
No, I love it too much! Even if it’s my day off, I have to make something. It’s within me - something that is with me all the time.
Do you create your own collections?
I do yes. I specialise in evening and wedding dresses but I can do everything. I prefer the bespoke couture side of the business, which is probably why Amanda and I work so well together.
This year I met Charissa Osei who is now doing an apprenticeship with me. I feel very fortunate to be able to share what I have learnt and give back to someone who is so passionate about making and designing clothes.
How did you get into sewing and making clothes?
Hmm… the real reason is my bipolar. Fashion has always been something I wanted to do - my dream career. When I was diagnosed with bipolar (which was on 14 February 2014) – it was like a light-bulb moment. I realised life is too short so, if I was going to spend my time doing something it might as well be something I love.
Some time after my diagnosis, I was speaking with one of my counsellors and they said “Look, some of the most creative people have bipolar and they do the greatest things and I can tell that you’ve got an interest in fashion so why don’t you just do it?” So I thought, you know what you’re right.
I started taking classes, but then I kept on having different kinds of episodes so I wouldn’t be able to finish the classes. It has taken a while but I’ve been more consistent with my classes and learning.
Really luckily I have two mentors – Amanda and Molly Quest, who is a seamstress and designer. Molly was my teacher at Westminster Adult Education Services. They have both given me confidence, I’m learning different skills, and helping them – and with them both in my life things are looking a whole lot brighter. And not just about establishing a work relationship but a friendship - I know that if anything happened that Amanda and Molly would be there for me.
How did you start working with Amanda?
I was doing a work experience placement as a costume design assistant, in April, on an independent film called “The Glove”. A lady called Birgitta was the lead actress in the film. She was very friendly and made me feel so welcome. On the last day of my placement she said she had a friend called Amanda who was a fashion designer. She said she would talk to Amanda about me, and here we are. I work with Amanda every Saturday and Monday.
What have you learnt from Amanda and what is it like working with her?
I have learnt that you do not need any qualifications or certificates in your field of choice, as long as you’ve got the knowledge, the drive, the ability to learn, and the ability to just tap into your natural gift.
Because Amanda is self-taught it gave me the confidence to do it too. She draws, designs, and makes everything; there are no limitations with her and that is what I love about her.
I’ve learnt through Amanda that any pattern can be adapted to make something else, there’s always a beginning and you can just add your little touches.
What do you want to achieve?
There are so many things I want to make for plus size women that aren’t really out there, and now I know anything can be sized up and anything can be tailored for any figure - that is the person I want to be. I want to be the go-to person, not just for plus sizes but also for someone with style, someone who has a love for fashion.
I would like to create a ready to wear line and make bespoke pieces like Amanda does. I draw inspiration from my icons - Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, Balmain, Molly and of course, Amanda.