P&P sits down with LCF alum Sasha Harris, the Bespoke Tailoring graduate who is now Head Designer at supercool street brand Disturbing London.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
Fashion was the first and pretty much the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I have memories of being a kid and being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and it was always fashion design. I obviously had no idea what that involved at the age of 5, but I knew I loved clothes. My family also has a background in design – my great-grandmother trained in fashion in early 1900s, my grandmother ran two boutiques in 60s and 70s and my mum was in fashion, designing stage clothes and wardrobe for music artists in UK and US in the 80s and 90s. I wasn’t even aware of this properly until I was a teenager, but it clearly runs in the family.
What is it about London that makes it such a fantastic city for fashion?
Where do I start? There are so many things – so much creativity, not just fashion related but art, music and theatre. What I like the most is the diversity of race, religion, culture – it’s like we have the world on our door step and you can either tap into that for inspiration or you can overlook it, but you definitely can’t deny that it all exists right here under our noses. I also love that each corner of London has a different pulse to it. North, east, south and west have their own different rhythms, different accents, different styles of doing things.
What attracted you to working for Disturbing London as a fashion brand?
I think it was mainly the way the opportunity came about to be honest. It happened in a very natural way that just felt right in my gut, one of those situations where you are in the right place at the right time. My boss, Dumi Oburota, came to the LCF Graduate show that I was in and ended up sitting next to my mum. My mum wasn’t actually meant to be watching the show as it was strictly for press and industry, but she managed to charm her way in. My mum didn’t know who Dumi was or what he did and was just starting friendly conversation, Dumi mentioned that Disturbing London had an apparel line and he was looking for a graduate designer to come on board to assist a head designer/creative director. My mum said that I was showing my final collection and they exchanged details. I then met with Dumi about 3 times over that summer to talk about the fashion side of the business and what his ambitions were for it and I put together some of my ideas and designs. After about 3/4 months of back and fourth I got the job as Head Designer.
Tell us about your role at DL.
Well anything to do with the fashion side of the business is basically my responsibility. I see the process through from research and concept, design to sampling, sourcing fabrics, production, press through gifting and beyond. I am essentially the core of team and work with a freelance graphic designer, pattern cutter or the manufacturing factory depending on the product and a production manger. Other team members at Disturbing London put their input in on the press and marketing side of things as well as creating visual content. I work primarily with a lot of freelancers and external companies, but as the fashion side of the business grows the more we will bring in house.
What’s your favourite part of the design process? Do you love the process or the product?
I definitely prefer the product more than the process. The process is cool when things move smoothly, but it’s a pretty intense process. At the end of the day, you want to see that product on someone and it’s so satisfying to see a product that you’ve designed on someone who has chosen to the spend their cash on it.
You studied Bespoke Tailoring – how is this incorporated into your work at DL?
I think when you learn a practice like bespoke tailoring, it really sets a solid foundation for whatever you’re creating. So I guess its the principles of creating well made clothes with a heavy focus on fit and attention to detail that are incorporated the most into what I do at DL.
DL has collaborated with amazing brands such as Nike. What other brands do you dream of collaborating with?
I would love to collaborate with Converse! It goes without saying that Converse has this easy coolness to it, but I particularly like that it’s an honest brand. I think that’s the hardest quality for a fashion brand to have, especially for how long its been going for. I see Converse as quite a classic brand and a staple item to have in your wardrobe, something that’s accessible that most people own. Also nearly all of the Disturbing London team wear Converse on a daily basis, so it just makes perfect sense to me.
How did LCF prepare you for a career in the fashion industry?
Well it did and at the same time it didn’t. I feel like university can only prepare you so much and the more you take advantage of that while you’re at university, the better position you’re in when you graduate. I personally found it really hard to balance studying, earning money and interning. I definitely wish my course was a four year course with a sandwich year so it actually gives you the time to focus on getting real experience in the industry, without also having to worry about university work. But I also did have the best time being around that creative energy everyday. I met amazing people, had great tutors who actually worked in the industry and learnt important skills.
What advice would you give to emerging designers at the start of their career?
I think try and be very self-analytical about your strengths and weaknesses. Know if you would prefer working for a big brand that is more established or a new and upcoming brand. Keep in mind that you will probably learn more about every element of a fashion brand working for a new and upcoming label, whereas the big brands are more rigid so you won’t really see or experience other parts of the business that are not part of your job role. Finally if you don’t know exactly what part of the fashion industry you are interested in, then go and experience everything. Figuring out what you don’t want to do takes you one step closer to finding what you do want to do.
Check out Disturbing London now!