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Chris Rhodes and Lyson Marchessault

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Work / Opinion

“Fresh talent has become a commodity”: 1 Granary’s editor-in-chief Olya Kuryshchuk

1 Granary started life as a blog, publishing the work of Central St Martins students. Five years on, the annual showcase presents the most exciting emerging designers from Royal College of Art, Antwerp Fashion Department and Parsons, New York: issue five alone sees contributions from names including Robi Rodriguez, Sarah M Richardson, Alastair McKimm, Daniel Jackson, Robbie Spencer, Max Von Gumppenberg & Patrick Bienert, Richard Bush, Camille Bidault-Waddington, Marie Déhé, Lyson Marchessault, Emma Wyman, Danielle Neu, Chris Rhodes, Ellie Grace Cumming, Tom Ordoyno, Sam Rock, Katie Burnett, Hiu Zhi Wei, James Robjant, Eliza Conlon, Estelle Hanania, Cathy Horyn, Terry and Tricia Jones, Jefferson Hack, Marc Ascoli, Olivier Theyskens, Kim Sion.

But half a decade, five hefty publications, a spat of talks, events and exhibitions and over 50k Instagram followers on, what have the 1 Granary team learned about the challenges facing young talent? We caught up with the publication’s editor-in-chief Olya Kuryshchuk to find out.

When we started 1 Granary five years ago, our main goal was to showcase the exciting and innovative designs of our peers. We shared their work, and their thoughts, on a small blog that we ran collectively. Very soon, we became aware of a problem: a lack of knowledge with regards to how the industry actually operates outside college walls. Students spent years developing ideas, turning their research into concepts and sketches into toiles, but they weren’t well-informed as to how life unfolds after graduation. A placement year gave a rough idea, but there wasn’t a chance to speak intimately with somebody at the top, and get advice on how to develop a label or successfully get a job. Driven by curiosity, we started talking with tutors, industry professionals and designers, to slowly uncover information relevant to emerging fashion designers, as mainstream media didn’t concentrate on sharing this type of knowledge. Little did we anticipate how much attention 1 Granary would gain; that “Let’s print a few shoots!” would become a 240-page long magazine supported by Comme des Garçons, that we were invited to host talks with Rizzoli including Olivier Theyksens and Colin McDowell, and that we would open an exhibition in London showcasing 18 artists and designers, all just one year after starting out.

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James Robjant and Eliza Conlon

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James Robjant and Eliza Conlon

In the past five years, a lot has changed. We started just on the cusp of Instagram’s birth, which in itself initiated a whole different ball game for young talent, and their newfound ability to communicate directly to their audience. Disillusioned by the reality of the industry ‒ where there are more graduates than available jobs, and ‘jobs’ became ’poorly paid internships’ ‒ while driven to transmit their own vision, many of our friends started their own labels. As we grew with them, and our knowledge expanded through our conversations with key figures in fields as wide as publishing, PR, HR, business, buying and editing, we started to slowly understand what young designers need in order to grow sustainably. Naturally, this is how we developed the vision for our platform ‒ to be able to educate beyond the university curriculum with real-life knowledge; connecting the promising with the prominent. All such things come together in how we try to think of creative solutions for our generation. In mid-2016, we established a showroom to offer designers practical support, but mostly to create a community where small and independent labels could no longer be taken advantage of. To date, we have supported 125 young designers through the 1 Granary Showroom, helping them to receive exposure worldwide, while providing council in other forms, like our VOID initiative, which we started in late 2017. Here, all our missions come together during events, talks and exhibitions. The first VOID was kicked off at the Store Studios in London last November, will travel to CIFF in Copenhagen at the end of January, and shall arrive at Red Hook Labs in New York during fashion week in February: a truly global journey for the emerging designers who are part of the first instalment.

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Tom Ordoyno and Ellie Grace Cumming

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Hiu Zhi Wei and Katie Burnett

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James Robjant and Eliza Conlon

Designers are among the least protected players in this industry. Their creativity is crucial to the development of our system, yet they often find themselves in situations of abuse and exploitation. We want to develop a place where their interests would be considered. Confronted with a big corporation or a well-known stylist, a single independent designer has little power. Make that a group of designers who support and believe in each other, and the relationship shifts significantly. Slowly and steadily, we are creating a network connecting young creatives around the world, a union that can protect designer’s rights.

But this is more complex than a David versus Goliath rhetoric, with the individual designer on one side and corporate brands on the other. Right now, fresh talent has become a commodity. Many big brands work with young designers, but not to nurture or inspire them, but to the contrary, profit from their youthful identity. The fashion industry needs to learn how to do more for young designers than take advantage of their ideas and creativity, and rather collaborate in different, enriching ways. This wouldn’t just benefit the designers. The whole industry would flourish if more support was given to young talent in a variety of ways. We want to encourage, inform and excite the young. The future’s so bright and there are countless opportunities to make work not only visually beautiful but also sustainable. At the end of the day, the industry is a chain of connections that goes full circle: when a designer is successful, it benefits not just them, but the whole ecosystem of photographers, stylists, publications, retailers, PR companies, production companies, suppliers, factories, employees, and students who want to learn tricks of the trade. This means you cannot support young talent without stimulating the entire system. Everyone benefits when independent designers prosper.

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Estelle Hanania and Gary David Moore

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Estelle Hanania and Gary David Moore

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Estelle Hanania and Gary David Moore