Graduate Fashion Week 2016 blessed the catwalk with Hazel, the girl dubbed the graduate to watch, with her make-it-yourself collection.
Symons’ compilation champions androgyny in its monochrome shades and tailored pieces that are bolted rather than sewn. A say in how we wear what we wear, and an outfit we can construct and completely deconstruct in the same amount of time it takes to build a piece of IKEA furniture. Now that’s 21st-century fashion. We managed to catch Hazel and ask her about her vision.
Culture Trip: Hazel, how do you strive to ensure that you stand out in such a competitive industry?
Hazel Symons: The fashion industry is a large and highly competitive industry. It can be very difficult to create new and innovative designs, but it is achievable through finding your own personal style and way of working. In today’s technological world, we are surrounded by fashion references everywhere which can create a block, so it can be a good idea to ignore them and find your own path (what I’m getting at is that there is already one Chanel, we don’t need another).
Find new imagery, your own personal way of documenting ideas, create samples etc. and you will find your own aesthetic. You stand out in this industry through your individuality.
CT: What is it that appealed to you about the notion of Lego blocks and bolting your pieces together rather than sewing them?
HS: It was a complete happy accident, and a lot of sampling that went into creating garments that can be screwed together. I went right back to my raw nature, which is home, and working alongside my Dad who is very good at woodwork. We were creating my portfolio case for university, because why would I pay a large amount of money for one when me and my Dad can easily get our hands on some recycled wood and make one ourselves?
When we were making it, I thought about how I could use this application within fashion, which then led on to new and exciting questions, such as how can I create a fabric that this technique will work with, and poof; a new concept was formed!
CT: How does fashion affect how you feel in your day to day life?
HS: I am a highly-detailed person with a very complex mind, I analyse everything I see and touch, so naturally this wears off onto my work as well (for example, every pattern piece is precisely 2mm otherwise they wouldn’t fit together!).
CT: What is your favourite thing about your design?
I am a womenswear designer, but I love the shapes and details from menswear. My collection is unisex, but it is a womenswear collection with a masculine vibe. I chose classical menswear pieces/shapes to recreate for my collection.
CT: What are your thoughts on finding success in fashion outside of London, our biggest fashion city? You studied at De Montfort University in Leicester, but what is the competition here compared to others?
CT: I originate from Cornwall so moving to the busy city of London was a bit too much of a big step too soon for me. I felt that Leicester was a happy medium for me as it is a city but I could still walk five minutes out of the door and be beside the canal and fields. I think it’s an amazing achievement to find success out of London. We always feel like we are outsiders but when events like this happen, it’s great to be fighting back!
CT: What is your next move since scooping the Christopher Bailey award?
HS: I have recently finished a 6-month internship at Sophie Hulme in London as an accessories design intern. It was really amazing to try a hand at something new and different. I am looking next to move into menswear as I’m currently leaning to complete my MA degree in menswear design, which is also something that I’d like to do in the foreseeable future. I am looking forward to going back to GFW in June and seeing all the exciting new talent and getting to talk to the students.
CT: Finally, can you run us through the unique build-a-garment aspect to your designs?
HS: I wanted to modernise something very traditional; my collection was inspired by packaging design because boxes are fully deconstructable and reconstructable. The overall concept is like a Lego store, so you would go in, pick out what panels you wanted, buy the required washers, screws and hardware, pick up some instructions, and take it home and make it yourself.
The garments do fasten normally with buttons though, for easy access. But all the panels are screwed together and can lie flat when deconstructed, including the darts. Some garments are more complex to construct and so they need a longer construction time, however no garment takes longer to construct than a normal piece of IKEA furniture (yes, I timed it!)