Harriet Eccleston, designing for the independent, modern woman
"I aim to design for the independent, modern woman", Harriet Eccleston, a recent graduate from Northumbria University, tells me. Inspired by her British heritage, family history and 1900s menswear fashion, Harriet’s graduate collection has been making waves among the UK fashion scene. Having only graduated in 2017, she has already showcased at London Graduate Fashion Week, the Midlands Fashion Week finals and earned the 2017 title of Young Designer of the Year. Since graduation, she has started her own eponymous label, which we are excited to share more details of in the following interview!
What inspired you to go into fashion?
I have been sewing since as long as I can remember, as a small child my Grandma taught me to sew and knit. Making clothes for my teddy bear slowly developed into making clothes for myself. Looking back it seams a natural and inevitable progression.
How was the experience of studying Fashion Design at Northumbria University?
Studying my BA in Fashion at Northumbria University gave me a well-rounded understanding of many aspects of the fashion industry, making finding placements and employment easier. I was able to develop my style and confidence as a designer with the support and encouragement of the brilliant tutors and technicians around me.
Were your parents supportive of you studying fashion?
Yes, they have always been extremely supportive of the choices that I have made towards making a career in fashion. I recently moved and took over a room to set up a studio. I wouldn’t be where I am at the moment without their help and support, for that I am extremely grateful.
You have recently started your own eponymous label. What is your typical customer?
I aim to design for the independent modern woman. I hope that my clothes make her feel empowered and confident.
What has been one of the toughest parts of starting your own label?
At university you have a safety net of tutors and technicians around you to offer help and advice. Starting my own business, I am in the studio on my own, I have to work out solutions to my problems as well as what happens next. It is also difficult to juggle time. I am working on two freelance projects at the same time as my own collection so I have to be really organised and prioritise tasks. However tough it might sometime be, I am so fortunate to be doing what I love and I cant wait to see what it might develop into.
What is one of the most important lessons you learned about the fashion industry from having studied it and started your own brand?
To search for and take every opportunity you find, you never know who you might meet or what it might lead to. Thinking ‘why not’ and applying to different placements, jobs and competitions, I have gained more than I could have imagined, whether in experience, contacts or publicity. All of the opportunities have built up to get me to where I am today.
Why did you decide for your Graduate Collection to look at images of your family? What inspired this collection?
Family has always been such an important part of my life. Sadly my grandparents passed away just before I started my graduate collection. Looking at old photographs and trinkets opened up their lives as well as the lives of family members before them, also reminding me of my childhood memories. My great grandfather ran a menswear shop in the early 1900s. I was drawn to the well-crafted and refined ideals of the 1900s as well as the feelings of safety, security and comfort.
What was the public response to this collection?
The response has been really positive with intrigue into how some of the pieces had been constructed as well as the story behind them.
Did you have a favorite piece from this collection?
I think my favourite piece would have to be the knitted jumper, probably because of the amount of time, sweat and tears that went into making it. I love the way that it moves when a model is wearing it and each time it has been photographed in a different shoot, it takes on a new demeanour.
Do you have a favorite designer that you admire?
I admire a combination of designers. I love the work of Limi Fue, the idea of masculine clothing for women with a timeless feel. Paul Smith’s traditionally British style with a twist is also something that I really admire.
Where do you see your brand going in the next five to ten years?
Everything has happened so quickly over the last few months I'm trying to take things a day at a time at the moment! I am loving working on my own collection and really hope that I am able to continue working on collections under my own name in the future. It would also be amazing to be able to grow the business and have employees take over some of the tasks and move to a separate premise with more equipment. I’m just excited to see what this dream might lead to.