This week, Thomas Woods interviews up and coming designers Sarah Hollebon and Tia Lian at the recent Independent Brand Pop-Up event at the Martinez Members Cocktail Lounge.

Considering the last two years in which the Covid-19 pandemic has damaged small businesses, it is important to shed light on creatives that are still looking to persevere, especially in the world of fashion. At the recent Independent Brand Pop-Up event at the Martinez Members Cocktail Lounge, I caught up with a few designers that were looking to push their businesses into the public eye and get their work out there.

Sarah Hollebon

Sarah Hollebon is the designer and owner of her self-named brand, one that makes highly detailed bespoke pieces. With the aim of her brand being to explore worldwide social issues, I sat down with Sarah to discuss how she went about dissecting this, as well as what inspired her.

TW: I see that you use your pieces to represent prominent social issues, how do you go about dissecting those? Is it all personal, or do you seek other experiences to put into your creations?

SH: It’s a mixture! It depends on the concept that I start with, so it’s all about social issues. I started by talking about mental health, I dissected things from my own personal experiences, and I also interviewed people who have gone through those types of experiences as well. My next collection is based around trauma, and again, I’m going to be taking inspiration from my own personal experiences. I think taking inspiration from other people’s experiences is the most factual form of information you can get.

TW: Were there any other pre-existing brands you took inspiration from?

SH: There are some brands that I took inspiration from… some designers that I love are (Maison) Margiela, more 90s era Margiela, Thierry Mugler. They have definitely informed my work.

TW: I can see that, especially with the red blazer in your 2019 collection! It has ’90s Mugler vibes.

SH: That’s really nice to hear!

TW: Being a London based magazine, London Runway is interested in the influence that the city has on fashion culture. Has your brand been informed or influenced by the city in any way?

SH: I’ve lived in London for 5 years now, so yeah, I’d say it’s had an impact. I also just take inspiration from nature around me as well, with the buildings and greenery. Also, the deep-rooted history that’s linked to London, I find that very inspiring.

TW: A lot of creatives and directors tend to lean towards colours, shapes, or textures… is there a particular side you tend to lean towards?

SH: It’s definitely a balance. Part of my business is bespoke, so one aspect is that it’s for the client, creating pieces that are more tailored to their shape. I do really like texture, but I like to balance it carefully with shape…creating obscure silhouettes but then having natural and subtle textures. I work a lot with boucle, which I think is a really textured fabric. But then I really like black, as I think that pairs nicely with shape and form.

TW: It must be hard to choose, but do you have a favourite piece?

SH: It is! But I think I do have a favourite. It’s the black and white jacket that I recently made because that represents the 1 in 4 mental health statistic, and that’s personal to me.

TW: Do you mind sharing what the statistic is?

SH: Oh yes, so 1 in 4 people will develop a mental health issue in their lifetime. I think fashion is so powerful to talk about important issues and it can really change the way people think and act… it’s just so powerful. I can see it through conversations I’ve had with people.

It was clear from talking to Sarah that, as a designer, she was as detailed as they come. She clearly loved creating her own work, and it is evident that she has put a lot of time into her craft, moulding the business around concepts that not only benefits her, but others too. Her work was striking, unique, and tasteful. Her use of shape was an aspect of her pieces that really stood out to me when viewing the pieces in person, with the excellence of the fabric only adding to the overall quality of her work.

Tia Lian

Tia Lian is a young British designer who has most recently presented her pieces at the 2019/2020 New York Fashion Week, as well as being the winner of both the 2021 GFW X W1Curates Competition and the Arts of Fashion Competition. Tia and I discussed a range of topics in relation to her fashion journey so far, as well as what’s to come.

TW: I was really interested in your brand’s prominent use of 3D printing. Going forward, do you think that will be the main form of production? Do you think it’s an emerging method?

Tia: I think that, at the minute, the fashion industry is constantly creating new ways to make fashion. I think 3D printing is starting to become an interesting element to design, but when I started out, it was more me working with my university’s engineers that got me into it. It wasn’t something we were taught in our fashion classes. It was something I went and investigated on my own. I look at designers like Iris van Herpen and saw her designs, using 3D printing, laser cutting, and it seemed so unique in comparison to everyone else. It was definitely the route I wanted to go down; it’s actually a really cool way to create things.

TW: Did you have any inspirations? Maybe more on the aesthetic side of things?

Tia: Yeah! For my collection that involved 3D printing and laser cutting, my inspiration came from my investigation into martial arts. My dad teaches this martial arts class called Wing Chun. It’s not aggressive; it’s more to do with energy and flow. I was looking at different ways to represent energy in an aesthetic way, and I would draw shapes and draw how I would visualise energy. This is my way of representing that.

TW: A question I’ve been interested in asking today has been to do with creators and their interests aesthetically. Are you somebody that leans more towards shapes, materials, or colours? Or is there more of a general balance?

Tia: I love shapes! I think that initial design process of how you are going to make that shape is super fun… but for me, I love texture and textiles, with the garments. That’s where I started out, with textiles. Then, I moved into fashion. When I design, I get very excited with embellishments or the textures or the fabric or how I’m going to make a certain fabric. That’s why I’m quite drawn to making my own fabric with the 3D printing, the laser cutting…finding unconventional ways to use fabric. That’s what I’m drawn to.

TW: What is the hardest part, for you, about starting a brand or creating a project?

Tia: For me, I did the university route. My course taught me ways to show my creativity. They told us not to hold back, do whatever you want, and be expressive; do the things you think are too hard to make. That is where I gained a lot of my confidence. But, when leaving university, I had this skill and I didn’t know how to manage it. Starting out, I didn’t know where to begin. That’s the hardest part, making the first initial step into it. You must have discipline with yourself and keep pushing for what you want. Also, knowing when to set your goals out and setting out what you want by the end of the year is important, it’s the main thing that I do.

Tia’s brand was one that I was really drawn to, most prominently because of her unique use of material in tandem with shape. Her avant-garde style does not make her pieces any less approachable, with many of her pieces bringing her own take on everyday clothing. With some of her more ‘runway’ pieces, the use of 3D printing and laser cutting is the major standout, and it really translates her quoted inspirations of Wing Chun and natural settings, with the flow of her pieces working amazingly well.

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