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Four upcoming, independent labels you should be watching

Wesley Harriott, Sullen Girl, Tolu Coker, and Fortie Label are among the ten brands shortlisted for the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize

They’re here! Shortlisted from over 1,000 entrants, there are now just ten names in the running for the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize. A contest dedicated to finding and supporting the best of Britain’s breakout fashion designers, the lucky few have now been selected. 

Each year, ASOS looks for applicants who show ingenuity and future potential both in the design and business sides of their brand. The winners get one-on-one mentorship from various angles within ASOS (from design to marketing, production to financing) plus a casual £50,000 to start their business. Nevermind a spot on the site to sell their collections to people all over the world. Basically, the Fashion Discovery prize is a life-changing opportunity for a young designer.

Now, it’s the turn of the people (that’s you guys) to have a say on who gets to take the title of People’s Pick. In addition to the two winners – picked by a panel of industry experts including Dazed contributor Susie Bubble, fashion author Katie Baron and designer Gemma Shiel – an additional spot on ASOS’s website for one season is up for grabs for the label that gets the most votes. That, and the chance to win an addition £10,000 if you’re also one of the lucky two chosen by the panel. Voting is open officially from today on ASOS’s website

To help with your decision, we caught up with the minds behind four of our favourite shortlisted brands. So whether it’s the power dressing Wesley Harriott, the youth-focused Sullen Girl, the sustainable unisex wares of Tolu Coker, or the luxurious realness of Fortie Label, or one of the other six shortlisted labels, the decision is yours.

SULLEN GIRL 

How would you describe Sullen Girl?

Tom Weller: Fierce, fun and unforgiving. Sullen Girl began as a photography and clothing project by me during my A-Levels, and it is now an international community of girls who love to stand out with everything that they do.

What kind of person do you want to dress?

Tom Weller: Girls that are strong, or want to become strong. Growing up I had so many female figures that had an influence on me, both young and old, I almost want to dress them out of love.

What’s the most important thing young designers should be considering right now?

Tom Weller: Having a unique voice, being able to offer something different and coming from an authentic place.

What do you want people to get up to in your designs?

Tom Weller: The designs are very much for getting outside: skating, swimming, going out, in the sun... I like seeing the clothes worn in rather than being worn once and re-sold.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Tom Weller: My first and biggest inspiration is the photography of Larry Clark. His work around youth and identity really pushes me to figure out what it means to be a girl in today’s society. In terms of the clothing itself, I’m not ashamed to say I find inspiration in ordinary mundane objects and themes we deal with every day. Thrown away clothes in charity shops, discount fashion, I like to challenge that idea of what can and cannot be considered fashion.

What would winning the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize allow you to do that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise?

Tom Weller: It would finally allow me to go full-time with the brand and reach its full potential! I’m still at college and working full-time, and often can’t find the time to create consistent and varied releases that I know my customers would like. It would mean so much as I would also benefit hugely from the mentoring from ASOS, advice that would stick with me throughout my whole life.

@sullengirluk

TOLU COKER

How would you describe Tolu Coker?

Tolu Coker: Freedom and expression! Tolu Coker is a unisex fashion and lifestyle brand centred around community, inclusivity, diversity and social responsibility. The brand explores and acknowledges hybridity and fluidity in societies and cultures, translating this into forward-thinking fashion and environmentally conscious clothing, shoes and accessories. The development of unique and innovative design techniques which utilise both traditional artisan craftsmanship and modern technology is integral to the brand’s conscious consideration for sustainability and the advancement of technology. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Tolu Coker: Through looking at society, being open to new experiences, talking, listening, sharing and observing. People are such a key inspiration to my brand and I love exploring identity because I feel like its so connected to what we wear. Our clothing is our second skin and says so much about us, and what we wear is always an accurate reflection of us.

What’s the most important thing young designers should be considering right now?

Tolu Coker: I think it’s so important that we strive to look at what we can learn from and do better than those that came before us, and also each other – not just creatively, but ethically. Competition in any industry will always be there, and it’s a great thing as long as we make it healthy. As a young creative, I realised how much I actually gain through being open to learning and giving to others. Supporting each other, whether through collaboration, sharing advice or simply celebrating each other makes an environment where the effects of the fashion community spread through and can be seen to positively influence wider society. 

What’s missing in fashion that you think you could add?

Tolu Coker: The development of unique and innovative design techniques which utilise both traditional artisan craftsmanship and modern technology, without compromising social consciousness, consideration for sustainability and the advancement of technology.

If you won the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize, what’s the first thing you’d do?

Tolu Coker: I’d definitely sort out a studio space, and work on the final touches before getting my next collection into production! I’m currently working from my bedroom and I think it’s so important to have a space where I’m able to maximise my brand’s potential – I have so many ideas I’m ready to materialise and invest in the right resources to do so. The studio would also serve as an open space where other creatives can visit, see the processes and utilise the facilities. Tolu Coker is much more than just a fashion brand and serves as a creative outlet for the youthful expression of reform, changing social/economic climates and new emerging identities through its collections, and I want to maintain that through my creation and operational processes.

@tolucoker

WESLEY HARRIOTT 

How would you describe Wesley Harriott?

Ricky Harriott: Wesley Harriott approaches women in a way that isn’t about enhancing their physicality; it’s about amplifying perception and presence. My brand allows women to exist beyond gender ideals, presenting dynamic intelligent silhouettes that work as a uniform for dynamic intelligent women.

What kind of person do you want to dress?

Ricky Harriott: My brand speaks to a woman who is perceived as a force. She embodies an energy that can be felt from a distance. She is intimidating, but she is graceful, she is masculine but also elegant.

The Wesley Harriott woman regards clothing as an extension of her power, like armour. She is street smart, and able to navigate through her city as if she built it herself, blurring the lines between civilian and superhero. These are the kind of women I attract and aspire to dress.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Ricky Harriott: Inspiration always begins by tapping into my obsession with video games, comic books and anime. In these fictional realms women are portrayed with so much power and strength, I have always been captivated by these representations of females, so naturally a character or two will find their way on to my mood boards and into my research. Being raised on an estate in Tottenham still really inspires and informs my work and aesthetic. That part of my life exposed me to some of the most incredible, resilient women. It didn’t matter what life dealt them, they just kept going and providing. I viewed them then as I view them now, as soldiers.

What would be the best bit about winning the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize?

Ricky Harriott: Winning this prize would change my life. ASOS would allow me to give my pieces to such a wide diverse audience, which at this stage in my career feels like the ultimate step forward. I have worked relentlessly to create my brand from very little resource, while giving my absolute best. If I were to win this competition, the support would allow me to exceed both my own and my brand’s potential like never before, and that prospect excites me very much.

@wesley_harriott

FORTIE LABEL

How would you describe Fortie Label?

Essie Buckman: Fierce, urban luxury realness. Fabulosity over the top understated chic. If baby phat hired me as a creative director.

What kind of person do you want to dress?

Essie Buckman: I want to dress every woman: grandmas, single mothers, soldiers, every kind of woman. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Essie Buckman: I find my inspiration from people mostly, and the 00s. 

What’s the most important thing young designers should be considering right now?

Essie Buckman: Consider learning about how to run and start a business, save money, be diligent and network your ass off.

Why do you want to win the ASOS Fashion Discovery prize?

Essie Buckman: So that I can live off doing what I love, which is creating designing and exploring ideas. To be able to manufacture on a large scale in order to reach out to a larger clientele and to be part of, and learn from, a huge brand that’s conquered online retail. 

@fortielabel

Voting for the winner of ASOS’s Fashion Discovery prize is open now – choose your favourite here