On Tuesday, 20th February, Richard Quinn’s 2018 London Fashion Week show made fashion history. In attendance at the presentation of his second womenswear collection since graduating from Central Saint Martins' MA program was Queen Elizabeth II, making her first ever appearance on the front row, and who went on to present the London-born designer with the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design. Based on “demonstrating value to the community and/or strong sustainable policies” this was the inaugural year for the award, but it is the second time Quinn, whose namesake label has only been in existence since 2016, has been recognized for his commitment to sustainability.
A print-maker known for his bold botanicals, Quinn now works out of his own studio in South London, which also operates as an open-access, cost-effective textile space for students and fellow designers alike. And it was winning his first accolade last year, the H&M Design Award, which also commended his ethical production methods, which facilitated this. He invested the prize money in the studio, as well as all the necessary equipment, so he could create his collections under one roof and in a sustainable way, and help other designers to do the same.
In a recent interview with Vogue, Quinn admitted that before embarking on his MA there were elements of sustainability in his work, but that it wasn’t ingrained in him, and how all that changed when he met Stella McCartney. The British designer saw his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins and offered him a scholarship for an MA. “As a part of the scholarship, she had talks with the university and educated us on waste. I don’t think you can be a designer now without being sustainable and socially aware," he said.
Quinn uses digital printing to create his distinctive designs, which as well as enabling him to maintain the quality on the complex materials he uses, has completely transformed his business. Compared to the traditional textile printing process, it allows him to use up to 70 per cent less water and 80 per cent less energy when creating his garments. And by producing everything onsite, he can deliver exact quantities to retailers without any additional waste.
"He has such an ethical thinking, which more designers should have today, to be honest,” said H&M’s creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson speaking about Quinn’s 2017 award. "I think that in the years to come, the whole sustainability thing - you can't underestimate that. The young generation today wants to know how things are produced, and they are so savvy; they have so many questions."
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