The Selection Process 2013 – judge Tamsin Blanchard
8 July 2013 by TexSelect in Sponsors, Judges & Champions
Tamsin Blanchard’s remit as Style Director of the Telegraph Magazine is as broad as she likes to make it, from following Joanna Lumley across the slums of Kenya to see what happens to Oxfam donated clothes, to visiting Louis Vuitton's state of the art shoe factory in Fiesso d’Artico, Italy.
Her career started at the Independent in 1991, where after a few years she became fashion editor, “I was very privileged to have been given the opportunity at the Independent to work my way up from the cupboard to the front row at the shows.” Tamsin followed this with a long stint, 1998-2005, as Style Editor at the Observer Magazine, where she wrote and edited the interiors section, fashion features and interviews for the magazine, joining the Telegraph Magazine as Style Director in 2005.
Left: Tamsin Blanchard / Photo: Zac Frackelton
What is your favourite fashion memory?
It has to be interviewing Issey Miyake in Tokyo for the Observer Magazine in the mid-1990s. He was such a generous, unpretentious, genuinely creative man. I arrived at the interview feeling quite intimidated to be meeting one of my fashion heroes – I remember being amazed by the way his geometric flat circles of cloth transformed into incredible 3D shapes and blocks of colour on the catwalk. I was finally allowed to go into his office to meet him and he offered me a glass of whiskey and I knew we were going to get on. After the interview, we saw his show for his innovative new concept called A-POC and then went for one of the most memorable meals sitting on the floor of a restaurant that I knew I would never find again.
How has fashion and design journalism changed since you started?
It is very difficult for underground trends and subcultures to remain underground for more than a day now, in a way that in the 1980s and1990s, subcultures could develop and thrive for months if not years before the mainstream media picked up on them. Now, anyone can become a fashion blogger, and the bloggers themselves have become the story to some extent. However, there is a massive difference between having knowledge and experience in your subject and simply photographing yourself in an outfit you've been given.
Can you tell us what will you be particularly looking out for as a Texprint 2013 judge?
As a judge, I will be looking for something that is innovative, has a unique view point, and a strong resonance, visually and possibly, emotionally.
How important is it for you to support the next generation of textile designers?
It is really important for me because they are part of the creative lifeblood of the design industry. Textiles are where it all begins for many fashion designers. Increasingly, I see fashion collections that are all about print or texture. With the new generation of designers including Louise Gray, Holly Fulton, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, it is difficult to separate the textiles from the fashion – they are part and parcel of the whole collection.
Do you think people are taking more interest in what goes into their clothes and the creative forces behind them?
I really believe that consumers will have an increased interest in the provenance of their clothes. Nobody wants their clothes to be made in unsafe factories or by people who are exploited for their labour. There will be an increased demand for information about where a garment was made and a more transparent production process.
Since writing my book Green is the new Black (2005), issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility have become an important part of running a fashion company. Companies like Marks & Spencer are making sustainability part of the way they run their business. Recently, I wrote about Bruno Pieters' company Honestby which gives the consumer a detailed breakdown of where their garment was made, who made it, how much it cost to make and how much the mark up is.
The Texprint programme selects designers who have trained in UK art and design schools. Why is the UK art school system so good at producing design talent?
It is unique because it understands the importance of creativity and gives students a certain amount of freedom and independence to develop their own style.
This year Texprint is introducing a new Hero Mentoring scheme. How important is having that experience when starting as a professional? What advice did you receive at the start of your career that you can pass on?
I interned as part of my industrial year out from CSM and in fact, was offered a job while interning at the Independent and didn't complete my degree. I think work experience is an essential part of learning about your chosen pathway – there is nothing quite like learning on the job. I had various internships, at Wire, Marie Claire, the Guardian where I helped edit the women's pages for a week (an amazing opportunity, working with the women’s editor Louise Chunn), and was extremely lucky at the Independent to have the opportunity to go to the shows – usually to courier film back to London in the days when photographers still shot on film.
I had two great mentors: Lisa Armstrong who gave me my first job, and Marion Hume, who took over from Lisa as fashion editor and took me to the shows in Paris, Milan and New York. The Independent taught me the importance of having journalistic integrity – something that is sadly all too often overlooked these days.
The best thing anyone can do is see and absorb as much as you can – it’s all about seeing, not being seen!