The past 18 months have been some of fashion’s most challenging yet. But talent has also flourished under pressure. Those working in all parts of the industry have shown great resilience and creativity in the face of the seismic shocks of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. And it is now time to celebrate the upcoming generation of professionals who are leading in their fields.
This is exactly what Drapers 30 Under 30 will do. Our initiative seeks out and supports rising stars working in fashion retail aged 30 or under. Now in its 13th year, each January we profile the up-and-coming names to know now.
Entrants can come from any background within the fashion industry, from supply chain and logistics to design and beyond. The only requirement is that applicants are aged 30 or under on 31 January 2022. Entry is free and candidates can self-nominate or be nominated by a third party, such as a mentor or line manager. Apply now to [email protected]
Drapers 30 Under 30: How to enter or nominate
Please send the applicant / nominee’s:
- Full name, job title and company name
- Age and date of birth
- CV and / or LinkedIn profile
- Reasons why they should make the list. This is your chance to tell us what makes them so special, so be creative and include as much detail as possible (500 words maximum)
- Two references to support the entry
For any questions and to send nominations, email [email protected]
To celebrate the launch of the Drapers 30 Under 30 class of 2022, we hear what three of 2021’s rising stars have been up to.
“Be directional”: Bianca Saunders, menswear fashion designer
Bianca Saunders’ star is on the rise. The 28-year-old London-based designer launched her eponymous label immediately after graduating from her MA in menswear at the Royal College of Art in London in 2017. Her designs are influenced by her Caribbean and British roots. Her graduate collection “Personal Politics” explored black masculinity, challenging traditional gender constructs. Her pieces blend minimalist tailoring with draped fabrics, with designs that reference streetwear and couture. Jersey T-shirts are given delicate ruched flourishes, while shirts are crafted to give a creased effect.
Saunders’ stockists include Matchesfashion and Browns in the UK, Ssense in Canada, Nordstrom in the US, and Japanese streetwear retailer GR8.
Lockdowns brought on by the pandemic gave Saunders the chance to reflect, she tells Drapers on a Zoom call from her hotel room in Paris in August. She was in the city as one of nine finalists for the 2021 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers on 7 September.
“It’s been challenging, but it’s given me a stronger belief that I can do anything,” she says. “It’s made me more fearless. I have had time to think about how possible it is to grow the brand, rather than thinking of it just as a creative project.” This change in mindset has encouraged Saunders to go for awards this year – and it has paid dividends. She notably won France’s Andam Prize in Paris in July 2021, receiving € 300,000 (£ 257,350) and a year’s mentorship from Balenciaga CEO and president Cédric Charbit .
Saunders has her sights set on bricks and mortar, after being inspired by the assortment of luxury stores in Paris: “It would be amazing to have my own store. I’d also like more displays in department stores and physical campaign adverts. I want the brand to be a household name. ”
And her advice for the next 30 Under 30 cohort? “Dream big and make sure you are directional.”
“Always have a plan”: Isabella West, founder and CEO of Hirestreet and Zoa Rental
It is the ultimate pandemic pivot. Isabella West, 28, is the founder and CEO of Hirestreet – a fashion rental platform that launched in 2018, offering affordable high street brands including Lavish Alice, French Connection and Whistles. Events were laid to rest for much of 2020 and 2021 and rental requests plummeted as a result.
This gave West the time to launch Zoa Rental as part of the business in January 2021. It is a white-label service that offers full rental management for fashion retailers, providing fashion brands with the software technology to rent out their items, as well as offering warehousing, fulfillment and cleaning as part of the service.
West tells Drapers: “At the start of the pandemic, we decided we wanted to pivot the business. Hirestreet was not doing as many orders as we would normally see, and therefore we were really able to focus on launching a business-to-business brand. ” Zoa Rental has so far onboarded rental menswear client Cameron Ross, and there is a pilot in the pipeline with three of the UK’s biggest fashion businesses, although West is not able to name them.
When Drapers speaks to West in late August, she says: “This morning, we had an on-boarding call with a retailer that does men’s, women’s and childrenswear and has 8.4 million active users a month.”
West says: “For April to August 2021, [Hirestreet] revenues are up 1.680%. Our dresses are going to an event every weekend. We have 50 times more demand than supply based on site users and stock availability. ” She adds: “This is my first year running two businesses alongside each other, which has been a challenge because both businesses are receiving a lot of demand.”
Where does she see Zoa Rental in the next five to 10 years? “What we really want do is build a business similar to Shopify [a subscription-based software that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products] but for the fashion rental market. “
“We want to encourage start-ups – the next generation of entrepreneurs – to start being circular, as well as working with some of the biggest retailers globally.”
Her advice to the next generation of talent? “Always have a plan A, B, C and D. You can never be truly objective, or truly critical of your plan, if you have all your eggs in one basket – it’s a very difficult position to negotiate from and it can put the blinkers on in terms of where you should be going. Make sure you have options and that you’re appraising them critically. ”
“Make connections outside fashion”: Zachary Angelini, senior environmental stewardship manager, Timberland
Zachary Angelini has spent 2021 making strides in achieving Timberland’s ambitious sustainability goals.
When he was selected for the Drapers 30 Under 30 2021 cohort, Angelini described his greatest achievement as launching Timberland’s new sustainability strategy in 2020. It pledges that all of the brand products will be designed for circularity and 100% of the natural materials it uses will be sourced from regenerative agriculture – farming processes that aim to reverse climate change – by 2030.
Thanks to his ambitions, Timberland has now launched several new footwear styles that focus on regenerative leather. The material is sourced from farms that are working to regenerate the soil on their land by allowing animals to graze in their natural patterns and planting diverse crops. These grasses pull carbon out of the air and store it in the soil. Retail prices for Timberland’s ethical leather Earthkeepers’ brand of shoes range from boots for toddlers for £ 55 to premium waterproof boots for men for £ 180.
The 29-year-old believes the Covid-19 crisis has alerted consumers and companies alike to the ecological and climate emergency: “It’s really accelerated the urgency. People have realized that the destruction of nature will lead to more pandemics – more likelihood of animal and human diseases. “
And his vision for the future? “I want to use business as a force for good. We want to change the definition of fashion, so it makes the world more beautiful. ”
His advice for the next cohort of 30 Under 30 is to draw on their different skills and backgrounds to work together – and to also make connections outside fashion. They might come across fresh ideas at sustainable networking events. For example, he recommends the Textile Exchange, a non-profit that brings together brands, manufacturers and material suppliers and farmers to learn about sustainable textiles; the Savoy Institute, a non-profit that encourages regenerative agriculture; and Regenerative Rising, a non-profit that brings together environmental entrepreneurs.
And, importantly, they should have fun: “I love the saying, ‘Follow what makes you feel alive’. I think work should be fun overall, even when it’s challenging. That tells you you’re on the right path.”