Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)

As part of our collaboration with Fashion Scout, we are proud to present interviews with Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch and Merit Award winners for the AW17 season. First up in our series of interviews is Katie Ann McGuigan, the Fashion Scout Merit Award winner, whose AW17 collection will be shown at London Fashion Week at 5pm on Saturday 18 February as part of the Fashion Scout schedule. Read more about Katie Ann now.

For Katie Ann McGuigan, creating was inevitable. Born and raised in a small town in Northern Ireland, Katie Ann was ensconced in sewing machines, fabrics and skilled upholsterers throughout her childhood, the by product of her parents running a handmade furniture business. Observing the hustle and bustle of the factory and being surrounded by people who loved and worked hard at their craft, inspired Katie Ann at 16, to pack her bags and move London to pursue her creative aspirations. Now 24 and living with her boyfriend in a cosy flat in North-West London (partly because it’s convenient to the University of Westminster Fashion Studios and partly because of the views across London), Katie Ann is busy laying the foundations of her brand, producing an incredible collection which will be shown at London Fashion Week and occasionally watching some trashy television – ‘it lets me switch my brain off for 45 min, it’s almost my form of meditation,’ she says.  We chat to Katie Ann about her experiences at the University of Westminster, her work and use of leather, and plans for the future. Katie Ann McGuigan, with her huge passion and determination (you can hear the drive in her voice), is definitely one to watch.

Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)
Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)

The Fashion Conversation: Black and white photography was your first love, however during your foundation studies at Central Saint Martins you discovered textiles and fashion and haven’t looked back since. What were some of the most important things you learnt during your BA in Fashion Design at the University of Westminster?
Katie Ann McGuigan: When first year came along, I was convinced that I had been accepted by mistake. I lacked some confidence and felt I wasn’t quite good enough. I didn’t fully know who I was or what type of designer I wanted to be. I really started to put all that behind me when the second year print project came along. It was a pivotal moment and I found my love for print. Richard Gray was my tutor and really pushed me. Working on the print project and designing prints made me feel like I was becoming the most confident, best version of myself. During my BA, I learnt that the most important thing is to push myself to be the best designer I can be, and that’s how I will produce my best work. All in all I loved my experience at the University of Westminster – I learnt a lot, met incredible people and made some great friends. I grew massively as a person and as a designer, and most importantly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

TFC: You’ve developed an aesthetic of strong, modern silhouettes with graphic prints and leather use, with your graduate collection capturing the Fashion Scout Merit Award. Can you please tell us more about the inspiration behind your collection? And your work with print?
KAM: Art is a huge influence on my work – graphics, photography, paintings and sculpture. A lot of my research is photography based imagery. I have an ever growing list of favourite artists. There is a little library of art books growing on my shelves. Some of my all time favourites would be Jonathan Olley, Ryan McGinley, William Eggleston and David Hockney, to name just a few. For my graduate collection, I was really inspired by the mood in photographer Michal Chelbin’s work Sailboats and Swans, which is a photo series of Russian and Ukraine youth prisons. His photography of former USSR prisoners is so powerful and captivating.

I absolutely love working with print. I use vinyl and laser cutting and also two different methods of ink based printing. I think the reason I love all these methods is because I enjoy working with leather. The vinyl takes great to it, once its cut, and although laser cutting makes everything smell a bit like burning flesh, it just has such strong graphic impacts. I’m willing to sacrifice my sense of smell for a couple of hours.

Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)
Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)

TFC: You mentioned you also enjoy working with leather, what’s the attraction to using leather in your designs?
KAM: There’s something really nice about working with leathers. I generally use lamb, more specifically nappa. It is a soft and supple leather, and comes in all the vivid colours I like. The leather lays smooth, without too much texture which allows my prints and vinyls to sit on top without any peeling or cracking. It can be bonded to other fabrics to create structure, or simply used on its own for something more relaxed. The options are endless which makes it such a great material to work with.

TFC: Alongside your studies at the University of Westminster, you’ve gained invaluable industry experience at Jonathan Saunders, Giles Deacon and McQ in London, and Marc Jacobs in New York. What were some of the most important things you learnt during your internships at the studios? What was your favourite moment?
KAM: I learnt to really soak up everything that was happening around me. Every studio was incredibly fast paced with so much going on. One of the most important things I learnt was to be organised, pay constant attention, focused and ambitious. When I was unsure of something, I would always prefer to ask, rather than cause any accidental mistakes – I think that’s always appreciated. And of course it helps when you have a great personality to match your skill set as a designer. One of my favourite moments was when I was interning at Marc Jacobs, in Manhattan, New York and I had an epiphany (while laying out embroidery templates) that if I worked hard and was passionate, I could also see the world.

Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)
Image: Katie Ann McGuigan (designer), Caoimhe Hahn (photographer), Ibi Molnar (makeup), Danilo (hair) and Sophie Allen (model)

TFC: Since graduating last year, you’ve been working on plans for the Katie Ann McGuigan brand, shooting lookbooks, setting up your website and doing more research, print designs and garment designs for your upcoming collection. We are bursting with excitement to see the AW17 collection you’re busy working on which will be shown at London Fashion Week as part of the Fashion Scout schedule. Can you share with us a few details of your upcoming AW17 collection? KAM: I am developing forward from my graduate collection. There are lots more prints to come, more structured outerwear pieces with large silhouettes and accessories!

TFC: And what does winning Fashion Scout’s Merit Award mean to you?
KAM: Through the Merit Award, Fashion Scout has given me the opportunity to yet again be ambitious with my own work and allowed me to create another collection and launch my own brand. Fashion Scout is also simultaneously providing me with a wonderful platform to make my mark as an upcoming young designer. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and eager to progress throughout.

TFC: One last question from us, we are curious, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
KAM: My alarm clock, lots of coffee and ambition.