Edinburgh International Fashion Festival 2013

Ahead of this summer's Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, we speak to curators Jonathan and Anna Freemantle about art, storytelling, and the new talent they have unearthed for this year's programme

Feature by Natasha Cornall | 01 Jul 2013

This July, Scotland’s capital will provide the setting for a number of glamorous fashion events, including runway shows, gala parties, exhibitions and industry talks – all as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Fashion Festival.

The event, spearheaded by the formidable husband-and-wife partnership that is Jonathan and Anna Freemantle (you may know them as the organisers of Noir!), is still in its infancy; this year will be only the second outing of the festival in its current incarnation. Even so, the EIFF has seen a remarkable evolution since its debut appearance last year. This summer the festival will span over the two weekends between the 19 and 28 of July, a considerable expansion of last year’s 4-day event.

Despite not being Edinburgh-born themselves (he was born in Cape Town, she’s originally from Amsterdam), the city was an obvious choice for Jonathan and Anna as the stage for a fashion festival. Anna says: “I guess apart from the obvious fact that myself and Jonathan were living in Edinburgh, we always loved and admired Edinburgh for hosting the festival and always were amazed or surprised that the festival didn’t hold an element of fashion in it. To embrace and celebrate the beauty of Edinburgh, the intellect it hosts, as well as its talented inhabitants. Something that most likely was easier to spot for someone who wasn’t originally from here.”

Last year’s event was held as part of Edinburgh’s Fringe, but this year the organisers have made the decision to take the EIFF out of the Fringe programme. Anna explains: “That was mainly to do with the general ‘fashion calendar’ – August is tricky in two ways: it is too close to the kick off of all the fashion weeks and if not that, it is also considered the ‘holy’ month amongst the fashionista, the month of sabbath, of rest.”

The decision has also enabled them to take advantage of the greater number of venues available before the Fringe begins: “To include various venues is an obvious step. Part of the greatness of Edinburgh one can find in its buildings, the buildings that carry history, many a story… as it happens, storytelling is the red thread, our theme for this year so it made sense to explore various venues. Venues are hugely important to me - it’s the canvas from where the ‘creation’ starts.”

The events that made up last year’s festival all took place at Summerhall, the former Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh; while the venue will still be used to host some events this year, the EIFF will be staged at various locations across the city. From historic buildings such as the impressive Mansfield Traquair and the City Art Centre to the ultramodern Inspace laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. These multifarious venues will provide the setting for a number of industry leaders. Designers, writers, stylists, artists; creatives in all fields, both local and international, will descend upon Edinburgh for this year’s festival.

At the launch of the EIFF, Jonathan explained that the themes for this year’s event would be ‘storytelling’ and ‘fashion as art.’ Regarding the process of choosing designers to invite to take part in the festival, Anna says: “We always look for a link back to Scotland. The love for texture, fabrics, colours, the art of storytelling  0150 each collection is a story and some years some designers make more sense than others within the particular story we’re aiming to portray/tell.”

Those keen to view the work of this year’s Scottish Fashion Awards nominees in the flesh could do worse than to head to the Future Fashion all-day event on Saturday 27 July. Young Designer of the Year nominees Jacob Birge, Obscure Couture and Rebecca Torres will be there showcasing their work at a pop-up design market during the day and at a runway fashion show in the evening. The event, held at the City Art Centre, will coincide with an exhibition of the work of three students graduating from Edinburgh College of Art – including a Skinny favourite, Lauren Smith, who recently made headlines by winning the gold award at Graduate Fashion Week in London.

Besides these young and emerging designers, a multitude of names well established within the industry will be participating in the festival. Central St Martin’s graduates Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro, the husband-and-wife partnership behind Clements Ribeiro, will open the festival with a dramatic presentation of their Autumn/Winter 2013 collection at Mansfield Traquair. The London-based designer Bella Freud, footwear designer Georgina Goodman and Karl Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman Amanda Harlech will all be appearing on the panel at the day-long Symposium on all aspects of fashion.

In addition to the Future Fashion event, the opening runway show and the Symposium, other EIFF highlights look set to be the Harvey Nichols-hosted curated showcase of some of the designers who showed at London Collections: Men and the StitchLab masterclass with Reykjavik-based design studio Sruli Recht. When pressed for a personal highlight, Anna says: “That’s a question I wouldn’t want to answer, for me it’s the same as asking which one of my sons I prefer… I love them all and am excited about them all. They all have very much their own individuality.”

This individuality is what seems to symbolise Edinburgh International Fashion Festival and set it apart from similar events. The festival isn’t concerned with commerciality or impressing VIP guests, its focus is the skill and imagination of a variety of talented creatives coming together to show off and share their work.

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