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When the Fringe meets the New Silk Route

There's no end to all the endeavours that the British Council has taken in Bangladesh. The most recent has been the New Silk Route- a campaign that focuses on the transformation of heritage into contemporary expression. The main focus of this campaign? The Central and South Asian region, namely Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Moving forward, the New Silk Road has joined hands with British organisation Fashion Fringe to further their cause.

What is Fashion Fringe?
For all those English and Irish up-and-coming designers who want to follow in the footsteps of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen (to name a few), Fashion Fringe (lead under the creative direction of fashion journalist Collin McDowell and with the support of Red Bull) is the organisation that helps them get their foot in the door.

Britain has long been renowned for fashion and to continue this legacy, Fashion Fringe is in the search of young, creative, go-getting, trend-setting design talent. They are in search of the next Galliano, Westwood or McQueen. Someone who will take fashion to the next level. And this someone can be a person who has had academic training or merely someone who has dared to dream of becoming a part of one of the world's most creative fields.

What does the Fashion Fringe do?
Fashion Fringe takes in the applications of young English and Irish designers and reviews their applications and portfolios. They then choose ten designers who are put to a lengthy two day screening session to determine their business know how and technical prowess. Of those ten, four finalists are then announced. These four finalists are allotted a set amount of time to complete a ten piece collection that is shown at London Fashion Week. A winner is then chosen and the Fashion Fringe backs them up to start and continue their own company.

Why is Fashion Fringe in Bangladesh?
Fashion Fringe, now in its fourth year has enjoyed tremendous success. British Council London and British Council Central and South Asia are now joining hands with Fashion Fringe. The four Fringe finalists will be travelling to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to incorporate something from each country into their final collections. This could entail using local fabrics, working with local crafts people or using traditional local techniques.

While on this visit each designer will find a young protégé from each country. This protégé will travel to the UK for a set period of time to help the designer with the final runway collection. The protégé will meet contacts in the creative industry, take part in the final show and become an ambassador for the New Silk Route and campaign for it in their home country.

Who'll be watching?
Scheduled for where more than 350 journalists, fashion critics and top designers are invited to view the designs, these Fringe finalists will dazzle on the runway during London Fashion Week.

Who are behind Fashion Fringe?
Renowned designers, buyers, senior press and fashion academies collectively form Fashion Fringe's International Advisory Committee, chaired for the second year by international designer, former Creative Director of Gucci and style supreme, Tom Ford.

Fashion Fringe's advisory panel includes Alexander McQueen, Anna Wintour of Vogue, Claudia Croft of The Sunday Times, Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood, Massimo Ferretti, Muiccia Prada, Floriane De Saint Pierre, Frances Corner of London College of Fashion, Grita Loebsack of L'Oreal Paris, Hussain Chalayan, Jeremy Langmead, Joan Burstein of Browns, John Galliano, Katie Grand of POP, Luigi Maramotti, Marc Jacobs, Natalie Massenet, Robert Forrest of Fashion Entrepreneur, Suzanne Tide-Frater, Stuart Rose of BFC, Tiffanie Darke of The Sunday Times, Anne Pitcher of Selfridges, and Zac Posen

Fashion Fringe is supported by the Centre for Fashion Enterprise, Creative London, IMG, L'Oreal Paris, Mayor of London, NET-A-PORTER, Red Bull, Style, Superdrug, London College of Fashion and Uni Designers.

Which designer is working with Bangladesh?
When you're born in a small town in the west part of Serbia where eighty percent of the women present are involved in the fashion industry, chances are you too will be inclined to dream of the runway. And that is exactly what happened to Dejan Agatonovic who was obsessed with drawing and fashion from early childhood. At the age of eight he started producing a huge number of fashion sketches in different techniques and separated them into collections.

He did finally move to Belgrade but only to fulfil his family's big desire for him to study dentistry. And he did study and qualify for dentistry. But his desire to study fashion being too strong, he simultaneously attended different art schools and completed pattern-cutting courses.

Soon enough it finally struck home that fashion was his calling in life and so he started studying at The University of Arts, Belgrade. There, he studied stage costume and fashion design and after five years of full time studies he graduated with a First Class BA in Fashion Design. As a student Dejan created his own label and presented collections at Belgrade Fashion Week. Over the following two years Dejan worked for different ready to wear companies while successfully maintaining his own brand and gained essential business knowledge through his experiences.

Like many other fashion students, Dejan dreamed of attending the Mecca of fashion, Central St. Martins (London) and studying in its famous MA course. That dream was realised when, after being offered a position on the MA course, he managed to save some money and with a lot of support from his family, moved to London.

During the course he won Lancôme Colour Design Award that helped him finish his final MA collection and present it at London Fashion Week in February 2006. Dejan graduated in 2006 with Distinction.

Upon graduating he was offered a job at Balmain in Paris and Alberta Ferretti in Italy while negotiating a designer position with Stella McCartney, but he decided to stay focused on the development of his personal style and his own brand. Now, once in a while he does freelance work.

How does Bangladesh fit into all this?
Fashion Fringe, British Council and Dejan Agatonovic have scoured various Bangladeshi fashion houses and met with students from all the local fashion schools to find a suitable protégé who has both the technical and communication skills to work and live in London, assisting Agatonovic. Through a five-hour screening they chose, Zebunnessa Jarin, a BIFT (BGMEA Institute of Fashion Technology) graduate who is also a patternmaking faculty at another local fashion school.

In addition to this Agatonovic has also been touring around to see what the local market has to offer and incorporate some of that into his luxury yet ready-to-wear line.

In a country that has scores of craftspeople and raw talent being under utilised, British Council and the Fashion Fringe's joint efforts will certainly put Bangladesh on the international fashion map and make the fashion world's heavyweights sit up and take notice.

By Tahiat-e-Mahboob
Photo: www.fashionfringe.co.uk



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