The high street may have been hit hard by the financial storm but it is still eager to invest in tomorrow's big names. The British Fashion Council announced yesterday which young designers would receive Newgen sponsorship to help them show and exhibit at London Fashion Week in September. The scheme, supported by Topshop, was set up in 1993 and has helped many a style luminary achieve fame – previous winners include Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson, Giles Deacon and Christopher Kane. You might not have heard of the latest crop but it's just a matter of time before they scale similar heights.
"It's now even more imperative to create inspirational products. Customers want things that are exciting and new," said Mary Homer, the managing director of Topshop.
In a celebration of ingenuity and originality, the Newgen panel has handpicked 17 recipients for its bursaries, including new names in womenswear, jewellery design and shoe making. This will be the fourth season that London's favourite scenester, Henry Holland, has received funding for his catwalk show. And Michael van der Ham receives the money for his first show after leaving university. The grants go towards the designers' catwalk shows, as well an exhibition stand to showcase their collections during fashion week.
Economic hardship has helped London's designers before. In the 1990s the capital was a breeding ground for designers who fulfilled their visions on meagre budgets. John Galliano, McQueen and Stella McCartney were snapped up by larger fashion houses when the economy improved, before striking off to create their own labels.
Designers like Gareth Pugh and Henry Holland have emerged from an East End contingent of craftsmen who have helped re-assert London's position among fashion cities.
London Fashion Week, often dismissed and seen as a smaller event than those in New York, Paris and Milan, has a reputation for showcasing more conceptual, outlandish work from new designers. Whereas in New York spectators may be faced with trousers suits and cocktail dresses, in London their senses are more likely to be assaulted with bondage outfits, PVC poodle suits (courtesy of Gareth Pugh) and bright, cartoonish pieces.
This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the British Fashion Council, Burberry will feature on the schedule. The British label has previously only shown in Milan. Its international importance means it is sure to attract buyers from around the world. It is hoped those buyers will attend shows by other labels as well – and so get to know new designers.
Who Scottish designer Louise Gray showed her first collections with the help of young designers initiative Fashion East.
What Gray's heavily embellished T-shirts and dresses are often finished with coils of wire, tassels and circuitboards. Having worked for Lanvin and Diane Von Furstenberg, she also recently designed a range of men's T-shirts for the Comme des Garçons concept store, Dover Street Market, which quickly sold out.
She says "There's such a feeling of support in London, with Newgen and Fashion East. There's a lot here to nurture, help and protect. It inspires all kinds of people because it's such a mixture. It's great that they can all exist here."
Who Annalisa Dunn and Dorothee Hagemann met at Central Saint Martins where they both specialised in knitwear.
What The duo subvert traditional knitting techniques and patterns to create a singularly innovative take on cutting-edge knitwear. They use their collection as platform to collaborate with jewellery designers, artisan embroiderers and other brands, and have just completed a second season consulting for one of London Fashion Week's brightest alumni, Hussein Chalayan.
They say "We have got so much exposure through Newgen – they have a showroom in Paris, too, so they really push you towards commercial success and meeting the press and the buyers. They really try to put you in contact with all the right people."
Who 28-year-old Canadian who studied fashion design knitwear at Central Saint Martins.
What Fast's imaginative use of wool in his graduate collection caught the eye of buyers from the boutique Browns Focus. One of his spider-web, body-conscious dresses graced the form of the actress Tilda Swinton on the cover of AnOther Magazine earlier this year and he has contributed to a catwalk show for the Spanish label Loewe, which will be shown in Paris in October.
He says "They took a chance on me, but Newgen is like the roots of my career. Without it, showing wouldn't be possible, and they give such great support, from advice on financial matters to finding you a lawyer. I'm going to mix things up with my work next season – so expect something cinematic."
Who Christopher De Vos and Peter Pilotto are graduates from Antwerp's prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
What With Pilotto's focus on textiles and prints and De Vos concentrating on form, structure and silhouette, the duo are known for combing the two to create a modern, space-age elegance. Style.com recently identified the Peter Pilotto label as one of the "Ten Most Promising New Talents" in the industry.
They say "London is such an exciting place – you get such quality out of it in every sense, far from just one-offs or one-trick ponies. The scheme is great on so many levels, not just for exhibiting our work but also for training in the business aspects of fashion."
Who Englishman Edward Meadham and French-born Benjamin Kirchhoff graduated in 2002 from Central Saint Martins.
What After launching their womenswear collection in 2006, the pair has shown in London with Newgen help for the past two seasons. Their label has become synonymous with the tough chic trend seen in recent seasons, mixing sophisticated, bourgeois pieces with slashed and ragged details inspired by hard street culture.
They say "Newgen's a great platform for young labels to gain international recognition. People expect a real thrill from London fashion and the programme is such a good introduction in to how to deal with that, the press and the buyers. The panel is made up of such influential and interesting people, they really know what they're doing."
Michael van der Ham
Who Dutch-born van der Ham graduated with a masters in fashion womenswear from Central Saint Martins last year.
What His graduate collection opened the college's autumn/winter 09 show in February and won him the L'Oréal Professional Award. Inspired by the artist Andy Warhol, the pieces he showed were highly conceptual but sexy and wearable, fusing a vintage feel with tough-looking modern design.
He says "My designs are like a mismatched collage of different decades all stuck together – I like the irony of cutting up clothes to make a new garment. I'm only just out of my MA, so it's great to get this attention. No other city would organise this kind of thing and I wouldn't be able to show without it."