Design a better future with Great Britons

Getting a break in the fashion industry isn’t easy, but two entrants in the Great Britons programme are hoping this is their chance
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The Independent Online

It’s London Fashion Week (LFW), one of the most important weeks of the year for established designers and newcomers alike. Among the newcomers attending LFW this year will be Leesa Bertram, a Manchester designer with her own business.

“Initially, I set up Etra Design House as a design consultancy, with the intention of creating and launching a number of directional fashion brands,” says Bertram who will be there as a spectator. “However, my first, Pretty Disturbia, has been so well received since I launched the collection a year ago that I’ve decided to focus on establishing it further. This has already led to 22 accounts with independent fashion boutiques and a growing online-store customer base.”

Bertram has entered Great Britons, a programme run by British Airways to help the best of British talent take off. British Airways, the official airline partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, is looking for individuals and groups who need support to develop their talent in any area, whether that be fashion, sport, performing arts, innovation, community, or art and design. There are new winners in each round of the programme up until the London 2012 Games. They are selected by a panel of celebrity judges and a public vote, and will receive up to 16 flights to BA destinations anywhere in the world and the use of their luxury Executive Club lounges, plus a winner’s pack, which includes a camcorder.

“I entered in the hope of raising my profile,” says Bertram. “Great Britons did this for me. Winning a trip to New York would be instrumental in enabling me to meet key buyers and members of the press, to show them my Pretty Disturbia collection in person, and to build client relationships that would enable me to establish my brand internationally. My ambition is to succeed in building a style-led womenswear brand influenced by fashion, but not led by it, creating clothes that showcase quirky British confidence. I aim to be known as a down-to-earth designer who, despite all the odds, has succeeded.”

Fashion designer Emma Bell has also entered Great Britons. “I am working on my own seasonal collections as well as being involved in projects that go hand in hand with maintaining a creative brand and identity within the industry,” she says.

Bell would like to win BA flights to Tokyo. “Being able to go to Japan and work on my objectives, and meet and build relationships with the press and public, would make a massive difference to my label and my career as a designer. I receive a lot of press and consumer requests from Japan, so I would follow them up and rustle up further exposure. To be given the support and opportunity to move into a new global chapter with my business would create a fantastic stepping stone. Great Britons is an amazing initiative on BA’s part, in that they are supporting creative talent in the UK. I like the fact their scheme invests in the future.

“Anyone working or trying to be successful in fashion and the arts is very reliant on outside support, and funding and sponsorship are often very limited. By offering flights, the Great Britons scheme is potentially opening so many doors. I chose Japan as the place I want to visit because it’s where my work gets such a positive response. There are so many challenges I would like to take on there.”