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Nottingham's young fashion entrepreneurs

2 March 10 words: Isabel Paton
Two Notts fashion designers make the final shortlist for the UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur award 2010
Susi Henson and May Cortazzi - both shortlisted for The UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur award 2010
Susi Henson and May Cortazzi - both shortlisted for The UK Young Fashion
Entrepreneur award 2010

It is fair to say that Nottingham has a quirky side, from its architecture to its entertainment, but one of the greatest things about Nottingham is its ability to change. Most people are aware that Nottingham has a history with lace and while the majority of lace may have moved on the legacy remained and brought with it a legacy for fashion and creativity.

Sir Paul Smith reading LeftLion - photo by Dom Henry - Read the full interview
Sir Paul Smith reading LeftLion - photo by Dom Henry - Read the Paul Smith interview

This, coupled with the fact that Nottingham is proud to claim Sir Paul Smith as one of our own (he was not only born here but opened his first shop in Nottingham in 1970), it is clear that Nottingham has more than just a casual relationship with fashion and the creative scene. This trend continues with the news that two of our upcoming local fashion designers have been shortlisted for a major national fashion award - The UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur award 2010.

Callecia Brown, a Nottingham based fashion designer, spent her days as a teenager in Pax, Aj Blacks, Birdcage and a variety of the other independent stores in Hockley in Nottingham. She remembers the time and the fashion stores fondly; "There were a wealth of second had shops that sold the best stuff. The recession isn’t that bad a thing for us who had nothing in the first place. It has probably made us more creative. With all the larger businesses falling there is a little more opportunity for the smaller individuals."

She feels that there is a lot on offer in our city: "Nottingham is a mainstream city with some very creative forward thinking individuals. It does have a strong creative scene; however it lacks a platform for that creativity. The creative industries in Nottingham need a platform to show to the public."

Antenna Nottingham
Antenna - visit the Antenna website
Shop Nottingham
Shop - visit the Shop website

2010 is a year of change for a lot of people and businesses. As the world attempts to pull itself out of the recession Nottingham seems to be raising its head from the water. Recently Nottingham has seen not one but two creative centres open: Antenna part of the Confetti Media Group, run by Craig Chettle and Shop run by a crew of local creatives. These places give the creative talent from all over a place to meet and sow their creative seeds. It was at Shop that I met May Cortazzi from Regenerate, who has just found out she is one of the final five finalists for The UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award along with Susi Henson of Eternal Spirits also based in Nottingham. May Cortazzi told LeftLion "I am thrilled to be on the Shortlist, I feel honoured and extremely lucky that I have this opportunity to expand our networks for Regenerate Clothing and Shop both nationally through the Young Creative Entrepreneurs Network and internationally! I am really looking forward to travelling to Indonesia with The British Council and understanding more about the art and fashion culture out there and hopefully building some life long relationships."

The award recognises those with a passion for fashion, those who are innovators as well as entrepreneurs, and those looking to broaden their International business opportunities and build networks. After initial applications twelve applicants are taken forward onto the long list and to make it to the final five. Applicants first face a gruelling selection process with a host of top judges, where they are interviewed, questioned and have to present to their peers in order to have a shot at making it through to final five who are announced at the London Fashion week in February. Those finalists then embark on an industry tour of Indonesia.

Every country has their own competition and last week I met the international finalists from all around the world. While the UK entrants wait to find out their place in the competition, the other finalists are now into the final for the International award. Nicolle Weeks from the British Council, who are behind the award, explained that each finalist in the International Fashion award gets to on tour visiting London and for the third year running, they also visited Nottingham. "It is a bit clichéd, but I really feel with this that it is the taking part that means the most, the finalists have the opportunity to meet like minded people and their peers, to learn and to network."

International fashionistas come to Shop in Nottingham
International fashionistas come to Shop in Nottingham - photo by Rikki Marr

Among the eight finalists I meet Günseli Türkay from Istanbul who told me she was really enjoying being in Nottingham, while fellow finalists Nachiket Barve from Mumbai, Farzana Yusuf from Bangladesh and Mimdaugas Morkunas from Lithuania told me that coming to Nottingham had been a brilliant experience and they had enjoyed spending time in a city with such a fantastic creative atmosphere.

They also told me about their time in London, spent visiting a variety of places and people including an eye opening visit to Topshop where they had the chance to meet a Topshop buyer. Farzana Yusuf explained how interesting it was to learn about how they pick new collections and that they were hopeful these visits would open doors for them. The winner of the International Young Fashion Entrepreneur Awards will win a £5,000 project in collaboration with the British Council.

As May awaits her trip to Indonesia, LeftLion caught up with her to find out a little more about her, her clothes and the award.

The overall winner The UK Young Fashion Entrepreneur award 2010 will be crowned at London Fashion Week in September 2010.

Listen to May interviewed on our Poddingham podcast

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