Proving there is always an exception to the rule, the Bracher Emden label was successful in its infancy. Since that initial burst onto the London fashion scene the team has put in endless hours of elbow grease to maintain the label's status—all the while learning lessons in the Hard Knock's School of Life.
Leading up the team is company founder, and current head designer, Richard Emden. Richard, a self-taught visionary, built bridges in the industry before starting his own label by creating display props for Moschino, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and by customizing trainers for Nike. He later took the on-the-job training he received while prop building and translated it into a line of deeply fabulous and cutting-edge handbags.
We got the opportunity to pick Richard's brain (a shout-out goes to his dedicated Brand Manager, Amy Thomas, who made the opportunity possible) about what helped him break into the industry. He also provided us some great anecdotal advice about how aspiring designers can get their first job in the industry, create their own label, or simply understand the business-side of running a successful brand:
Could you explain the vision and inspiration behind your brand's unique look?
True to Bracher Emden’s style, our mainline collection will be inspired by geometric, 3-dimensional shapes, with both appliqué and embossed detailing. I have always had a passion for anything futuristic, and AW12 has been the best time to let this lead my designs. Futuristic trends and geometric shapes are huge right now. This is certainly apparent throughout the whole collection. All my inspiration comes from comic books. I am a massive fan of DC & Marvel comics. HR Geiger was a huge inspiration for our iconic Breast bag and several clutches of past seasons. This masculine element in my design is what gives my women’s handbags individuality.
Did you take any formal training before beginning your label? And how has your career path progressed over the years?
I did not have any formal training. My fashion jobs have included customizing trainers for Nike to designing props and window displays for Moschino, Harrods, Harvey Nichols. This experience in prop design has definitely carried through to my structural, 3-dimensional handbag designs.
As a creative professional how have you handled the business-side of running a fashion studio/brand/company?
When I started the company in 2001 it wasn't to show the world who I was, it was to enjoy life and do what made me happy--and this hasn't changed. As the company rapidly grew, I had to surround myself with a team of special people. Without these people, that have remained loyal to this day, there would be no brand! We all still work as one, developing Bracher Emden each season.
How did you initially get your foot into the door of the fashion industry?
I designed a range for Nike and Topshop by just walking around the head offices with designs I had made. It wasn’t easy, and quite intimidating, but it worked. Although, this is going back 15 years ago – the fashion industry has changed a lot since then.
If you had to describe the business side of the fashion industry briefly to our aspiring designer readers, how would you paint an accurate picture for them and what advice would you give them?
It can be shallow and extremely cut-throat. It’s also about who you know and not what you know most of the time. Know yourself, believe in yourself and grow a thick skin. Believe in your design. Take everything on board but don’t take everything to heart.
Which designers and/or artists influenced you the most as a creative professional?
Anyone who dares to break the mold. I will always love Alexander McQueen, but there are also so many other designers I admire that don’t receive the credit they deserve – Jean-Pierre Braganza, Georgia Hardinge, Bryce Aime, Bora Aksu. Unfortunately, only the larger Fashion houses receive the media hype as they can afford the advertising budgets. It’s a shame but true.
What is the most important skill and/or hard lesson you have learned while working in the industry?
Deadlines! Working all through the night to get a collection out.
What was most surprising about working in the fashion industry?
How fickle it is. You can be huge one season, and no one wants you the next. Stick with it, fashion works in cycles.
If you were going to hire a new employee/intern what qualities would you look for in a person and portfolio and where would you look?
They would need to be a great multitasker. I have a small team who manage everything, from Production to PR. They must have a genuine interest in my brand, and be as enthusiastic to enter mundane details in to a spreadsheet as they are at attending fashion shows. We usually advertise through Drapers or London College of Fashion, but like all things fashion, it can be through who we know in the industry.
Which role(s) in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
Designer if you want to own your own brand and go in your own direction. PR can be great fun but dog-eat-dog. Merchandising seems to be a wise choice financially!
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Multi tasking, time planning, attention to details, eye for trends/inspiration.
What advice would you give to new graduates (with a chip on their shoulder) expecting success right out of the gate?
It doesn’t happen! Bracher Emden received great success early on in our career, which was completely unexpected, but it has been a hard slog ever since to make it work. The fashion industry has changed a great deal in the last ten years, and lesser known brands aren’t recognized like they used to be. You need to make contacts everywhere, and the right ones. You need to work extremely hard for not much money at the beginning as experience is everything.
What would you recommend for aspiring fashion professionals looking to break into today's fashion industry?
As I said previously, It can be shallow and extremely cut-throat. It’s also about who you know and not what you know most of the time. Know yourself, believe in yourself and grow a thick skin. Believe in your design. Take everything on board but don’t take everything to heart.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.