Meet The Winners Of The ASOS Fashion Discovery Competition

How do you break into the fashion industry without finance, education and contacts in the right places? Ask any designer and they’ll tell you; it definitely ain’t easy.
But since its launch in 2016, the ASOS Fashion Discovery competition has tried to change that. In an industry that’s not particularly renowned for being open or inclusive, it has bucked the trend and offered people from all backgrounds the chance to make their dreams a reality.
But don’t just take our word for it. After being whittled down from 100 applicants to 10 finalists and finally 3 winners, we sat down with the lucky three to find out how the competition has changed their lives, and what they’re hoping to achieve in the future.
Advertisement
From Wesley Harriott, whose structured designs wowed the judges, to LYPH, whose unisex clothing is shattering every gender stereotype, and Desree, the standout People’s Pick Award winner, prepare to be inspired. Because one thing's for sure – these young designers make us proud to be British, and prove that fashion, in the right hands, really can make a positive change in the world.
Which designers do you admire and why?
I really love designers who challenge what people should look like, or how they're perceived. I grew up obsessing over Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo because I just find that their garments defy societal expectation and really channel a point of view that empowers and amplifies through silhouette. With regards to newer brands, I’m in love with New York-based designer Raul Lopez and his brand, Luar. Like the brands I mentioned previously, I really admire his defiance at what is expected of gender norms within fashion – it’s refreshing.
How does it feel to have won? Were you expecting it?
I very much go in and out of believing that I won. I have worked on nothing but shaky self-belief for so many years; to have this opportunity and validation means more than I can express. I never go into anything expecting to win or to be successful, but I do go into everything giving 150%. I knew that if I didn’t win, I could be proud that I gave my all, but I am so, so ecstatic to have won, it’s changed my life.
Advertisement
What made you decide to enter the Fashion Discovery competition?
ASOS has had a hand in furthering some really strong British design talent, and I just thought if I could have the guidance and backing of a company like them, I would be in really safe hands. What they were offering in the way of a prize and support is pretty unheard of, and so I had to enter and just try. I also see a lot of parallels between ASOS’ approach to fashion and my own, they champion diversity, equality and sustainability, those are all areas that are really important to me.
What was the best part about being in the competition and meeting the other designers?
It was really nice to see what new talent is out there. I find it really exciting seeing other artistic points of view. We were all so different so it didn’t feel scarily competitive as we all represented different things. I really loved Fortie Label and Tolu Coker, their work was so cool – I also got to chat to them a bit, they are really lovely girls.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
My aesthetic is made up of my obsession with female heroes from comics, anime and video games, but also influenced by the strength and resilience of the women in my reality. I love creating pieces that amplify perception and presence, making women stand tall, blurring what they should be and really enhancing who they want to be.
I love playing with tailoring and adding intelligent multifunction and multipurpose features. The Wesley Harriott woman is always on the move so I like her garments to be transformative in function and silhouette. I also inject elements of sportswear into my leotards and bodysuits. I think that’s in my DNA, just being from Tottenham; there was always an emphasis on sportswear growing up so it’s naturally a part of my taste. It’s all about creating dynamic, intelligent silhouettes to act as a uniform for dynamic, intelligent women.
Advertisement
Why do you think competitions like this are so important for the fashion industry?
They are SO important – much like myself, not everyone comes from well financed backgrounds, or gets to go to what are considered the best schools. These competitions put a spotlight on talent that often gets lost due to circumstance and I think that these platforms allow people like me to move forward. So many designers don’t get to have their ideas and points of view heard and there is so much talent in the most overlooked places. I encourage designers from all walks of life to enter these types of opportunities because anything is possible.
What was the first thing you did when you found out you'd won?
I cried like a baby, it was very, very emotional! I got myself together, called my mum and then she cried too!
How will the investment money and mentoring change the Wesley Harriott brand? What's next for you?
This investment will allow me to push my brand out there, reaching more consumers than I could before. I can open my online store and produce stock so it’s available to purchase right away. I am excited to produce my next collection, I have so many ideas. I also want to look into having my first presentation. The mentoring is so invaluable to me. I am by nature a creative, so having the opportunity to discuss my brand and how to grow it with experienced mentors will give me such an important education that I feel I have been lacking! The whole prize fund has opened so many doors, and I plan to walk through all of them!
Advertisement
What’s exciting about the unisex space at the moment?
I think the excitement for LYPH comes from the ability to be able to play and have more freedom with silhouettes. An idea that you're not confined to a gender-specific shape and form.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Avant-garde streetwear.
Which designers do you admire and why?
Rei Kawakubo, because she is a leader in whatever she does. Charles and Ray Eames, because of their ability to make a modern product mass-sellable. Jeff Koons, because of his ability to push. Virgil Abloh, because of his ability to redefine a market and culture.
What made you decide to enter Fashion Discovery?
Actually it was my mum who encouraged me to enter; we missed the opportunity for the first one but knew we would enter this time round and try to win it...
How do you feel to have won? Were you expecting it?
It’s an amazing feeling. We worked incredibly hard to build the brand and tried to put ourselves in the best possible position to win, so we were so happy with this outcome.
How did you celebrate your win?
ASOS put on a big party for the winners and we celebrated with them all. We plan on continuing the celebration a little later once the season is over and we get the production rolling…
How does it feel to have your collection stocked on ASOS?
A total game-changer!
Why do you think competitions like this are so important for the fashion industry?
Advertisement
These types of competitions are so important for the fashion industry. They nurture and discover fresh talent. There are a lot of great designers out there that don't get the total package from university. ASOS fine-tunes them to be able to wear more than one hat: a design hat, a buying hat, a merchandising hat, etc. It’s so important that these competitions remain for young designers to break through.
What's next for LYPH?
Well we have SS19 dropping in the next few weeks. We have two global collaborations ready for showing in Paris, June 21st-26th at Polly King. We have AW18 dropping in July in 15 stores globally with a South Korean collaboration. We have been working with Wiley on a special collection for his upcoming tour. We have new manufacturing and factories lined up for jersey and sweats to grow the business and add in new product categories – the list goes on and on. The big one is getting the new collection to ASOS so they can buy it, mentor us and we can start putting things in place to become a real player on the ASOS platform.
What made you decide to enter the Fashion Discovery competition?
The constant messages from my friend Melisa about the competition! I looked into it and was really inspired by what they can do for young designers and businesses so I applied. I didn’t think at all that I would be considered. But I thought to myself if by some miracle I did win, it could really help me start my business and really help my family.
Advertisement
How do you feel to have won the People’s Pick?
I am so happy and thankful to everyone who voted. It was such a shock! Throughout the voting I refused to look at the votes just because I was so nervous about it and I saw everyone else had such a big following compared to me so I thought there was no way I could win this. I’m just so thankful for the support. I got endless DMs on Instagram from people showing me their support and love. I’m so, so grateful.
What do you love about '60s style and why is it still relevant now?
I have always loved the '60s, I just love the vibe and the expression. How I see the '60s is women really coming into their own and just expressing their own identities through fashion. I think it’s so relevant because I think that’s what is happening now. Women's voices are being heard, colours are getting brighter and women are becoming bolder with fashion, and don’t feel the need to apologise for it. And I want women to feel both empowered and beautiful in my clothing – I think that is the essence of the '60s.
Your designs are really fun. Why is that important to you?
Thank you! Making my designs fun and colourful is SO important to me just because I want people to feel exactly that when they wear them. Also when I design, I think about what kind of person I want to be. I’m really shy and I don’t like attention so I always dress really casually, therefore I'm almost designing for my alter ego, who is the complete opposite to me.
Advertisement
Which designers do you admire and why?
There are so many designers that I love but I will keep it short. I love Delpozo, I follow them on Instagram and I’m constantly on their website. I just love their designs, they're so fun yet so sophisticated. Growing up I always loved Valentino and I even went to his exhibitions – I remember being blown away. I’m hoping one day I could make pieces like that. Last but not least, Carolina Herrera; her designs are just so beautiful and so timeless, which I really try to accomplish with my own designs.
What did you do when you heard you'd won?
Well firstly I jumped up and ran around my house like a mad person, I just couldn’t believe it! But then I called my mum and my brother and told them the good news.
Why do you think competitions like this are so important for the fashion industry?
I think competitions like this are important because it gives so many people like me, who don’t have access to the industry, who don’t have the money but have a dream – it gives people like me the chance to become something better than they thought they were, and really showcase a range of different talent that is hidden. It’s so important to give everyone the chance to become better and ASOS is amazing for that.
What does it mean to have won such a prestigious competition? How will this support from ASOS change your brand?
Advertisement
It honestly means the world! I don’t mean to sound soppy but growing up with not a lot of money and only my mum (who is the strongest woman in the world), I never saw this for myself. Everything was always a struggle for us, going to university was a struggle. So for ASOS and the people who voted to see something in me is amazing.
Now I just want to live my dream of becoming a designer and building my brand, not only for myself but for my mum; ASOS’ support will help elevate my brand to the next level. I’m so new to this so their mentoring and guidance will be such a huge help and allow my brand to become stronger, better and hopefully even more colourful!
There you have it. Three young, super talented designers who want to challenge the limitations of gender, encourage women to express their full, creative selves, and make fashion a more colourful, diverse place. If that isn’t an incredible manifesto for the future of fashion, we don’t know what is.
Discover more about the Fashion Discovery initiative here
Advertisement

More from Fashion

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that color what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most most vibrant cultural and culinary centers—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.