Back to school with Cheshire fashion designer, William Tempest

Fashion designer William Tempest went back to college in Northwich to offer advice to designers of the future WORDS BY AMANDA GRIFFITHS Photography by John Cocks

He’s dressed celebrities from Emma Watson to Victoria Beckham, Leona Lewis to Dita Von Teese and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Donatella Versace. Not bad for a designer at the start of his career.

Cheshire-born William Tempest admits there’s been a certain amount of luck to his rise in the fashion world, but says there’s also been an awful lot of hard work, from designing the clothes to the price labels that hang on them, 25 year- old William has a hand in it all and he wouldn’t change a thing.

‘One of my tutors once told me that being in the fashion industry was 80 per cent business and 20 per cent design,’ William told the students at Mid-Cheshire College. ‘I thought, that’s never going to happen to me, but in honesty it’s more like 95 per cent business and five per cent design,’ he laughs.

‘It’s hard work. It’s my own label so as well as the design I’m doing all the sourcing, overseeing staff and interns and the PR and marketing. ‘It’s a competitive industry – you have to think about how you’re going to set yourself apart from everyone else out there. It really is like the film, The Devil Wears Prada,’ he laughs.

‘I think you have to know who you are and what you’re about as a person. Fashion is so personal; it’s about your tastes, your style. You have to think about what materials you want to work with and importantly who your customer is,’ he says.

Born in Crewe, William was bought up in Middlewich and Sandbach, attending Sandbach Boys’ School.

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‘I was quite academic at school, but also really into art and very creative,’ he says. ‘I just knew this was what I wanted to do. I found a BTEC course in fashion at Mid-Cheshire College, enrolled and the rest is history. I got a place at London College of Fashion and moved down to London for three years. If you want to work in fashion I think that’s really where you need to be,’ he says while admitting he still comes home to his native Cheshire regularly.

‘I would really love to open a boutique in Cheshire,’ he says. ‘There’s a great market for my dresses with all the footballers WAGS.

‘While I was studying I got a job working for Giles Deacon as a pattern cutter. I was lucky to get that job. One of the things I say to all fashion students is get the best work experience possible. That’s where you’re going to meet people and be able to network and in the fashion world it is very much about who you know and not what you know. Yes, you have to be good but people will give jobs to friends or people they know.’

William worked with Giles for two years: ‘It was an amazing experience and where I learnt how to run a fashion business,’ he says.

After graduating, with interest in his graduate collection rife William secured a six month placement with French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, working in Paris.

‘It was a very different experience to working with Giles,’ he says. ‘Giles was very craft-based, I was used to working in a studio environment but in Paris everything was outsourced to places like Turkey and Hong Kong. It gave me a different perspective of the industry and the opportunity to see how a more commercial label was run.’

William’s big break however came when he was approached by a company wanting to help him start his own label. At the same time encouraged to take part in a competition, Fashion Fringe, by an old tutor, William presented a business plan for his label in front of a panel of ten industry experts including Donatella Versace, who he says loved the collection he put forward.

And although he didn’t win the competition, he impressed the backers so much that they offered him support alongside the actual winner.

Describing his style as ‘timeless but directional, I can imagine my dresses being worn in the future and still looking really timeless and elegant,’ William focuses on red carpet gowns and evening wear:

‘It’s quite a glam look but also quite structural as well,’ he says. ‘I get my inspiration from travel and like to interpret structures from architecture into shapes for the body.

‘My grandad was a structural engineer, I think that’s where I got the love of architecture and structure from. In fact, I did think about architecture as a career – actually I know a few architects who want to be fashion designers so perhaps the two are linked!’

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