If you’re talking industry influencers, London Fashion Week is one of the biggest.
Designers Desiree Riley and Joshua Davis were thrilled to receive an invite; the prestigious trade fair will put their brand, D’ezir, on display before a global audience of influential media and retailers.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Ms Riley, who wasn’t expecting anything of the sort when she and Mr Davis flew to Canada for Vancouver Fashion Week this month. “They really liked our collection and, as a result, we were invited to go to London Fashion Week next February with our 2020 autumn/winter collection.”
A few years ago, D’ezir was just an idea.
Ms Riley had long been involved in fashion as a model but was keen to discover how clothes were made.
“I started taking it seriously in about 2014 or ’15 when I really concentrated on learning how to sew and whole design aspects,” the 28-year-old said.
She took some classes and started pulling apart clothes she found in thrift stores “to figure out how they were constructed”. She then began showing her designs locally and, on two occasions, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Although they were “well received”, when a former colleague offered his support she couldn’t refuse.
“We were best friends and she found out I have an eye and imagination for design,” said Mr Davis, a 31-year-old prison officer. “I just jumped in. I liked it. I like doing the shows. There’s a lot of technical work to it.”
The collaboration paid off. D’ezir was accepted into the Bermuda Fashion Festival last year.
“He is really good at putting together different outfits,” said Ms Riley. “For Bermuda Fashion Festival, during the whole shoot, [he advised on] how we should model, the video, putting together the collection, everything. We didn’t win — they said our line was too high-end for Bermuda — but we got a lot of good feedback from the show.”
Through their Instagram posts, Vancouver Fashion Week called and they decided to go. The event saw nearly 100 designers congregate on Canada’s west coast from October 7 to 13.
“Our collection is called Illuminate,” said Ms Riley, a former member of the Russian School of Ballet. “It has lots of bright colours and was kind of inspired by dancers.
“It has a flowy, dance feel. It’s a very bold collection but also flirty, with silhouettes.”
It was enough to get them noticed at Vancouver Fashion Week, where their show ran on the last day of the biannual event. One of their 12 designs was listed as being among the top ten looks of the entire showcase.
“We had front-row seats to the shows,” said Mr Davis. “It was like we were celebrities. It was a really good experience. One person said ours was the best collection out of all. We had one lady buy an outfit off the runway.”
Added Ms Riley: “She fell in love with it. We kept saying we could remake it and ship it to her but she insisted she wanted it [then and there].
“The judges said they were really impressed with our designs because they were very wearable but still fashion forward, that we were the best out of fashion week — which is mind-blowing.”
The couple were too busy behind the scenes to watch their own show. A friend, Shelbi Virgil, helped them prepare the models and recorded them onstage.
“We were making sure all the models were straight, all the clothes were on correctly,” said Ms Riley, who has a full-time job at Davidrose Jewellery.
The moment passed in a nanosecond, Mr Davis added.
“Months and months of dreams and styling for [a show that lasted] about seven minutes.”
Ms Riley said: “The end result was what we were looking for but we didn’t expect to get invited to London Fashion Week. That was the icing on the cake.
“Their invitations are carefully sought out. They’re not just given to anyone. They have to like your collection. So many [successful] designs started from these collections. Armani, Dolce & Gabbana ... they started through shows like this and now they do their own shows.”
Rather than race to prepare eight pieces for February, the pair decided to wait for the September show. They’re hoping a sponsor will come forward to help them get there.
“It gives you more exposure,” Ms Riley said in explaining why London Fashion Week in particular is a huge designer draw. “There are more buyers, more guest celebrities, there’s media coverage from all around the world. But it is very expensive; although the cost covers models, make up, artists, location, pictures, video, everything.
“The idea is to build a following and get a manufacturing company but we’re waiting for our website to be up and running so we can sell outside Bermuda. We’re hoping to do that before London Fashion Week.”