Designer Spotlight – Ryan Brockbank (Brockers ’79)
On our first ‘Designer Spotlight’ we met up with fast up and coming designer Ryan Brockbank to talk all things Brockers ’79 (his brand) and his journey on how he became one of the Top 25 Graduates from Graduate Fashion Week this year. We met in the North Laines, grabbed a coffee at The Flour Pot Bakery and got stuck into Ryan’s journey so far, his inspirations and just some all round good chat.
BASH!: So it’s great to finally meet you and I’m sure things have been super busy with all the amazing stuff going on with your collection from the Graduate Fashion Week. Tell us how you got to this point?
Ryan: “Well I worked in the hotel history for about 12 years and worked my way up from being a waiter and loved it and made a success of it. I then got to 32 and took a step back and thought “was this what I really wanted to do?” I had done an Art foundation course when I was younger and always had a passion for Fashion so I made the decision to get a Fashion Design Degree and Brighton University was my number one choice. So I decided to get some samples of work together and sent them of to apply for some courses, Brighton actually was interested and asked me to send them some more stuff, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t have anymore so I made an excuse that I had work and couldn’t get anymore over. Then low and behold next time I heard from them they offered be an unconditional spot and so I caught my first break. I then moved to Brighton in September 2012 and never looked back.
BASH!: That’s amazing, so what happened after you started?
Ryan: “So the course I did was a 4 year course, 2 years study and then a placement and then you do your final year. The placement year was most important to me and was really worthwhile doing. My main focus was to find somewhere I could get paid and stay there the full year. Whilst studying I was working in Headmasters and got chatting to my manager and he knew the guys at Gresham Blake and after chatting with them we managed to work something out that I could do my placement year with them which was fantastic. I started out working in the shop but spent one day a week on Design work and as things progressed I got more and more design work and really built up some awesome experience and connections especially as we started doing some uniform work for hotels which obviously I had a background in and had some insights that were really helpful when it came to designing the uniforms. There was an opportunity for me to take a Design job at Gresham Blake so I thought it was best to defer my final year for a year and continue to build up my experience. So I ended up doing my final year of my degree in 2016 but they kept me on 1 day a week so I was still getting actual work experience whilst doing my final year.”
BASH!: Certainly sounds like your experience there helped you along, do you think it made your final year easier?
Ryan: “Yes it really did, I had obviously made a lot on contacts whilst working there and I ended up knowing exactly where to get things and that really made things go along quicker. So with a mix of the knowledge and contacts I made from my work experience it really helped out with my final collection and I managed to get things done quicker, which I really needed because half way through I found out that my partner was pregnant and she was going to be due around the time I was finishing my course up and Graduate Fashion Week.
BASH!: Oh really!! So the pressure was on from all sides.
Ryan: “Haha, yes it was. I had to juggle my final collection, still do my work and also make sure my partner was OK. Luckily the guys at Gresham Blake let me have time off towards the end to focus on getting my work done. At that point my main aim was to just get my collection done and hand it in, as long as I handed something in I was going to be happy as I could get it in and then focus on the family. I had actually even said to my tutor not to worry about submitting my collection for Graduate Fashion Week because my baby was due around that time and it might make things easier. He decided that we should submit and see how it gets on.
BASH!: So you almost didn’t even submit for Graduate Fashion Week? So what happened after you found out you were selected?
Ryan: “Yes almost. Well I found out I was selected and it was really great news I was over the moon but also aware the baby was due around the same time so it was a really busy time trying to get everything sorted. I was actually up in London the day before with a friend trying to sort out the final garment for the show the next day, when I got the call to say my partners water had broke, so I had to rush back. So it worked out nicely that my amazing daughter was born on the same day as my collection was at Graduate Fashion Week and we ended up watching the show on the live stream so it was really nice and I thought it was an amazing ending to my journey.”
BASH!: But it didn’t end there did it?
Ryan: “No, so about 3pm that day the intern that was working with me called me and told me that I was shortlisted for the Top 25 of Graduate Fashion Week and at midnight I got the call that I got in and was asked to come up to London the next day to meet loads of people and do all the press. So my partner was amazing and of course she and the baby were both safe and healthy so we decided I should go to London and get involved in the Top 25 show. The day was amazing with lot’s of press and networking which was great for the collection.”
BASH!: Sounds like it was an unforgettable time of your life. So what have you been up to since you have completed your degree and what’s going on with the collection?
Ryan: “So after completing I decided to review my options, as a mature student I needed to find work that was going to support me and my family and so needed to find a job that was going to pay well enough and I managed to find a job with a company called NO Uniform in London which is run by Nicholas Oakwell that focus on high end Corporate wear which is obviously right in my sweet spot experience wise and I’m really enjoying it there. In regards to the collection I am still really keen to keep pushing it and see where it can take me.”
BASH!: Good Stuff, so let’s talk about the collection a bit, what are your plans for it?
Ryan: The collection is called Tailored Casuals and that is going to be part of my brand Brockers ’79. I managed to source a really good manufacture who can make the garments and I’m really now looking to promote the brand and get it out there. The manufacturer are a really cool company who are just off Savile Row called Dashing Tweeds and they produce these amazing fabrics and they are really supportive. They actually have some of the collection up in their window right now which is great.
I feel like I almost accidentally caught this sportswear trend which seems to be on the rise right now and it’s a style I really enjoy, obviously having designed a collection around it, so I’m really keen to be a part of it and get people wearing the brand.
BASH!: 100% one of the big things we saw at London Fashion Week Mens was Sportswear and football tops in particular which is where your collection fits in nicely. On that, what’s the main inspiration behind the collection?
Ryan: Well I’m a Manchester United fan and the idea for the collection all started around the 1984 United shirt. From there I really wanted to draw from the whole football casuals era where people would wear all their best clothes to games. I wanted that feel of people wearing high end clothing to football but give it that football feel. I also was keen to produce a collection that was ready to wear and people could see themselves wearing straight away and wanted people to relate to it. It’s not me to create something that is too abstract or out there, the whole time I was designing it I had in my mind “are people going to wear this?” Also I have tried to keep it unique to me and personal so developed it around what I was interested and one of my passions. For example the print on the inside of one of the bombers is a picture of all my old football trophies that I had at home.
BASH!: Who do you see wearing the brand?
Ryan: Well I am aiming the brand to be a high end option to where at football games and gives an alternative to wearing a football shirt. The idea is to give people a high end smart alternative that still has that football feel, but is versatile enough that you can wear it everyday not just to games. I want to give people something that they can wear with a suit jacket or their jeans to a game.
BASH!: So if someone wanted to buy one of the garments right now could they do it?
Ryan: Well right now I’m focusing on raising awareness of the brand but if someone did want to buy one then it can be arranged. Especially the shirts I am all lined up to get them made so if someone wanted on of them it can definitely be arranged.
BASH!: It certainly seems your in a good place with the brand right now and we certainly hope it continues moving forward. If we can go back to you for a moment what made you make the decision to go down the route of taking a degree?
Ryan: Well once I had made the decision to leaving the hotel industry and focus on fashion I felt that a degree would be the best way for me to get my foot in the door of the industry. A lot of people thought I was brave for doing what I did but at that time I felt like I didn’t have any ties and it really felt like it was the right thing to do and I didn’t really have to think about it too much. I felt I could carry enough of my skills over from my previous experience to make a success of my degree and get into the fashion industry. Also I found that there was good support from the government money wise which means that people can do it. I decided on Brighton because it is one of the top 3 courses in the country and they really encourage creative expression and don’t push you towards a certain style. It was a bit daunting going into the course as a mature student, in fact on my first day they thought I was the tutor! But in the end I didn’t find that it held me back at all and everyone on the course was really great and on the same level.
BASH!: It’s inspiring to hear that it can be done and I’m sure people will be pleased to hear its achievable. So you have now lived in Brighton for a number of years, what do you think of it especially from a creative stand point?
Ryan: I have loved living in the area and it has given me great opportunity especially working with Gresham Blake. It’s been really great to be involved in the culture of Brighton whilst going through the degree. One thing I have found though is that most things especially in fashion is going on in London and I would really love for there to be more of a scene in Brighton as there are soo many creative and talented people coming from Brighton and it really is a hub of creativity. I feel Brighton just needs a bit more recognition.
BASH!: So our main aim here at BASH magazine is to highlight up and coming creatives to give people inspiration to give it a go themselves and push for what they really want out of life. You highlight this perfectly and I think would be a real inspiration of someone who was in a similar situation to yourself and might be at a point in their lives where they are thinking of changing direction. What advice would you give to them?
Ryan: “Just do it”! As I said before financially it’s a struggle and you will be in debt but it can be done and it’s not as big of a deal as you think. I can understand people would worry about it but you also have to think will you be happier in your life if you do push for it. But once you do make the jump you have to push and just keep on pushing and not stop and work hard. Just try and gain experience where you can.
BASH!: To wrap things up, where do you see the yourself in 5 years time?
Ryan: Well the main thing would be to have the Brockers ’79 brand up and running maybe have it online as an online brand and have some more collections. I have a vision for where the brand will be and what it will be like and I would like to keep the feel of it, but I am also aware I may have to be flexible with that vision so the brand can be the best it can be.
It would be a dream to do a collaboration with Adidas Originals.