Hannah Marshall, Designer
The notion of "the next big thing" in fashion is somewhat of a fleeting concept, but in Hannah Marshall’s case the label fits. Fresh off a hit London Fashion Week show (attended by fashion A-listers Hilary Alexander and Suzy Menkes), a glitzy New York showcase and dressing Janet Jackson for a magazine cover, Marshall’s style star is truly ascending.
The Colchester-born designer, 27, has still got her feet on the ground, though, and a sensible head on her shoulders. Many young designers in her position would be getting caught up in the celebrity hoo ha - she does, after all, dress music’s coolest stars like Florence (of The Machine fame), Alison Mosshart and Beth Ditto - but Marshall is more keen on making sure she knows what’s going on with her production and keeping track of her accounts. “It’s not just about the creativity”, she says. “Ninety percent of the time is spent running the business and the other 10 percent creating. You need to understand every different area of the business from accounts to marketing, PR and sales.”
She learned early on that business-savvy is the smartest accessory a fashion girl can have. After graduating from Colchester School of Art and Design with a First Class degree, her work attracted the attention of the prestigious NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) Creative Pioneer Program. At the tender age of 21, Marshall was the youngest of 30 young entrepreneurs to receive specialized business training. With personal mentoring from fashion gurus Helen Story and Caroline Coates, it was this scheme that set Marshall on her path. “It was very different to a big standard business course," she says. "I had the time of my life. That’s when I wrote my first business plan.”
Then, rather than throw herself straight into business, Marshall opted to take time out for some serious research and development. “I remember Caroline Coates saying to me that the fashion business is like a hamster wheel”, she says. “Once you’re on it you’re on it, you can’t get off!” The budding designer studied on various business courses and sought out invaluable work experience with the likes of Jonathon Saunders.
She then felt ready to launch her first line in 2007 with a collection of strikingly angular black dresses, which have become her signature. She showed this premier line, ‘White Noise,’ to critical acclaim at On/Off at The Royal Academy of Arts followed by Spring Summer 08’s ‘VoID’ in September 2007. Marshall says, “I used exhibiting as a platform to meet all the press and buyers and started to get a following rather than going straight into a catwalk show.”
She debuted her first catwalk show in September 2009 at London Fashion Week with her Spring/Summer 2010 collection “Encryption,” where British supermodel Erin O’Connor modeled for Hannah Marshall exclusively. Due to the success of the show, the British Fashion Council offered Marshall her first On-Schedule show for February 2010, where Hannah showed the Fall/Winter 2010 collection, "Army of Me." “That first show at London Fashion Week was definitely a highlight for me," she says." It was 25 years of Fashion Week too, so it was a good one to be showing at. My favorite season, though, is Fall/Winter 10!”
Strong, angular silhouettes are Marshall’s blueprint. “My inspirations are really broad but the main elements are power, women and the body. Music is another big inspiration. Collaborating with people in the music industry really brings it to life.”
Marshall’s production is now growing at a healthily steady rate. “It’s good to see customers coming back and doubling their orders and it’s still at a level where I can produce the garments in London. We picked up a few new stockists last season such as Harrods which is really exciting.”
So what advice would Marshall offer other budding creative entrepreneurs? “Do your groundwork before you start your business, learn your industry and understand every facet of it before diving in.”
Sure Crystal, the anti-white marks, anti-perspirant deodorant, has partnered with the rising star of London Fashion Week to mark its best-ever product reformulation and super-stylish makeover.