#MEFORHER: Chanel Joan Elkayam

  You are a student at Central Saint Martins, one of the most internationally renowned and recognized fashion schools, having nurtured such talent as McQueen and Galliano in the past. Can you share about your university experience?
I am 21 years old, a BA Womenswear student at Central Saint Martins. I grew up in Greater Manchester, in the peak district and split my time between Manchester and London. Studying at Central Saint Martins is such a wonderful experience but my particular course (womenswear) is very demanding. It’s a lot of hard work especially when I multitask between education and working on my clothing line.

When did you become interested in fashion and decided to pursue a career in this field?
My whole life. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved fashion. With my mother’s support, I started my own clothing line when I was 16 years old.

You are the youngest fashion designer in history to complete the big four fashion weeks by the age of 20 years old and within the first four years of your career as a fashion designer. What were the challenges that you needed to overcome and were people skeptical because of your age when you entered the fashion world? What are the advantages?
After creating my first collection and showcased it in a private viewing for the press and media, I was then invited straight away to showcase the next collection in Paris Fashion Week. Following that, I was then invited to showcase in New York fashion week. After New York, the interest in my collections/brand was growing and so I was ready to showcase independently in Milan and London, on schedule. I believe that there are some people that would be skeptical about my age however I will continue to develop and create regardless of what they may think.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten and what advice would you give to girls your age that want to follow your lead?
“Don’t worry, you can make it.” Aspiring fashion designers need to understand that they need to put a lot of hard work into it as well as continuously being creative. There are lots of hurdles to jump over in order to achieve the goals. The most important thing is to never give up.

What are three things that you should keep in mind when you are beginning your career as a fashion designer?
Be ambitious. Work hard. Don’t give up. Don’t follow, lead!

Your last show was curated around the phrase “I don’t follow, I lead”. What does this phrase mean to you? Why did you choose it?
The vibe/inspiration for my AW19 collection was about an independent woman with a sovereign mind who believes in the empowerment of women. She is a feminine, seductive leader who is at the same time opulent and chic. She is fearless and unstoppable. She is also powerful and comfortable in her own body. I implemented this message within the aesthetic of my designs and with the launch of my campaign “I DON’T FOLLOW I LEAD”. In that, everyone should lead their lives on their own terms unconstraint of others expectations.

What motivates you? How do you cultivate your creativity?
Being a designer is like being an artist. As an artist, I get inspiration from lots of things. Experiences, people, places and stories. What motivates me is the fact that I can express myself and I can deliver a message through my collections. I love creating. I hand embellish my designs with crystals and Swarovski beads.

Who inspires you? Which designers are you looking up to?
My favorite designer is Christian Dior. However, I’m not inspired by designers. I create my designs inspired by the world and my surroundings. I am inspired by events, people and stories.

What social causes are you passionate about?
Female Empowerment and anti-bullying. Everyone should lead their lives unconstraint of others expectations.

The transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf opened your FW19 show, followed by Kate Grant, a model with Down’s syndrome. This was a powerful statement that made LFW a little bit more inclusive. How important do you think it is for a brand to have a message that is beyond the clothes? I think advocacy is going to be a monumental part that will ‘‘make’ or ‘‘break’’ a brand. What is the message that you want to convey? How do you empower women through your collections?

I believe in empowering women and highlighting their best characteristics. I believe in diversity and inclusion. Every woman is beautiful. Every woman will find something in my collections that will compliment her figure and highlight her presence wherever she goes. Diversity is a very important part of fashion, therefore, I don’t feel my models need to be a size 0. Women all over the world have different backgrounds, race, etc and when designing my collections, I like to see my clothes worn by all these women. Whoever they are and wherever they come from.

Yours truly,

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