New talent glitters at Fashion Week

By Jan Shure, June 10, 2010
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Naama Rietti's dreadlock-inspired knits

Naama Rietti's dreadlock-inspired knits

Jewish designers are generously scattered across the higher echelons of the fashion industry - take, for a start, Lanvin's Alber Elbaz, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs. What's more, Jews head up some of the biggest fashion businesses - think Sir Philip Green at Arcadia, Harold Tillman at Jaeger, the Burstein family of Browns and Lewis Trading Group of River Island. However, at the student end of the spectrum, we are not so well represented.

Graduate Fashion Week, which has been on this week, attracted many of the industry's biggest players, including the aforementioned Mr Tillman, who is also chairman of the British Fashion Council, and French Vogue editor Julia Restoin Roitfeld, along with designers Alberta Ferretti, Clements Ribeiro, William Tempest and Zandra Rhodes, and members of the decorative tendency such as Claudia Schiffer and Erin O'Connor.

But equally notable in their own way were three Jewish fashion students. Naama Rietti from Kingston University and Talia James from Ravensbourne University both hope to make an impact in design - Rietti in clothing, James in textiles - while Melanie Allen hopes to break into world of buying.

Jerusalem-born Rietti, who came to England when she was six, has just completed her degree in Fashion Design at Kingston University. Rietti, who describes her mother as her "greatest inspiration", has based her collection around Francesco Mastalias's book on dreadlocks. The ornately plaited hair associated with Rastafarianism has been translated by Rietti into intricate patterns and elaborate plaits and loops which embellish her knitwear and knitted pieces.

Rietti, who has had placements at Temperley and at Mother of Pearl, the luxe label founded by Damien Hirst's wife Maia Norman, says: "I really value hand-craft, quality and authenticity and I believe these values are part of a more ethical and sound industry. I loathe the way many things are made these days, without core values. I'd love to work with craftspeople and I'm interested in learning from more 'underground' designers - those who aren't afraid of doing things their own way."

Textile designer Talia James also has an Israeli mother, who married Talia's English father and came to the UK where Talia was born. The family has also lived in South Africa, and has travelled to exotic spots such as Azerbaijan, Indonesia as well as around Europe.

Wannabe fashion buyer Mel Allen

Wannabe fashion buyer Mel Allen

"Travelling gave me a love of different cultures but also an awareness of poverty and unfairness, which has led to an interest in fair trade and eco-fashion," declares James.

Her first fashion idol was Vivienne Westwood but she now gravitates towards ethical designers, including Christopher Raeburn and the young Jewish talent Ada Zanditon. She recently did a placement with Lu flux, an ethical designer who uses recycled, organic and fair trade materials.

James is heading to Asia this summer where she plans to investigate fair trade textile co-operatives to learn eco-dying and weaving.

Ex-King Solomon High student Melanie Allen, from Chigwell, Essex, is also a Westwood disciple and admires Julien MacDonald, though she has no aspirations to be a designer. A graduate in fashion retail management at Birmingham City University's Institute of Art & Design, she wants to make her mark as a fashion buyer.

Also ethically and ecologically conscious, her dissertation was a business idea inspired by a summer spent in Israel doing charity work with Aish.

"I wanted to develop a business idea that would help people while at the same time helping the environment. The idea is to provide homeless people with unwanted clothing that has been donated instead of being disposed of in landfills or incineration."

    Last updated: 2:06pm, June 10 2010