For this month’s designer focus, we had the incredible privilege of catching up with Jay Briggs, the Sheffield born designer making waves on the London fashion scene. Since graduating from the University of Salford in 2013, Jay’s designs have been worn by notable artists such as Paloma Faith, Kylie Minogue and Kimbra. Having undertaken work placements with visual artist and costume designer Alex Noble and milliner Piers Atkinson, Jay’s penchant for dramatic and theatrical designs are fast becoming his signature style.
Hi Jay, how did your brand become so associated with millinery? (designing head pieces) Millinery seemed to be the natural progression for me from fashion design, as it was the part of fashion which always grabbed my attention and always played a major part within my work. The turning point was definitely interning with Piers Atkinson who taught me everything I know about the construction of hats and headpieces. It was there I realised that I enjoyed making headpieces more than I did fashion design, as you could have full creative freedom with no boundaries as practically everything has been done now in terms of creating something new within fashion. It’s costume design where you can realise your fantasy and bring it to life. I moved to London a week after finishing my degree. It was a few months after I was approached by my PR agency (Lewis and Leigh) and the rest is history you could say.
Where do you get you inspiration from? I’m a bit of a book worm so my initial inspiration comes mainly from books that I have read. It could be the whole book which inspires me, a character or just a simple quote. From this I will then adapt a story or concept for the collection by researching more in-depth. Witchcraft, Tudor and Elizabethan British History never fail to feed my mind.
What projects are you working on at the moment? I’ve just finished working on a project for the Wilderness Festival. It was a costume design collaboration for “Foolish People” and their immersive theatre production “Into the Woods” which will debut there. I’ve created the costumes for three of the main characters within the production. I had full creative freedom to visualise the character as I saw best, which was super fun. I’m also working on my new S/S16 millinery collection which will showcase at London Fashion Week in September, as part of an installation at Fashion Scout.
With such resounding success so early in you career, where do you see yourself and the brand heading? I never really know how to answer these questions as you don’t know what the universe has in store for you. In my own ideal world I’d like to have numerous stockists around the UK and internationally so I could leave my full time job (I have to work full time in retail in order to fund my collections as I wasn’t brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth or a Daddy’s trust fund kid) so that the business would fund itself and allow me to live off it and do what I love doing, creating.
With notable people such as Paloma Faith wearing your gorgeous creations, if you had a chance who would you love to dress and why? I’d die a very happy boy if Grace Jones was to do what she does best in one of my headpieces, she is the living persona of everything that made me go into fashion.
Being a Northerner living in London, what do you miss most about home? Oh God, where do I start? Everything! There really is no place like the North. You can take a boy out of the North but not the north out of the boy. However, people understanding my accent has to be top of the list.
Do you feel there is a difference between the Northern and the Southern creative scene? if so, why? I moved to London after showing at Graduate Fashion Week with my collection, two hundred pounds in my back pocket, no home and a six hour contract at work. It was the scariest yet most exciting chapter of my life. Yet I felt it was something which I had to do in order to get my work noticed and ride the aftermath of showcasing at graduate fashion week as, if I didn’t, then the following year there would be another swarm of designers fighting to get into the industry. With London being the fashion capital of England, nothing anywhere else compares to it purely for the opportunity it provides. I think that, if you want to progress yourself within the creative industry, you need to be in London, as much as it pains me to say. Everything is happening there. Obviously the North has its benefits too and I certainly don’t want to stay in London forever, I want to grab some of my life back before I’m dead!
What can we expect from your next collection? My next collection is very exciting for me personally, as the concept has been manifesting for a while now. It tells the story of one of Britain’s influential and iconic queen consorts, a woman who took power into her own hands and used her sexuality to gain what she desired, using it to her own advantage. Beautiful, charming and enchanting on the outside yet a dark and evil woman under her radiance, outed as the villain when she came to her downfall. A woman who was mother to England’s greatest queen, who made Britain what it is today:- Anne Boleyn.
With your work so steeped in fantasy and beautiful story lines, what is your favourite fairytale? It has to be Sleeping Beauty but the Maleficent character. She’s my total femme fatale; dignified, poised and graceful yet evil and powerful with an air of mystery.
With head accessories being quite a challenge to get sartorially correct, what headpieces can you recommend for the everyday woman? I don’t believe in the term “everyday woman” as you can be whoever you want to be when you wake up in a morning and wear whatever headpiece fits your character for that day. What’s the worst that could happen? You will be the best-dressed person at the mall. I’ll never forget the time I was on the tube at Bond Street and this middle-aged woman stepped through the door in a black, floor-length, oversized, Comme des Garçons knitted dress; emerald Vivienne Westwood heels (The ones Naomi couldn’t even walk in) and a huge red-feathered hat with veil over her face. Her aura was incredible and you just wanted to talk to her.
Off the top of your head (pun intended), what can you see being the big trends for a/w 15? Real fashion comes from within, mixing it all up is far more interesting than a head-to-toe look straight from the Alexander Wang runway. You are the trend you want to be.