GFW YKK Award Winner 2021: Natasha Finlay, University of Northampton

Image: Natasha Finlay

YKK has been supporting GFW for more than five years, and the coveted YKK Accessories Award rewards and celebrates the hard work and creative vision of students and graduates from across the country in the accessories arena, including millinery, shoes, bags, belts and jewellery.

Commenting on what stood out about Finlay’s graduate collection, Katie Doherty, YKK London showroom coordinator, said: “Natasha’s work was the most original and well thought out, she also produced some really contemporary outfits. Natasha’s presentation was very professional and we were all impressed with the level of her work and it was evident that she had worked very hard on her final collection despite all the obstacles of the last year, we truly loved all the prints!”

After her win, FashionUnited chatted to the talented designer to find out more about the inspiration behind her collection, what it means to win the YKK Accessories Award, her plans for the future, and her advice for aspiring fashion designers.

Image: Natasha Finlay

Why Did You Want to be a Fashion Designer?

Natasha Finlay: I have always loved fashion but I felt my skills were more drawing/art based being a designer wasn’t something I had serious thoughts about until I went to college to study my NVQ. My tutor came to me and said she saw potential in me and thought my skills would thrive in the fashion textiles area of education. Going to college gave me the realisation that I can use my art background alongside designing future fashion trends.

What was the inspiration for your graduate collection that won the YKK Accessories Award?

My inspiration for my FMP collection was how the pandemic had affected our dreams. My dreams had started to be very different and strange within the first lockdown, I went on social media, raised a poll and it was evident this was also the case with many other people. Everyone had sent me written descriptions of their dreams and I drew them all by hand from my imagination and that then fed into all the other elements of my collection such as prints, garments, and accessories.

What fabrics/techniques did you use?

As a result of the pandemic and being a print student I was very limited to what I could use as I was not in the print room! But I sourced recycled polyester for the dream puffa coats not only for their sustainable qualities but it was the best-suited fabric for my designs, this was digitally printed. It was an added bonus being a recycled material. When it comes to my dream stealer teddies the fabric I used was scrap fabric I had found from the university, I stuffed the puppets with a mixture of wadding and fabric cut off from my other garments.

What Are The Signature Pieces in Your collection?

My signature pieces are the long mix dream puffa coat that includes a snippet of everyone’s dreams within the print, alongside the dream stealer puppets attached with industrial chains. I wanted my dream stealers to bring to life my print and bring a sense of joy to my collection. They are the distorted figures people have experienced in their nightmares, the aim was by turning them into stuffed puppets it eliminates that fear and replaces it with happiness.

Image: Natasha Finlay

What did you gain for being able to showcase at GFW?

Being able to show my collection at fashion week has always been the goal. Being selected for the best of show was amazing and has opened up a lot of doors for me. I was recently picked up on the MKFM radio as well as a local article release. I’m also receiving e-mails and direct messages from some interesting people so I’m excited.

What did it mean to you to win the YKK Accessories Award?

I wanted to go into that award with an open mind. When I found out I was shortlisted, then a finalist, then the winner, it felt amazing. I am absolutely over the moon that the judges loved my work as much as I do and it makes me feel really confident to think they see something in me that was worth the win.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Northampton?

I chose to study at Northampton university because of the course, ‘textiles’ for fashion is quite rare usually it’s just textiles or fashion so having them mixed I felt was important. The campus is amazing and the fashion and textiles room is brand new with all the latest equipment. Not to mention the tutors at Northampton are like no other. The amount of time, energy and genuine desire they have to want you to do well is unmatched. The amount of time we get with our tutors and technicians at Northampton is amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them all.

Image: Natasha Finlay

What was the most valuable thing you learned on your course?

I have learnt so much since being at uni, not only in myself but as a designer. I have definitely grown as a person and realised that being yourself is so important and as long as you love what you do it will show through your work. I have enjoyed every minute of it even if it has been a hard experience.

What do you wish you had been told before you started your degree?

I wish I had been told how hard fashion courses are. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time and hard work that goes into a degree like this but it is so rewarding when all your hard work pays off.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?

My plans now are just to be open-minded and take any opportunity that comes my way! I don’t want to close myself off to anything and I’m excited for what the future holds whatever it may be.

What advice would you give someone considering studying fashion?

Do it! It will be the best thing you decide to do. You will never be bored in life, it is constantly moving, changing and full of excitement. It is a hard industry to get into but that’s because so many people love it.

You can see more of Natasha’s work here.