The fashion industry has its celebrities; not the movie stars who adorn lavish designer garments on the red carpet, but the designers themselves, IPhones came out and cameras flashed as Sarah Burton, Creative Director for Alexander McQueen, and Philip Treacy, milliner extraordinaire, made their way towards the stage of the Academy of Art University tenth annual fashion symposium. The discussion, led by Gladys Perint Palmer, Executive Director of the school of fashion, Dr. Elisa Stephens, President of the Academy of Art, and Simon Ungless, Director of the school of fashion, gave the audience an inside perspective of the fashion industry and the careers of these two renowned designers.
Although the two fashion celebrities addressed to a full house, the panel setting did not feel formal, instead was of a group of friends gossiping around the dinner table. The light-hearted conversation detailed everything from the beginnings of Burton’s and Treacy’s careers, to working alongside the late Alexander McQueen, to the future of hats according to Lady GaGa.
The panel also reminisced over stories of late Isabella Blow, who befriended most of the people on stage that night and whose warm, genuine nature and eye for talent brought this group together. The iconic fashion editor known for pillaging Treacy’s studio late at night in search of the best, most creative hats and calling up garment orders to McQueen on a daily basis, originally encouraged both McQueen and Treacy in their pursuit of a career as top designers, setting up studios for both men in the basement of her home.
“Encouragement is the best thing to give a young person,” said Treacy, “and that’s what [Isabella] did for me.” Later, Blow worked for Sunday Times with Perint Palmer, Burton began her career with McQueen in 1997, and the rest is history.
With the same supportive attitude, Burton shared with students the advice she was given while studying at Central St. Marin’s College of Art & Design in London under the Academy’s own Simon Ungless – “Nothing is impossible. You can do anything you like.”
While we may rightly be in awe of the people who were on that stage, we who are to graduate soon should not forget that Burton and Treacy did not always hold movie-star status. They too were students once, studying under some of the same instructors now teaching at the Academy of Art. Burton and Treacy both worked their way up from the bottom, learning the basics, interning and pulling all-nighters. Yet, through it all, they worked their way to the top, proving that anything is possible.
Photography: Curtsey of Randy Brooke