BY KATE KING
At just 21, Blake Simpson’s designs boast a talent few have a handle of at this age, and encompasses a passion he shared with his cohort. His work is vibrant and diverts from anything seen on the runway within a university. His label, EKALB Designs, is taking strides down the runway to a long career in fashion design. His ‘Bratz’ and doll inspired work with electric colours and larger than life eccentric designs is heading upwards in the fashion industry. Having recently graduated from QUT with Honours in Fashion Design, Blake’s journey so far has been an interesting one and he is now moving forward into an already fast paced fashion world. With Instagram becoming the new fashion magazine in some cases, the evolution of fashion is headed on a spiral, but in which way is yet to be determined.
Like most on Instagram, counting likes and comments is something people are too embarrassed to share. The world has been shaped this way and Blake doesn’t shy away from admitting it.
“I do think it [the fashion world] could go one of two ways… I think because of Instagram, everyone’s going to look the same or there will be two major looks and that’s what people will go with, and because everyone wants to look cool on Instagram to get likes. I’m pretty sure everyone is a culprit of that anyway, I know I am.”
Instagram and other social media platforms have become huge parts of everyone’s lives, and can skew their perception of work, education and social interactions.
“So many people no longer want to do tertiary education because they have followers on Instagram [and] they can get money through that… everyone’s trying to look for an easy way out instead of following what they want to do.”
Although his view of Instagram is somewhat cynical, it can still be beneficial for designers and create other opportunities for them in the industry. Fashion magazines in the 80’s and through to the early 2000’s was a large part of our fashion consumption but nowadays turning to Instagram or online mediums tends to be the mainstream way to consume fashion content. Even in a changing fashion scene, young designers who understand why they make their art and remain true to their message like Blake does, keep the industry moving. The commitment that young designers like him show to maintaining their label’s integrity is credit to their understanding of the industry and where its heading
Blake talks about exposure as a designer and how Instagram can be a way to create opportunities for up and coming designers, “I don’t think it’s [Instagram] killing it [fashion magazines] … obviously, a lot less people are reading fashion magazines nowadays… but I do think Instagram can be a way to expose to a lot more people at a higher level… I think Instagram is an easier way of exposure at this point in time. But I do think it has diminished the reading of fashion magazines, but I still buy fashion magazines.”
Within his tertiary education, Blake spoke about the opportunities he was given to network with designers and other professionals within the industry.
“...A couple of months back we got to do a collaboration where we met with editors of Vogue and they came and looked at one of our outfits. So, you don’t really get that opportunity doing it on your own.” Blake also spoke about working with his classmates within an academic environment and the support they had for each other, “I think you get tips and tricks from other people that you’re with, because they know stuff that you might not.”
“When you hear people from other courses that say they never make friends… we’ve been with each other for four years so we go through everything together so learning stuff from them helps you progress as well. And helps you become a better designer… we always help each other.”
Blake had one of his designs feature in the 2018 Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival in Brisbane, which allowed his work to be showcased on a much larger platform. The students showcased in the MBFF had reviews that touched on their designs being more interesting than larger household names at the event.
“...We’re not trying to sell it to anyone, were doing stuff because we want to do it… I think this is our last opportunity to go crazy as we might be working with a designer where we have to follow their guidelines… so this year, you could do whatever you want, you’re not trying to sell it to anyone.”
“...Whereas with other brands, they’re there to sell it to other people.”
Blake’s Graduate collection looked at an accumulation of his work at university, reflecting nostalgic ideas from his childhood. His designs included materials involving plastic and were larger than life. The items in his collection featured vibrant pinks, purples and electric greens.
“When I was younger I used to play with dolls… I remember getting a doll and getting tissues to make dresses for them with the tissues but that was when I was younger. For this collection… it was a nostalgic feeling of holding a Bratz doll in its box. That’s why I used a lot of plastic and toggles to represent the wires of the dolls in their boxes. Last year, we had to design a small collection and mine was about… growing up as a gay child, you never know where you fit in with boys or girls, so I was in the middle ground.”
After graduation, Blake has plans to move to Sydney and take opportunities to design in a different city, “Three weeks ago, I was thinking I need a break for the summer… but two days after the show I was like, I need to do something now! There’s a lot more experiences for people to do fashion design in Sydney or Melbourne. But I feel like I’ve always had a connection with Sydney… I love going there, I love the busy… and people everywhere, and everyone has different stories and trying to go down their path.”