British Fashion Week comes to the British Library

Sophie Sabin, Business Support Officer with the Culture & Learning and Higher Education teams, unexpectedly featured in Nabil's fashion show. Photo taken by Natasha Naidoo

Fashion Designer Nabil Nayal participated in an exciting collaboration with the British Library to raise awareness of the potential of its vast resources to inspiring fashion researchers and design students.

Published date:

On 18 September 2018, Nabil became the first designer to showcase a collection at the British Library during London Fashion week. The event generated a huge response from press and social media, including coverage in Vogue.

Nabil Nayal is a Syrian-born British womenswear designer. He was an LVMH Prize Finalist in 2017 and received a British Fashion Council Fashion Trust Grant this year.

Having undertaken a doctorate in Elizabethan dress, Nayal felt passionately about emphasising the importance of his research through his collection. In his Spring/Summer 2019 (SS19) collection, Nabil explored the Library’s Elizabethan and Medieval Manuscripts archives.

Research for his collection began with the famous Tilbury Speech, delivered by Queen Elizabeth I ahead of the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. The manuscript of the speech, along with other other images – including Elizabeth’s funeral procession and maps and hymn sheets – were incorporated into the collection through digital printing. The collection included coats, jackets, dresses, and a three-metre-long cloak featuring the Tilbury Speech.

The collaboration between Nabil and the British Library showcased not only the incredible wealth of resources available at the British Library for design students but also the importance of research for the continued success of UK creative industries.

A short film was made of this event at the British Library with interviews with key stakeholders in the fashion industry.

Case studies

…I use my experience of travel to try and develop something real and honest, and most importantly to create beauty within my design.…

Joint winner of our 2019 fashion competition Victoria Lyons tapped into the resources of the British Library to develop a photographic series on which she modelled a set of fabrics.

…While visiting the British Library in search of inspiration, I found myself fixating on examples of intricacy and intimacy seen throughout the building. …

Joint winner of our 2019 fashion competition Andrew Froud from the University of Brighton took inspiration from the Library’s collections to design his set of textiles.

…Fashion as an art form is a powerful voice and should allow its participants, designers and wearers alike to celebrate life and personality.…

Fashion student Cristiana Alagna from Ravensbourne University used the Library’s photography collections and depictions of 18-19th century clothing to inspire her own set of textiles.

…I was delighted that it was possible to flick through manuscripts, missals and Books of Hours from the past centuries through the British Library’s online catalogue.…

Louise Desoeuvre from Bath Spa University used the British Library to research Renaissance paintings and WW1 photographs to design a garment inspired by religious and military dress.

…My concept was a fashion collection which focused on expressing the beauty of imperfection, lived experience and individuality through textiles.…

Alanna Hilton was the winner of a competition run by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with the British Library and fashion house Teatum Jones to create a fashion portfolio telling a story inspired by the British Library’s collections.

…Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library to research prototypes for her autumn/winter Once Upon a Time fashion range, during her final year of a Fashion BA at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom.…

Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library as part of her research for a competition to create a fashion portfolio telling a story inspired by the Library’s collections.