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 is participating 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.

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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 aims to showcase 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

…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.