If you haven't heard of the British Fashion Council's (BFC) Changemakers Prize in partnership with Swarovski before, it's because the recently announced award is the first of its kind for the BFC, specifically launched to uncover and celebrate individuals within the fashion industry whose work is embedded in the strive for change. For these often unsung stars blessed with the want to ignite change for good in the fashion industry and beyond - whether that be in part to partnership schemes, charity work or sustainable design - the BFC Changemakers Prize 2021 is an acknowledgement of their efforts.
Rather than putting themselves forward or the BFC handpicking entrants, original nominees were instead recommended to the board by colleagues, peers, employers and businesses, all of which recognised their outstanding work within one of the three pillars of the BFC's Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF): Environment, People or Craftsmanship, and Community. With a total of 500 applications received, the panel - made up of notorious fashion changemakers including Ib Kamara, Jo Ellison and Munroe Bergdorf - managed to whittle down the finalists to just nine nominees, coming from a breadth of disciplines including hair artists, image-makers and eco-makers, all changemakers in their own right. Upon announcement, winners will receive a £7,500 cash prize as well as a mentoring package, offering support from the BFC and Swarovski to continue their effort in making change for the better.
In order to get to know this year's finalists, Christina Donoghue posed three questions to sustainable fashion designer Patrick McDowell (nominated in the 'Environment' pillar), overall connector Cozette McCreery (one of the three nominees representing the 'Community and Craftsmanship' pillar) and designer Rahemur Rahman (from the 'People' pillar) - setting out to see what makes them tick and why they have an unwavering passion for doing what they do.
Christina Donoghue: What does the word 'changemaker' mean to you?
Cozette McCreery: Someone who sees, listens, and reacts to life around them, finding positive solutions to economic, environmental, social, and cultural issues.
Patrick McDowell: Someone who is redefining the norms, taking change into their own hands to pivot and redirect into the right direction.
Rahemur Rahman: Someone working to find a solution to a problem in society. A changemaker uses their skill set to start a sustainable change for the world, who wants to live in a better world that looks after the planet and its people. To be a changemaker is to be a vessel for telling other people's stories in the hopes to bring about change. To say someone made change is to say they impacted the world for good. I am so humbled and grateful to be nominated as someone who could potentially do that.
CD: What or who inspires you to continue to do what you do?
CM: I can't pinpoint exactly where my inspiration to push for change comes from. Possibly a combination of supportive parenting and my own eagerness to learn and keep learning - especially about things, people or communities, which are my total opposite. I continue to do what I do because the problems are organic and forever changing, but why I do it? I don't know; it's so much part of my character that I don't ever really think about it.
PM: Creating a fashion industry that makes common sense.
RR: I like to collaborate with leading youth arts providers and prestigious arts institutions to create projects where the young people emerge as co-collaborators with myself. I am currently working on a youth arts project that explores wallpaper printing and textile-making to create an immersive art installation. My passion for creating a more inclusive creative arts industry is why I am launching the charity, The Homegrown Foundation, with my co-chair Richard Malone. I create clothing for people who aspire to be 'freedom thinkers' and 'society rebels'; the people who care about the planet and its people - people who care about being radical in their choices to create change.
CD: When did you realise you wanted to work in your chosen field and what was your journey like getting there?
CM: I never intended to work in fashion even though I've always been drawn to it - my magazine, garment and book hoarding is testimony to this. I had a very privileged childhood and skipped in and out of all the stores that Sloane Street, Kings Road and High Street Kensington had to offer. I modelled briefly before being fired for getting Vidal Sassoon to give me a crewcut (which was always the plan in my head). I'd go to The Café de Paris and meet people like Gaultier, Ray Petri and Judy Blame. I found myself working at Max Mara and Jasper Conran and doing the door at The Wag. I wore Hamnett crushed velvet bodysuits with thick tights, Cuban heels and a wig, Alaïa dresses with trainers or head out in jeans, cowboy boots and a secondhand men's shirt. I found my style, and work-wise, I just went with the flow. Much of my journey can be put down to a huge amount of luck: being at the right place at the right time, knowing the right people and dressing the part coupled with a reputation for fairness, hard work, discretion, problem-solving and most importantly, being fun and not being a total bitch.
PM: I was 13 and made a school bag from a pair of jeans; I then went onto make new things out of old things. By the time I left Central Saint Martins, it was clear this was going to be a global movement, and it was the best decision I ever made to choose common sense over 'how things are done.'
RR: My lived experience has allowed me to see the world differently from others. This lens given to me by the world and its people is how I can work across different mediums and crafts, and by embedding my ethics and principles into everything I do, I try my best to bring about solutions to problems that I experienced firsthand growing up.