Stag Head Wallpaper by Lisa Bliss Lifestyle from Graduate Collection

Profiles: Graduate Collection

Mario Forsyth graduate collectionHomegirl London pays homage to the Graduate Collection.  This platform brings fresh graduate talent together under one roof to sell their wonderful home accessories and luxury lifestyle products.  You’ve probably seen some of their wares already; I’ve featured the button cushions which are designed by Laura Egbi.  The other names to keep a lookout for are – Lisa Bliss, Amy Brocklehurst, Ellie Hyde, Stefanie Pisani, Sarah Luck, Natalie Adams and Melissa Braconnier.  This initiative is the brainchild of Mario Forsyth who launched the scheme back in October 2011 after selling his music business.  The idea fell into place when he recognised design graduates as potential new collaborators.  So who is Mario, the man behind the graduates?  I caught up with him to ask a few questions …

Q: Tell me more about your background in music and your record label.

A: We had a sales, marketing and distribution business in music – mainly focused on dance music and DVDs.  We would work with independent and major record labels.  Our role was to build awareness around the release and make sure it was prominently displayed in a range of stores.  Marketing could include radio, TV adverts, online and traditional press.  We worked on numerous hits and with club brands such as Renaissance, Creamfields, Toolroom and Pacha.  The independent record label was called Amato Distribution and we imported Italian music for 15 years.

Q: Tell me how the idea of the Graduate Collection came about.

A: Our other passion, outside of music is art and homewares.  After leaving Amato we decided to pursue this and set up a company.  We have always believed in supporting new and different things.  Around the time we were developing this business, the media was full of negative stories about the prospects for graduates.  It was at this moment we thought; why don’t we work exclusively with graduate designers.  Not only would this mean we have a positive business, but we would also get to work with cutting edge designers and develop collections from scratch, something we had been used to doing at Amato.

Q: How do you select which graduates to help?

A: Initially we spent lots of time visiting end of year shows.  We still do that, but as word of our business has spread we now get direct approaches.  We select designs, not the only by the actual design itself but also if we see potential in both the designer and the design.  It is not unusual for a design to evolve during the creative process, so we don’t need to be looking at the finished article initially.

Q: Tell me more about the process – how much do you help the graduates?

A: We work very closely with each graduate throughout the process.  One of the major aims of the Graduate Collection is to bridge the gap between the university and the commercial world.  We explain what is technically possible, how the collection will be marketed and of course, the costing.  Long term we want to create a design studio where graduates can work and road test designs.  Currently, once they leave university their access to these kinds of facilities disappears.  If we want to develop new designers we need to provide a platform and environment in which they can flourish.

Q: How successful has the scheme been?

A: It’s still early days, but it is clear there is a lot of support out there, not only from the graduates themselves but also for the concept.  The designs have been well received and business is slowly building.

Q: What do you prefer working in the music or design business?

A: That’s an impossible question to answer as I have a strong passion for both.  There are lots of similarities between the two – both, of course, creative industries, so you get to work with some lovely people.  But the most rewarding aspect is that you get to work with something in its infancy and see it blossom.  It’s sometimes stressful but an extremely rewarding journey.

Q: What words of wisdom can you give to someone thinking of starting up their own business?

A: Dedication and organisation.  Get the basics right – in any business you’re going to take knocks and there can be very testing times, but ultimately the journey is well worth it.

Q: What’s coming up for the remainder of 2012?

A: We’re spending a lot of time visiting the end of year graduate shows just now, and we’ve made some promising leads, which we’re following up.  When we take on a new graduate designer, it can take anything from 6 months to a year to get the new products to market.  We hope to have some new collections ready for our 2012 graduates by the end of the year.  We’re also working with Lisa Bliss and Melissa Braconnier on new products to add to their Outside In Collection and The Curiosities Collection respectively.  I can’t say too much at the moment as its all work in progress but expect exciting ceramic and fabric ranges.

Below you’ll find a selection of work from the Graduate Collection.  If you’d like to read more about the graduates and buy their products go to Graduate Collection.  Credits: text by Homegirl London.  Images courtesy of the Graduate Collection.  Special thanks to Mario Forsyth and Sophia Cottier.

bull dog cushion graduate collection

Amy Brocklehurst studied Printed Textiles at Loughborough University.  Her collection of cushions and wall art feature contemporary hand-drawn illustrations of Victorian English dogs

queen cushion graduate collection

Natalie Adams studied at Central St Martin’s School of Art & Design.  She pays homage to royalty with her cushions and ceramics

Stefanie Pisani woodland animal cushions

Stefanie Pisani studied Surface Design at London College of Communication.  Her cushions and mugs are illustrated with woodland animals

Laura Egbi colourful cushions

Laura Egbi studied Surface Design at London College of Communication.  Her ceramics and cushions are adorned with everyday items – buttons, hearts, safety pins and light bulbs

colourful fox mugs

Lisa Bliss studied Textiles at Norwich University College of the Arts.  Her cushions, ceramics, wallpapers and scarves are emblazoned with stags and foxes

Ellie Hyde heart mugs

Ellie Hyde studied Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art.  The heart mug collection captures her love of intricate, detailed drawing

Melissa Braconnier victorian image wallpaper in pink

Melissa Braconnier studied Surface Design at London College of Communications.  She creates wallpaper inspired by Victorian photo montage for surreal designsSarah Luck floral wallpaper

Sarah Luck studied Art and Design at Exeter College and Printed Textile Design at Winchester School of Art.  Her wallpapers have a botanical theme