‘Are you God?’: Manchester fashion award-winner talks pranking her parents and working with Celia Birtwell

An award winning Manchester School of Art graduate spoke with MM after becoming the first intu Trafford Centre fashion collaborator with Salford ‘queen of prints’ Celia Birtwell CBE.

Hannah Sykes, who scored herself the Fashion Innovation Award at London Graduate Fashion Week, was chosen to work with Ms Birtwell to create a unique gown for a launch event at the Trafford Centre.

The purple wonder took to the skies, worn by a trapeze artist suspended 13 metres above the ground, attracting a frenzy of media attention.

And curiously, Blackpool-born Hannah, whose main passion lies with outerwear and accessories, admits that dressmaking is not something she is overly familiar with.

She told MM: “I hold my hands up, I have never made a dress before in my life! What a way to try with such a huge dress project.

“The dress was so much better than expected. It was a huge honour to be asked to do this big project commission after only graduating in July.

“It was such a great feeling hearing the response from everyone, I even heard a couple next to me say, ‘we need to watch this and take lots of photos since an award winning designer made this dress’.

“I had butterflies in my stomach when I heard this!”

AERIAL ARTIST: Trapeze showcase with the new print

Hannah described how she took inspiration from future fashion trends for next year and combined these with her aesthetic to create the uniquely feminine dress.

She also added panels on the dress so it would ‘flow through the air’, which aided the elevated trapeze artist’s performance.

But as well as the dress, half of Hannah’s distinctive graduate collection was on display at the Trafford Centre while festivities were taking place.

One creation in particular amazed judges, as she designed jackets that turned into bags – which won her the Innovation Award.

JACKET BAG: Innovation of the highest order

Hannah described how she decided to prank her unsuspecting parents after winning the Innovation Award.

She said: “Since I was chosen to show my collection at graduate fashion week, my parents came down to London.

“I rang them after saying that I had become runner up, and they were over the moon!

“Later when I met them they greeted me with congratulations, but I then surprised them with the news that I won and they were in total shock!”

VICTORIA CHAMBERS: Photoshoot with Hannah’s designs in a river

Hannah outlined her love for Manchester and the university during her time in the city, praising both for the impact they had on her life.

“I had the most amazing experience at Manchester School of Art,” she said.

“I know I wouldn’t have got the opportunities I have gained without studying at Manchester.

“Tutors and technicians there help you so much within your course. Some may say you have to learn a lot on your own, which I hold my hands up I agree.

“But this sets you up for after university since there is nobody to help you.”

Hannah was lucky enough to hone skills in screen printing, leather, pattern cutting, Adobe design software and more during her studies.

“I know everyone initially thinks London is the place for fashion, but Manchester has now become a competitor for this,” she said.

“I would definitely say after London, Manchester is the place to go. I honestly miss Manchester already.

“London is now the next chapter for me.”

BAG COAT: Hannah’s designs worn with pride

Manchester School of Art is planning to purchase a piece of her collection to display in their library to inspire students and celebrate her success.

The successful student puts her extraordinary achievements down to her organisation, advising anyone following her footsteps to buy a diary and cover it in sticky notes.

She said: “I lived day by day with my diary. This would be my only advise then the rest would follow.

“Stick lots of sticky notes everywhere, write lists, do this with two weeks in advance. One day goes off, re-do the list and re-jig it about.

“This is how I felt I sailed through third year. My tutor still doesn’t understand why I was so organised and said, ‘are you God or something?’

GRADUATE WORK: Hannah’s famous bag work

Since her graduation in the summer, the new designer admits her life has moved at an intense pace.

She’s working through an internship at Allsaints, leading to her current role as an assistant leather designer in womenswear.

And plans for the future for the fashion innovator include her own brand specialising in colour-changing functional outerwear and accessories.

“I have learnt not even to expect what happens next week, next month, next year, 10 years. I cant wait to see what door opens next,” she said.

“I must be doing something right.” 

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