Fashion Print Editor Iona Tompkins interviews Leeds student Sarah Jun Ashford-Brown before she embarks on a five-day shoot in Paris to showcase local, independent brands.
Hi Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to let us interview you! How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers who haven’t heard of you yet?
My name’s Sarah and I’m originally from Paris. I came to the UK when I was sixteen for boarding school, mainly because I didn’t enjoy the education system in Paris. It’s really as soon as I came to the UK that I started showing an interest in fashion, as everyone’s so open to anything here, so I started becoming more open to my own style and trying new things. Once I’d finished my A levels, I decided I couldn’t go back to Paris and I wanted to stay here and so I ended up in Leeds! As I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, I chose Cultural and Media Studies as it’s quite a broad degree and would allow me to have more time to figure out what I wanted to do.
Last year I did a year in industry in Paris at a fashion agency called KCD as a Showroom Assistant and then a three-month placement at at Director’s Fortnight, part of the Cannes Film Festival as a Digital Communication Assistant, both experiences from which I learnt a great deal.
How would you define your creative practice? Do you specialise in any particular fields?
I have lots of ideas, but I can’t sew or edit too well, and my photography is still very basic. I’m in the process of learning how to do a bit of everything right now. I would say my journey really started with the Gryphon newspaper actually, I modelled for an editorial and this experience exposed me to the world of fashion and got me meeting all sorts of interesting people. In second-year, I was a stylist for the Leeds RAG Fashion Show and that’s how I became properly connected with a creative community within Leeds. Essentially, I guess you could say my creative practice is me procrastinating my university work through organising photoshoots!
Working with Leeds RAG gave me a great network of small brands situated around Leeds so now I have a network across the UK I try to keep in touch with. I’ll contact them and they’ll send me some of their clothes for me to organise a shoot around. I get in touch with friends who are photographers, stylists and makeup artists and we all come together to make the shoot happen. I basically give people my ideas and they make them look fabulous!
The project you’re embarking on in Paris sounds incredibly exciting, would you like to tell us how it came about?
Yes of course! In my first year I was suffering a lot from anxiety attacks which is something I’d never experienced before. As a result, I started associating this anxiety with Leeds and began to dislike the city because of it. But I still loved my course, and so instead of changing university I just took the year out in Paris which is an option in my course. I loved this year and I got to meet so many incredible people. My placement at the Cannes Film Festival was also pretty star-studded, when I met Robert Pattinson the twelve-year-old twilight Twilight fan inside of me was freaking out.
When I came back to Leeds I felt really motivated to be as creative as possible and add as much as I could to my CV. I’m not sure what’s changed, but since coming back I love Leeds again. The Paris project came about because I was missing Paris and I thought it was a shame to leave my beautiful home unused. I contacted some of my friends in Leeds and managed to get together an all-female team of creatives. So we’re going for four or five days to shoot in Paris, with no one being paid but we’ve managed to get some funding for our Eurostar tickets by a company who’s sponsoring the trip.
For the shoot you’ve chosen to spotlight four brands: Limpet Store (embroideries), Just Harry Designs (recycled denim), Girl With Pearls (handmade hair accessories) and Out of this World Clothing. Would you like to explain to our readers why you picked each of these brands and what makes them special?
I met Harry from Just Harry Designs a few weeks ago and we just got along really well, and I especially like the fact that it’s all sustainable clothing. I tend to prefer working with independent brands because my placement industry exposed me to how unsustainable most major fashion brands are. My relationship with Limpet Store actually goes back a long time – they were the first brand I ever organised a shoot for way back in second year. Girl with Pearls I discovered through Limpet Store as they worked on a collaboration together. She’s based somewhere in Germany and has been great in sending me a bunch of different pieces to play around with in the shoot. Out of this World Clothing I actually also met through Limpet Store, and they were just immediately on board with the whole project and concept.I’m really excited to be working with an all-girls team, I love working with boys too but I’ve done so many more projects with just girls that now I’m very used to that setup.
What outcome are you expecting to produce and how is this going to impact/be used by the brands involved in the shoot?
I’d really like my two worlds to collide, my Paris friends and my mates from Leeds to meet and produce something creative together. I want us to all share this opportunity to produce something beautiful together and lift each other up. We’re hoping to create a little film for each brand of the models around Paris, and hopefully we’ll all be able to show to our future employers.
What does the future hold for you, and what’s the next project?
I’m very ambitious, my life is a list of things I want to achieve. Two weeks ago, I did a shoot with my friend photographer and videographer Minori Iwahashi in the Bershka x Billie Eilish collection, and ended up entering it into a Bershka competition to win a trip to New York and we ended up winning! It was so much fun visiting New York especially as my plan next year is to go work for Susan Alexandra who is based there. When I went to New York I had the opportunity to visit her studio which I really feel helped make it a bit more official that I’m working there next year. I’d also love to visit LA as I have a lot of friends modelling and some contacts there. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do yet but hopefully It will involve fashion and music as these are two fields I really love. Maybe styling for artists on tour, working in digital communication, or in events, or even managing artists and talents. I’d also love to visit Tokyo at some point, but who knows when that will happen!