Patrick McDowell on designing for change

The young designer and friend of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection talks us through his sustainable design process.

“There’s such a great feeling to wearing something that doesn’t harm the environment or the people who made it,” says Patrick McDowell, whose eponymous brand has gone from strength to strength since he graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2018.

The sustainability question has never been more prevalent and “everyone has to embrace it”, says the Liverpool-born designer. “We need a system overhaul that focuses on re-educating an industry bursting with creative potential. I’d like to see designers redesign their business.”

When it comes to doing things differently, the 23-year-old designer is at the forefront. During his showcase at London Fashion Week in February, Patrick waived the opportunity to showcase a new season collection, instead hosting a global fashion ‘swap shop’ in partnership with Swarovski and the British Fashion Council.

We need a system overhaul that focuses on re-educating an industry bursting with creative potential. I’d like to see designers redesign their business.

Patrick McDowell

Sustainable designer

“The idea was to show a collection without making anything new,” he explains. While style chameleons exchanged pieces from their own wardrobes for those from off the rails of donated items, other guests added upcycled Swarovski crystals to their outfits at the ‘Sparkle-up Table’.

And now, with the world in lockdown, Patrick wants to share the upcycling message, even bringing his ‘Sparkle-up Table’ to our social media feeds so we can all rework our wardrobes from home.

“As we all try to navigate and readjust to these new ways of living and working, reengaging with the craft of hand sewing can offer some light relief and a break from technology,” he says. “I find sparkles always lift my spirits and if I have to stay at home, I’d rather do it dripping in crystals!”

Future-focused fashion

Patrick uses reclaimed fabrics, organic yarns, and ethically produced materials in his designs. “Relearn and challenge systems and create something new,” he explains when asked for his best advice to other young designers. That, and “be aware that you are your brand and the person who cares about it most.”

Despite this year’s showcase breaking from the norm, the designer has plenty of ideas when it comes to his next collection. “I always look to my own family history first for design inspiration. I find Liverpool endlessly inspiring – people get really dressed up and party hard, and I love seeing the transformations those clothes create. People act differently when they feel fabulous.

“My next collection will be centred around my relationship to being raised as a Catholic. I served as an altar boy, even singing in the church choir, and I find the ceremony of mass super interesting…”