Beatrice K. Newman And The Power Of Potential
“I've always loved fairytales where you get to see the princess dressed in an amazing, awe-inspiring dress…after coming across one of John Galliano's collections for Dior inspired by queens in secondary school, I realised becoming a designer wasn't just a mere whim or fantasy anymore, but a possibility.”
Beatrice K. Newman - the designer and creative director behind the coveted fashion label, 'Korlekie' - knows how to captivate an audience. I’ve been invited to an intimate “Soiree” showcasing Korlekie’s latest collection, and she’s explaining the delicate craftsmanship involved in the creation of a Bond Girl-esque sparkling, backless, ruby red dress to a group of industry professionals and fashion enthusiasts. I - in stark contrast - stand observing behind a rack of gorgeous garments, looking like the binary opposite of a Bond Girl: an amalgamation of a Disney villain and a contestant from Ru-Paul’s drag race.
But the clothes aren’t the only reason I’m here.
Neither is the fact that her elegant handmade garments and accessories have adorned pages in Vogue, Glamour and Elle South Africa, to name a few.
It’s not just because celebrities such as Tony Award winner, Cynthia Erivo, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, Paloma Faith and Alesha Dixon have clamored to flaunt a Korlekie dress…
Or because there’s free booze and cake on offer.
The real reason any of us are here, including Beatrice herself, is because it’s a reminder of what can be accomplished when you truly believe in the strength of your own potential.
This notion is cemented in my mind when, in answer to what has kept her motivated throughout the years, she tells me, “It’s the belief that I'm doing something extraordinary. Designing is (such) a hot passion that when I'm not doing it I feel miserable. I can't stop even if I wanted to. Now I feel I'm in it so deep, if I were to quit I'd not only be letting myself down but every person who has contributed to my dream.”
Funnily enough, Beatrice and I went to the same secondary school. Not any old school, an all-girls secondary school in South-West London, so basically the wild. It wasn’t unusual to see Beatrice drawing dresses in her A4 Betty Boop sketchpad; drawings that would develop over the years into a successful brand.
There were some inevitable setbacks along the way, of course, including close partnerships that ended prematurely. “It's like there's been a break in the support system… You are really happy they are moving to greener pastures but you can't help but feel left alone, especially when things aren't moving forward in your life.”
She also remembers the crushing wave of emotion after she entered, but was not shortlisted for the prestigious Hand and Lock Prize for Embroidery and Design in 2008.
Luckily, any doubts Beatrice had about her work being worthy enough where quashed the following year when she reentered, and took first place.
It reminds me that creators are often told to brace themselves for criticism, rejection and competition when, most often, the biggest hurdle is overcoming your own fear that your work isn’t valid or good enough; fear that can make recovering from all the other, external factors seem impossible.
Her advice to other creatives, particularly those who are striving to become their own boss? “In a world where social media and business is all about partnership and collaboration, I'd advise anyone wanting to start a business to build a strong support network that will grow with you and help you through the low points. This could be family, friends, business partners etc.”
“Talent in industry is no longer the ‘be all’ therefore get out there, network and build new links. There is power in an address book, it gives you a better advantage, which is why platforms like Instagram are great tools for anyone."
"Finally, believe in yourself, because when the world gets dark about you, you are the only light that can shine your way back.”