By Jo Phillips

In today’s world, the support of art and creativity by the government is steadily decreasing and artists often don’t get help for their work anymore. With arts coming under heavy scrutiny, creative fields and subjects are being shunned in favour for traditionally ’employable’ skills. It cannot be argued that artistic skills and knowledge enrich the society and culture in which we live. The celebration of the different and unique is at the heart of British cultural history; London is a home for the creative anti-conformists. One institution that supports artists and creative talents is Sarabande, a foundation established by Alexander McQueen more than 20 years ago. McQueen was a hugely talented designer, but also a tragic character who eventually committed suicide. He left an impressive legacy through Sarabande and therefore, he continues to support creative talents even after his death and he still inspired future generations. The name, Sarabande, comes from McQueen’s 2007 Spring/Summer collection and he established the foundation because he strongly believed that young creative minds should be given the same opportunities he enjoyed. The foundation provides financial support to those at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The idea of “giving back” is central to Sarabande’s philosophy and there are also several studios to hone in some of the best emerging creative talents in the UK. The foundation provides a building and a space for creative talent to flourish without boundaries; a place where it’s safe to experiment, succeed, fail and to move forward. The Sarabande studios offer stability to students and provide a place for artists from many different creative arts to work together. The studios are also a place where students can meet with patrons and other artists and there are fundraising activities and special events. Furthermore, hosted talks and workshops run in addition to mentoring programmes. In order to feed the student’s creative progress, they are given access to technology and materials not necessarily associated with their chosen specialism. Sarabande seeks to inspire future generarions of creative through openness and bravery and the partners of Lee are there to guide and inspire the creative minds.


The Sarabande Foundation is in partnership with Ketel One Vodka, as they share a passion for true craftsmanship and creativity and want to support talents of tomorrow. The Dutch spirit brand, founded in Schiedam and brewed in the centuries old Nolet Distillery, is one of the most successful and recognised in the industry.

For this new collaboration, Tord Boontje, who also contributed to our “The Spaces in between” issue, has created a futuristic copper installation on which to serve drinks. The bar will be a permanent fixture at the facility, providing an elegant backdrop for events and showcases. But it’s not what we’re used to from the organically-inspired Dutch designer. The curvaceous wooden frame is clad in a skin of highly polished copper scales, and looks like it could be rising from the ocean. The accompanying floating, floral chandelier is more Boontje-esque; spiralling, delicate leafy motifs cast dramatic shadows across the wall.
The bar intends to be both a functional object of beauty, and an inspiration for the students, showcasing world-renowned craftsmanship up close. As Nolet concludes: ‘Through this partnership, we hope to inspire with a sense of creative possibility and welcome the burgeoning talent of tomorrow into the Ketel One family.’

The commission toasts the completion of Sarabande Studios in Haggerston, east London, where brilliant young designers are given the space and the funding to excel. The ten hand-selected students currently on the scholarship programme, studying art- and fashion-related courses at London’s best schools, share their Kingsland Wharf studio block with the likes of Craig Green, and are free to pursue projects in whatever way they see fit.

Through its partnership with Sarabande, Ketel One Vodka hopes to share this same sense of infinite possibility and collaborates on a variety of activities and events designed to support and hero creativity. As their first joint venture, a unique Ketel One Vodka bar has been designed and installed this summer within the Sarabande HQ in Haggerston.


Sarabande offers scholarships to creative studying at Graduate level, which include complete bursaries for both fees and subsistence, access to experts from creative industries and interaction with Sarabande patrons. After the scholars have completed their course, they are also offered a studio space at Sarabande HQ to continue their practise as they start their careers. Here is a little selection of some of the scholars:

Molly Goddard, Central St. Martins, MA Fashion Knitwear
She started designing and making clothes when she was 11 years old. Her collections present oversized dresses which consisted mostly of 40 meters of gathered fabric. Sarabande gave her the opportunity to continue studying at at Central St Martins and now she is an established designer in the industry.
Andrea Dritschel, University of Dundee, BA Jewellery and Metal Design
She understands that the fashion industry has practically no limits and therefore, she brings anything in her imagination to life. Her techniques when making jewellery push the boundaries of traditional goldsmithing and she uses thermo-chromic materials that change with heat and new biological polymers that react to changes in the environment.
Alice Burnhope, Loughborough University, BA Textiles: Innovation and Design
Due to her curiosity, passion and sense of experimentation, she is the first Textiles student to be awarded a scholarship. She uses mixed media for her works which are exhibited in installations, films, photography and sculpture. She is influenced by the works of Japanese installation artist Chiaru Shiota and she aims is to build immersive experiences for audiences.
Kitty McMurray, Northumbria University, MFA Fine Arts
Her practise looks at urban spaces, the relationship between locations and the thoughts she has around the “betrayal of space”. Her works throw up a lot of questions and she unpacks these ideas through dialogue with others.
John Alexander Skelton, Central St. Martins, MA Fashion Menswear
His fashion is inspired by music and culture and his work does not approach fashion in a typical way as he wants it to have socio-political meaning, as well as being sustainable. He says that Sarabande has given him a burst of enormous creative freedom and has motivated him to analyse his identity within the fashion industry.
Mireca Teleaga, Slade School of Fine Art, MFA Painting
He looks at the past in order to understand the present and his works are autobiographical and emotional. They respond to a combination of personal memories and memories from collective experiences. His paintings are layered and intentionally hide more than they reveal.

The fashion designer and founder of Sarabande, Lee Alexander McQueen, was born in London in 1969 and began his career during an apprenticeship with Anderson & Sheppard when he was 16 years old. From there, he moved to the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans, where he mastered 6 methods of pattern cutting from the melodramatic 16th century, to the razor sharp tailoring which has become a McQueen signature. At the age of 20, he worked for the designer Koji Tatsuno, who also had his roots in British tailoring. Only a year later, he became employed as Romeo Gigli’s design assistant in Milan. After he returned to London, McQueen completed a Masters degree in Fashion Design and he showed his MA collection in 1992. Two years later, he started the Alexander McQueen label and continually pushed the limits of fashion and created innovative, controversial and beautifully crafted collections. Furthermore, he was appointed Chief Designer at Givenchy in 1996, where he worked until 2001. He also received the British Designer of the Year award four times as well as the CFDA’s International Designer of the Year award in 2003. His work is characterized by a strong understanding of the benefits of bringing together disparate field, such as art and technology, traditional crafts and contemporary innovations, to create new and unique creative processes.

People that are also highly important for the foundation are the Sarabande patrons. They represent the success of the foundation across creative arts, but also embody the values of collaboration, opportunity and creative growth. Each of the patrons knew McQueen personally and therefore they really understand the creative process he embodied and they wish to continue his legacy by inspiring future generations of artists.

The patrons consist of the following people:

Tim Blanks is a fashion critic and editor and he has been covering fashion around the world since 1985. Since 2006, he has been editor-at-large for, where he reviews and films fashion collections. He also writes on fashion and entertainment for several international magazines and newspapers, including Vogue, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Andrew Bolton is a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and he spent 10 years at the Victoria & Albert museum in London where he created exhibitions including “Fashion in Motion” and “Men in Skirts”. Another one of his big successes is the 2011 retroperspective “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”. He has been awarded the “Best Design Award” by the International Association of Art Critics for an exhibition on couturier Paul Poiret and he was also awarded with the AIGA Design Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award.

• The model Naomi Campbell is the founder of Fashion for Relief and has graced the covers of more than 500 magazines during her career. In 2007, she was named as am ambassador of Rio de Janeiro by the mayor in recognition of her charitable work to help fight poverty in Brazil.

Nick Knight is among the world’s most influential and visionary photographers, and founder of the award-winning fashion website SHOWstudio. He collaborated with leading designers and brands such as Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Dior and Tom Ford. Furthermore, he has directed award-winning music videos for Björk, Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

Sam Taylor-Johnson is an artist and filmmaker and she was the youngest artist ever to be granted a solo exhibition at The Hayward Gallery for a major retro perspective of her work. She also received the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the Arts in 2011. She collaborated with McQueen on her 2003 portrait of him and a centrefold for AnOther and he also credited Sam’s “Still Life” with influencing his S/S 2007 collection “Sarabande”.

• The jeweller Shaun Leane set up his first own company in 1999 and has since then received the UK Jewellery Designer of the Year Award four times. In 2006, he was granted Freemanship of the City of London for his contribution to the UK jewellery industry. He met Alexander McQueen at the beginning of both of their careers and they decided to collaborate to create beautiful catwalk imagery.

In a collaboration with the restaurant Bistrotheque, Sarabande will host The Reindeer 2016, a Christmas dining experience which will feature the foundation’s artists in residence. Created in 2006, the Reindeer is a three week pop-up holiday dining affair which, like Sarabande, also nurtures designers. Guests of this year’s event will be welcomed by a bespoke Ketel One vodka cocktail; Ketel One will also accompany each course during the meal.

The Reindeer 2016 takes place at Sarbande Foundation, 22 Hertford Road, London, N1 5SH on Friday 2 December for dinner and Saturday 3 December for lunch and dinner. For more information on the event and menu, click here.




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