Web Intern Rachel Lee spoke to second year MFA student Rhys McKenna to hear how he was headhunted by the British Fashion Council, his plans for his new collection and why he enjoys studying at ECA. Although Rhys is on a trajectory of success, his feet remain firmly planted on the ground.

Having recently been awarded a £4,000 scholarship towards his Masters collection by the British Fashion Council after they recognised his talent while he working for the iconic brand Burberry, one could forgive Rhys for bragging; however, he is humble, hard-working and excited to be back in Edinburgh. When asked how he feels to have made such an impact on the fashion world and yet only 23 years old, Rhys replies;

It really pays to be grateful for these opportunities, reflecting on what you’ve learned from your experience. I think you need to keep working forward and not let up steam.”

Whilst it is clear that Rhys works extremely hard, he also thanks ECA for encouraging and nurturing his talent. Rhys has previously completed his undergraduate here, earning a first-class degree.

“The rush might be to go to London for postgraduate study, but I really wanted to stay at Edinburgh College of Art as the tuition is fantastic. It gives you a clear platform, because in London for example, there’s a lot of competition in one place. Up here you are able to develop your individual style without it getting lost in a sea of voices.”

The British Fashion Council contacted Rhys directly to ask him to apply for the grant. He was asked to present his developing work for his final year project to a panel of six people, one of whom was Sarah Mower MBE, who chaired the interview as an ambassador for emerging talent for the British Fashion Council. Rhys heard back within the week that he was the winner of the annual competition for an MA scholarship.

“On a practical level it takes the pressure off how you are going to fund your next collection, but I think it’s exciting to be on their radar and have their endorsement – it gives you confidence in your work.”

Portrait of Rhys McKenna in his studio space
Image: Rachel Lee
Rhys in his studio space

“The rush might be to go to London for postgraduate study, but I really wanted to stay at ECA as the tuition is fantastic... Up here you are able to develop your individual style without it getting lost in a sea of voices.”

Rhys McKenna, MFA Fashion year 2

Rhys's undergraduate collection was titled ‘Re-Assembling History’, a project that gave a nod to both Scottish history and contemporary fashion.

This year for his Master’s collection, he is drawing inspiration from the 17th Century portrait of the First Duke of Hamilton, also known as the man in the silver suit.

Photo showing Rhys's working space in the studio
Image: Rachel Lee
Rhys's working space in the fashion studio
Photo of one of Rhys's undergraduate designs
Image: Gareth Easton
One of Rhys's undergraduate designs

However, Rhys will be juggling this year’s collection with accompanying Calik Denim, a manufacture from Turkey, on a pop-up tour. This connection has bled into his Masters’ designs;

“Calik Denim have supplied some materials for the project, which I will now work into my Master’s project – there might be a denim element, and there will certainly be a tailored element to it that I wasn’t expecting at all.”

He is currently presenting his creations, including capes, to over 35 suppliers and fellow designers in Istanbul. In November he plans to visit Amsterdam and then LA in December.


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