An award-winning fashion designer who has earned the praise of Karl Lagerfeld, Louis Vuitton and US Vogue, brought his expertise and passion for fashion to a specialist art and design college to inspire the next generation of fashion designers.


Nabil El Nayal is the designer behind the ready-to-wear brand Nabil Nayal and recently visited Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) at the university-level campus in Hartlepool, where he spoke with students from the BA (Hons) Textile and Surface Design degree programme on his career progression.

Spending his early years in Syria, where his family’s textile business inspired his interest in fashion from a young age, Nabil moved to England at the age of 14 and went on to study fine arts and textiles. After graduating with a degree in fashion and spending time with Burberry designer Christopher Bailey, he won the prestigious Royal Society of Arts Award, the Graduate Fashion Week ‘Best Womenswear’ Award and the British Fashion Council MA Scholarship Award, which enabled him to pursue a masters at the Royal College of Art.

During his presentation at CCAD, Nabil talked about creating his capsule collection for River Island, which sold out within three days, and producing commissions for Crown Paints as part of a national competition. With a thirst for originality and inventiveness, Nabil took innovation to a new level when he became the first designer to use 3D printing on the catwalk. His collection was bought by exclusive department store, Harrods, and Nabil now sits on the ‘Harrods Launches’ panel, a platform for showcasing new and exceptional design talent.

Nabil expanded on his successful debut at London Fashion Week in 2011, where he honed his craft, and for which he was shortlisted for the iconic LMVH Prize. His collection grabbed the attention of Karl Lagerfeld, who ‘loved it!’, invited Nabil to show at last year’s Paris Fashion Show and bought a shirt which was worn by Jerry Hall.

19-year-old Sarah Walker from Darlington is a second year student on the BA (Hons) Textile and Surface Design degree.  She said: “I found it motivating to hear Nabil talk about his journey, from establishing himself as a student to a well-known name in the fashion industry. My current project is about being experimental, incorporating digital aspects into design work, so his feedback really hit home.

“When Nabil visited my workspace to look over my designs and portfolio, he advised me on possibly constructing 3D drawings to make my work more innovative and exploring the potential of the digital facilities we have access to at CCAD. Here we have the freedom and encouragement to be experimental and inventive on the course, so I am looking to now blend print and embroidery together in my designs.”

Nabil also stressed the importance of collaboration, highlighting the excellent investment in the arts and creative industry in the UK, and the amazing talents the country produces. Complimenting CCAD on its fantastic facilities, which he compared favourably with the Royal College of Art, he said: “The students are using the facilities at CCAD as tools that permits them to translate their creative visions into exciting, challenging and often thought-provoking outcomes. There is a uniquely ‘northern’ energy that I was drawn to; anything seemed to be possible. It was wonderful to observe the passion of the team and the enthusiasm of the students.”