A major regional search for the next Vivienne Westwood or Paul Smith has been launched in a bid to keep home-grown fashion talent in the West Midlands.
Anyone who has ever dreamed of a career in the fashion industry can enter the inaugural PIN fashion competition, a joint venture between the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and Matthew Boulton College in Birmingham.
Supported by the Midlands Fashion Show-case, the competition gives two people the chance to win £10,000 each to design and develop their own collection.
One prize will recognise and help a young businessman or woman who is already working in fashion and wants to set up their own operation, but needs assistance to realise their design potential.
The second will be awarded to a new designer, someone who is not working in the industry but is passionate about design and looking from that all-important lucky break.
The only pre-requisite is that all entrants must live, work or have been educated in the West Midlands. A panel of six fashion industry insiders, including the Queen's favoured couturier Frank Usher, will draw up a shortlist next month. The winners will then work on collections to be shown at Millennium Point's Fashion Lab next February.
Joy McKenzie, an established designer who is promoting the PIN initiative, said the project would help bridge "the major gap between education and industry in the Midlands".
"The fashion industry is incredibly 'London-centric' and we want to change that by nurturing new talent so it stays in the West Midlands, rather than people go to London because they think it's the only place to be," she said. "PIN is not just about setting up two new labels, it's about creating a regional network of fashion people which can be tapped into by new designers and those interested in careers in fashion.
"Getting any kind of work experience in the industry locally is very difficult, so students do end up heading to the capital, but we want to be able to keep homegrown talent here.
"This initiative has only been set up this year but we do hope to make it an annual event."
Ms McKenzie, who lives in Birmingham, said organisers had already received more than 30 entries of "a very, very high standard".
People wishing to enter must complete an entry form by September 30. They must also submit ten fashion sketches - no larger than A3 size - and one finished outfit. The deadline for these elements is October 14.
All entrants will receive individual visits to establish a programme of support, and to ensure they are prepared for the first round of the competition next month. Shortlisted candidates will then have to present their ideas to a prestigious panel of judges who will include fashion journalists, designers, High Street retailers and local business partners.
Kim Knowles, chief executive of Midlands Fashion Showcase, said: "This competition will help us ensure that the talent remains here, as well as further raising the national and international profile of fashion in the region.
"Entry to PIN does not require any formal qualifications. It is open to anyone with talent, passion, originality and the will to succeed."
* To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0121 236 8822 or write to Pin Fashion, c/o Midland Fashion Showcase, 67-71 Constitution Hill, Birmingham, B19 3JX