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Clinton's long, hard road to the catwalk

PUBLISHED: 18:24 07 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:06 05 October 2010

Clinton (right) and three of his creations

Clinton (right) and three of his creations

Recovering from a near-fatal car accident which doctors feared could have left him permanently brain damaged, fashion designer Clinton Lotter tells Victoria Huntley how he has finally achieved his dream of showcasing his work on TV.

Recovering from a near-fatal car accident which doctors feared could have left him permanently brain damaged, fashion designer Clinton Lotter tells Victoria Huntley how he has finally achieved his dream of showcasing his work on TV.

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COMING home after a night on the tiles in Shoreditch, aspiring fashion designer Clinton Lotter's world came crashing down around him when he was hit by a car in Kingsland Road.

Suffering serious head injuries, doctors feared he would never make a full recovery and permanent brain damage would stifle his creativity.

But four years on, the 35-year-old South African living in Boundary Street, tucked behind Shoreditch High Street, has overcome his injuries to achieve the goal he set himself on leaving hospital... to take part in reality TV fashion design programme Project Catwalk.

"I actually applied to take part in the first series of Project Catwalk," says Clinton. "But I didn't make it.

"I'd only just got out of hospital and I obviously wasn't ready.

"So in a way I'm glad they didn't take me."

After four years of recovering and preparing himself, Clinton was selected to appear in the third series, which saw him pit his creative skills and craftsmanship against 12 other young designers until he finally lost his place on the Sky One show last Wednesday.

The designer, who graduated in fashion in Johannesburg in 1993 and was South Africa's1998 'Designer of the Year,' winning a work placement with Stella McCartney at Paris couture house Chloe, was put through his paces with the other contestants for seven weeks before his 'eviction'.

The tasks included designing outfits for Nancy Dell'Olio and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and creating traffic-stopping ensembles from cancer campaign 'Fashion Targets Breast Cancer' T-shirts.

"In retrospect it was a fun thing to do," Clinton remembers, after finishing filming the series last autumn. "You could even say it was enjoyable.

"But it was so stressful and intense. We had to get an outfit from a concept and onto the runway in 16 hours to then have it torn apart by the judges. That's hard work.

"Fashion is such an objective thing and it was only the judges expressing their opinion.

"It's quite hard not to take it personally, when they're really ripping into your work.

"I was in the bottom three contestants on three occasions and I didn't enjoy that part so much."

Rock princess Kelly Osbourne presents the show and fashion guru and designer Ben de Lisi acts as head judge and mentor to the contestants, joined on the panel by Grazia women's magazine's fashion director Paula Reed.

Clinton, who works as a visual merchandiser at a silk retailer and achieved British residency in December, now hopes to fulfil his lifelong ambition of setting up his own label.

He says: "It's been really hard to concentrate on putting collections together when I'm working full time.

"But now I don't have to worry about retaining my visa, so I've got a bit more freedom to do what I really want to."

Clinton put an autumn-winter 2008-09 collection together in time for London Fashion Week last month and will now concentrate on getting sponsorship to set up his own brand.

"I became really close with two of the other Project Catwalk contestants, Ross and Tom," he recalls.

"We keep talking about the possibility of setting up an umbrella label together. We'll see."

But Clinton is grateful he's still here at all, after the horrific accident which nearly claimed his life.

"The Royal London Hospital saved my life," he tells you. "I would have died if it wasn't for them.

"I was hit by a car and landed on my head and they put me back together again. They're amazing."

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Project Catwalk is on Wednesdays at 9pm on Sky One.

Clinton's current collection is on sale in Luna and Curious in Brick Lane.

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