trino verkade sarabande foundation

“We are in a time of tension – the arts will mark this moment”: Trino Verkade, Sarabande Foundation trustee

The art philanthropist and Lee McQueen contemporary on why supporting young creatives has never been more vital…

“Lee was an artist and creator working within the fashion world,” says Trino Verkade of celebrated fashion designer Alexander McQueen. “He embraced many different disciplines both through collaborations with jewellery designers, milliners, artists, sculptures, photographers, film makers, and through his own creative process. We try to emulate that in Sarabande.”

Verkade, who worked closely with McQueen throughout his life, is a founding trustee of the Sarabande Foundation – a charitable initiative set up by McQueen to support young artists and craftsmen. Founded in 2010, over the past nine years the Sarabande Foundation has furthered the work of some of Britain’s most exciting young creative talents through a programme of scholarships, discounted London studio spaces and access to some of the art world’s most important figures, including fashion designers Kim Jones, Thom Browne and Molly Goddard, artists Jake Chapman, Tim Walker and Grayson Perry and MET curator Andrew Bolton.

trino verkade
Image by Sølve Sundsbø

Fresh from a collaboration with London art fair LAPADA – which saw the Foundation offer pieces by its current cohort, host a gala dinner and auction and work with Sarabande alumni Benjamin Hawkins to create a limited edition moth pin inspired by the work of Lee McQueen – Verkade tells us why the work of the Foundation is so important in the current moment and why it’s vital artists learn the basic rules of business.

Our country – and humanity – relies upon new ideas. Art has traditionally highlighted the issues we face at any given time and creative thinking offers us solutions. We are in a time of tension – the arts will mark this moment in history.

On a positive note, we are recognising and hopefully changing the lack of diversity in the arts. We started the Sarabande Foundation to identify and support the most exciting creatives across various artistic disciplines. We still believe in this core idea but we realise a physical space in London is really valuable. Since opening our permanent HQ we’ve been able to react to the changing issues and support a new way of creative thinking, giving talks and advice in a central London location.

We have supported over 70 artists so far, all with extremely different creative approaches. I couldn’t start to list what they are all working on, but it’s incredibly diverse. Some are more recognised than others – Craig Green, for example, has received huge global recognition and is a three-time winner of Menswear Designer of the Year (and rightly so). There’s also John Alexander Skelton, who has been picked up by leading boutiques around the world and has a loyal and dedicated customer base, and DanShan, who are challenging our perceptions on masculinity using textiles and techniques to open up a new language in clothing.

Buying art doesn’t need to be expensive, and it shouldn’t be exclusive or intimidating. Especially when many creative ideas originate from younger talents. I like art fairs, such as Masterpiece and LAPADA, because seeing so many artists together turns the art world into theatre. I think it’s less intimidating than galleries. However, the cost of a stand does exclude younger galleries and artists. The internet has been so important for opening up access to new businesses and allowing customers to support them directly.

jonah pontzer
Artwork by Jonah Pontzer

I think it’s important to apply creativity to marketing and your approach to business, as we are in an ever-changing world and new ideas are needed. However, there are some lessons that don’t change. It’s important to run an efficient business that doesn’t waste resources and time, as both are valuable.

Ensuring the right structure for your business and growth is key. Before setting out on your own, I would advise anyone to work in the industry first – almost any capacity is great experience. It’s natural to make mistakes but it’s better to learn about them in someone else’s business. The best piece of advice I can offer is an old and simple adage: To not try is to fail.

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