In memory of talented Essex designer Nicole Abbott

Nicole was a talented designer

Nicole was a talented designer - Credit: cont

Nicole Abbott was a promising young designer with the world at her feet.

Nicole was a talented designer

Nicole was a talented designer - Credit: cont

Now those who knew and loved her are determined to make sure she will never be forgotten, as Sharon Morrison reports.

Suzanne Abbott can’t remember a time when her daughter, Nicole, wasn’t making things.

As a little girl at primary school she took great pride in leaving little designs and messages around the house for her mum to find. Invariably, the messages were always the same.

“I love you, Mum.”

Suzanne Abbott helped narrow down the final contestants in a competition in her daughter's name at C

Suzanne Abbott helped narrow down the final contestants in a competition in her daughter's name at Colchester Institute that would see the finalists judged by designer Paul Smith. - Credit: Su Anderson

As she grew older, Nicole loved painting, pottery, knitting, cooking and baking. There was always something to be made. Something amazing to create. It was soon clear that Nicole would go far.

“I can’t remember a time when Nicole wasn’t immersing herself in crafts,” says Suzanne. “She was also passionate about Italy and Italian cuisine and Slovakia, where I was born, drawing inspiration from folk traditions for her final-year project at the college.”

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Nicole studied at Colchester Institute’s Colchester School of Art and won several national awards and competitions while on the degree programme. At 20, she was named BBC Young Designer of the Year.

Her prize was to travel to San Diego, California, to work with legendary fashion luminary Zandra Rhodes, an experience which fired Nicole’s passion for fashion design and her outstanding final womenswear collection, which won her a first class honours degree.

Nicole was a talented designer

Nicole was a talented designer - Credit: cont

“Nicole’s work ethic, passion and brilliance in design were remarkable,” recalls her former lecturer, Val Jacobs, course leader at Colchester School of Art. “She was an amazing designer with this incredible mix of creativity, focus and personality.”

Nicole went to work in London for the designer Sir Paul Smith as his assistant, a role she had for 11 years.

Sir Paul recalls: “Nicole was an incredibly creative person who always created a happy environment.”

She remained close to her family: her parents, Suzanne and Peter, and older brother Jamie.

Nicole was a talented designer

Nicole was a talented designer - Credit: cont

But sadly, in December 2010, Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump. Her cancer was a grade three: one of the fastest-growing forms of breast cancer.

Chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy led to an improvement but the cancer returned and she was given four to six months to live.

Rather than suffer the debilitating side-effects of chemo a second time, Nicole tried complementary therapies to combat the disease and have a better quality of life, but the cancer had spread.

In March, 2013, when she was just 34, Nicole died.

Suzanne Abbott, with her husband Peter, helped narrow down the final contestants in a competition in

Suzanne Abbott, with her husband Peter, helped narrow down the final contestants in a competition in her daughter's name at Colchester Institute that would see the finalists judged by designer Paul Smith. - Credit: Su Anderson

Those who loved Nicole wanted to do something very special as a way to remember her and, in May 2014, Val Jacobs asked Nicole’s parents if she could create a design award, in partnership with Sir Paul, to celebrate Nicole’s life and love of design.

Suzanne contacted Sir Paul to ask for his company’s help and the Nicole Abbott Award was born.

The winner of the award, a design student from Colchester Institute, will be chosen by Sir Paul and will enjoy a prestigious week’s placement during April at his London design studio.

This is the only collaboration of its kind supported by Sir Paul, and earlier this week three shortlisted third-year fashion and textiles degree students presented their portfolios to Sir Paul for his final decision.

Beth Caney, Ellie Proctor and Ellie Dolan-Roberts were chosen from 23 entrants by Sir Paul’s design team and Nicole’s mother.

Sir Paul said: “I was lucky enough to work with Nicole for many years. It is an honour to have this award in her memory and I hope it will continue to encourage creativity amongst the students of Colchester Institute.”

Val Jacobs said: “I’m surrounded by amazingly creative people every day, but they’re in a college setting, which is protected, safe.

“An award like this will give one student the opportunity to be involved first-hand in how the design process works, not just at the sharp end but at one of the most prestigious and influential design companies in the world.”

She added: “I’m thrilled that we have been able to recognise Nicole’s achievements with this award.”

There can be nothing worse than losing a child, but Nicole’s parents, Suzanne and Peter, from Great Bromley in Essex, want this award to commemorate Nicole’s life in more ways than one.

Suzanne explains: “I am delighted that this award rewards creative brilliance, because that epitomises my daughter’s approach to design perfectly. But the lecturers played an important part in helping to stretch and channel her talents and their inspirational guidance must be recognised too. Most of all, though, I want to make sure that as many young people as possible become more breast aware. It’s not just about checking yourself, it’s about making sure you look after your body properly; that you exercise and eat the right kind of food.”

Last year Suzanne organised a fundraiser for Cancer Active, a charity that helps people make informed choices, based on a holistic approach to cancer, using complementary as well as alternative therapies.

Suzanne has also retrained to become a nutritionist and advises on health and wellbeing.

She says that simple changes to your daily routine can help reduce your chances of developing cancer. “Just eating organic food, filtering your water, drinking alcohol in moderation, taking some gentle exercise, but mainly avoiding refined and processed foods, will make a difference.”

For more advice on diet and nutrition, visit Suzanne’s website