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One day before work, the marvellous writer, editor and consultant Dal Chodha set up the blog fuckyeahcharingcrossroad. This glorious photographic archive documents the past artistic life that once flowed through the doors of 107 to 109 and presents a very personal view of a loved and loathed building. We talked about the state of fashion, extortionate flapjacks and phallic graffiti.
“Ironically, I’m blogging about the building but it was never about the building. You realise that when the building is no longer there.”
Despite the fact that the spangly fountains, open planning and state of the art studios are housed within the environs of a historic granary building (perhaps betraying a false sense of physical history), CSM has only been at Kings Cross for two years. It’s very easy to gloss over the fact that it previously operated elsewhere. Having housed the fashion and fine art faculties, Charing Cross Road was one of these sites. There’s probably no point picking out the infamous artists and designers that studied at CXR from 1939 – 2011… A fair few, no?
“It was almost so rubbish, so desolate… it didn’t work at all.”
Having been based at CSM’s Back Hill site this year, I’ve now learnt that the building is similarly closing its’ doors with future students being funnelled into KX and Archway. Back Hill is a space where you could slap paint everywhere (in fine art at least) and it didn’t matter particularly matter because the buttercup yellow tiles were always a bit crumbly anyway. I often found myself wandering about the departments – popping into stitch for a small stint – and I couldn’t help but feel a kind of affinity (probably overly optimistic and tenuous) to the vibe at Charing Cross Road. Dal makes it clear that his blog isn’t in any way part of a crusade against the college’s move. Soho has a distinct and different flavour compared to Kings Cross. “Soho, Charing Cross Road and St. Martins; you couldn’t separate any of them and to some degree you still can’t.” He points to iconic characters such as the glorious lady that to this day walks around Soho in bangles and dreads, now assisted by a zimmerframe. He also focuses on the Punk movement: “Punk is never going to happen ever again because we live in a different time. But certainly if it were to happen again, it wouldn’t happen in a building like KX.” He continued to wonder aloud where the fashion students now hang out… “Where do you go?” I pause and mention the polite local down the road, “The Coach & Horses”. Admittedly, it’s not exactly an artistic epicentre.
“It was incredible theatre.”
I wanted to ask Dal about his time on the Fashion Communication and Promotion course at CSM which he calls “a fantastic growing place”. Having been assured in St. Martins style just to “walk up the road” after accidentally getting off at Charing Cross Station, he arrived at his interview (in his words) sweaty and annoyed. “I remember the building feeling like an art school,” he explains. “It had that smell of an art school. Musty.” He conjures for me images of a bygone era at CXR in which “faded… beautiful forgotten photocopies” of prestigious alumni decked the college walls. Someone would be found crying outside Louise’s office whilst someone else in “ridiculous stack heeled Vivienne Westwood wooden shoes” would be attempting to reach the toilet. “It felt exactly how an art school should be”.
“The loos were just loos… People weren’t so funny about old school gender stereotypes. Now in another building you have to observe those boring sterile rules.”
Dal highlights the need for “selfishness” on any degree; “You should just think about yourself and what you want to achieve and think about how you look at the world.” He goes on to mention how we live in a moral society in which one shouldn’t be selfish or think about looks (something the fashion industry is lampooned for). In truth, the communal design of KX forces you to think about colleagues a bit more whereas “you needed a lot of personality to survive in a building like CXR”. Space has and forever will be an issue; “Our one classroom for some reason wasn’t free so we had to do [presentations] on the staircase, on these creaky wooden staircases”.
“It sounds like I’m such a dinosaur but in 10 years there is such a difference in the way that we take and respect images.”
Convinced that the keys had been handed in after Love Magazine’s infamous farewell party, Dal had come in to teach a group of 16-18 year olds at the college only to find his room covered in penises. “I saw Leni Bjerg … a brilliantly stern woman with her overalls on rollering over every penis she could… they didn’t really plan that too well”. With the empty building, Dal brought in photographer Kasia Bobula to capture the cinematic abandoned floors of CXR. It was decided that an exhibition or magazine would be too pretentious and temporal, so the images were stuck on the internet instead. The meme cache in “fuckyeah” was important to Dal rather than picking a title that sounded stuffy and pretentious for what is essentially “a wanky building at the end of the day”. Peers and friends were contacted for photos (alongside Dal’s excellent google searches) and the site grew from there! In saying this, it’s interesting to hear that the tumblr and pinterest generation drives Dal insane, but tumblr was the most democratic way to share the photos. “A lot of the pictures are so personal… and bad!” he explains. “That’s the point. I didn’t want it to be really slick.” Dal also finds them poignant, realising that he never took any photos at CXR. Nowadays we seem to document everything. “For me it explains my own relationship to photography and why I haven’t taken any pictures and why I don’t today.”
“It’s fucking tough. It’s still tough”
Dal isn’t a blogger. He’s no longer a Facebook either. A tweeter? Yes; “The best tweeters are good writers”. He argues that the internet makes us look at industries like fashion in the same way you might view racism, politics, science or a painting. CXR cut out these “moral codes” whereas now we are a generation conscious of employment and consequences. I think back to Louise Wilson’s Show Studio interview in which she stresses how students could “let life happen” without the “terrible need to succeed” that comes along with the whopping great big baggage of modern day student debt. And what of the building now? Foyles have set up shop and apparently Condé Nast College have made the old library their home… How convenient. The building is a world away from its’ past life but things move on!
“Most people think, “My god get over it, you’re so bitter!” and I’m not at all.”
The criteria for photographs on the blog? They have to have been taken in the building. However tempting it might be to slip in a photo of Galliano as a wee student away from CXR, Dal keeps it strict. I ask if he has any favourite images (which is a bit of a nasty on the spot thing to do). Dal does eventually answer by pointing to the graffiti tags up on the walls, interesting for him as a writer to look at language and what’s being debated on walls; “It’s the cartoon strip of CXR… The only students you ever saw were fashion or art. We were often in opposition, there was a great tension everywhere.” He does however focus does in on one image with the tag “I love John Galliano the stupid bastard”, a bold gesture that he describes as summing up where we are all are rather than what Galliano had specifically done – a sad sentiment.
“Someone somewhere has pressed pause.”
In terms of the future, Dal tells me he wants to go back deeper into CXR’s past in order to unearth photos from the 40s at the V&A as well as reaching out to bigger alumni for an image or two. In saying this, he’s convinced that “everyone’s a fucking celebrity these days” and that their images shouldn’t particularly be more interesting than anyone else’s. “Not many people look forward anymore because we’re so busy looking around,” he then laments. “There are enough clothes in the world… contribute a new idea!” In an age of technology where the past and present is a snappy google search away, Dal is concerned that people are just going to look the same. He points to Vanity Fair’s article You Say You Want A Devolution? by Kurt Anderson which explores the stylistic steps taken forward every 20 years. Adele, Downton Abbey, The Great Gatsby; now we just look back and pinch historical bits and bobs. Although the 90s is enjoying a lively cultural renaissance in fashion, in the decades to come “we’re just going to look the same.” I wonder aloud where we go now, to which Dal says that 60s architecture and dresses by Pierre Cardin still look more modern than what we make nowadays. “Fashion and art should make us question things” but with the rise of commercialisation creativity is suffering. “It’s sad designers have to be on twitter – I don’t want to know what they’re thinking, I want to see what they’re thinking.” Mystique has been replaced with a plethora of youtube videos and blogs which bring backstage centre stage. Is there any room left for dreaming? I asked what was the last thing that moved Dal in fashion, pointing to my own experiences watching Hussein Chalayan’s mesmerising transformative collection in S/S 2007. He highlights J W Anderson; “I don’t agree with his vision, at least it prompted a reaction … Ugly… He’s not stupid, there is something I have to engage with here”. In terms of editorials he wants pieces that are “troubling” to look at, mentioning Garage and Kilimanjaro magazines. “The job of a student at St. Martins is to change”.
“The closing of the doors of Charing Cross Road marked the closing of a generation that consumed art and fashion in a different way.”
After an anecdote about CXR staff flogging £2 M&S flapjacks in the cafe for 50p a piece, I thought it would be interesting (if a bit tangental) to ask about a theme 1 Granary have been exploring recently; “Is fashion art?”. “I think its rubbish,” Dal concludes. “I need to get it on my body… Designers that forget about the body are bad designers”. Yes, embroidery may be artistic but even then it has more of an affinity to craft compared to fine art. Dal tells me he is a big campaigner about the use of language in fashion editorials; “Investment… think about what the word means… does a lime green python leather biker jacket need to exist beyond 6 months?” In terms of posting images rather than uploading written memoirs and anecdotes, he didn’t want the blog to become a smarmy pat on the back or to become filled with personal diary entries about Joe Bloggs losing his virginity in the fifth floor loos; “who cares?”
“Long gone are the days of meeting a drug addled transsexual.”
Having explored CSM’s various incarnations, Dal emphasises that he doesn’t “romanticise the past… I do understand that we have to move forward… Lot’s of people are going there and looking at it as if it’s the same place but it’s not anymore”. The whole atmosphere at CXR contributed to the work produced by its’ inhabitants. What then can we can expect next year from the first generation of pure KX degree students?
FUCK YEAH CHARING CROSS ROAD!
For fuckyeahcharingcrossroad: http://fuckyeahcharingcrossroad.tumblr.com
To contribute any photos to the site, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
“There’s a great quote from Sir Francis Bacon: “A wise man will make many more opportunities than he finds”
“The reality is that everyone is around amazing people in life… it’s what you decide to do with that information.”
Justin Cooke’s career trajectory is phenomenal. Having worked as a Manager within Gucci and PR Manager Worldwide for Stella McCartney, he assumed the role of Vice President PR, VIP, Events, Copy and Translation Worldwide at Burberry… aged just 27. Now he’s Topshop’s Chief Managing Officer, having been part of a goal to internationalize the Topshop brand in the USA, China and Europe. Charismatic, witty and possessing a profound wisdom, Justin was recently interviewed at Harrods in front of an audience of college course leaders and students about his remarkable rise through the ranks of fashion. 1 Granary was fortunate enough to hear him in conversation and we think that his accomplishments at such a young age are truly inspirational. As such, we wanted to share the many life lessons and work relationships which have helped to shape his career with all the CSM students who couldn’t attend.
“Every single human being deserves great service.”
Encouraged by a friend and his mum who ordered him to just “get out the house” and “stop playing football”, Cooke worked on the Gucci shop floor at an exciting time when Tom Ford had started to glamourise the Gucci brand. PR people, he explains, understand the perspective of both customer and seller. His insistence on excellent service is paramount, having sold £20,000 worth of clothes to unassuming customers in tracksuits; “never judge a book by it’s cover”. It was these qualities whilst serving James McArthur, the then recently appointed SVP of Mergers and Acquisitions at the Gucci Group, that earned him a job in the Gucci office. “Every single human being deserves great service” is a golden motto to live by.
“What I saw was probably far greater than what I was told.”
Aside from guaranteeing the constant presence of six apples in Tom Ford’s fruit bowl during his time as a runner in the Gucci office, Cooke talks about the one important question a day that Ford would ask him. He emphasises the importance of these questions and the vitality to think for yourself, questioning why your tasks are important; where could these questions lead to in the future and for the company? The environment, filled with different people, gave Cooke a foot in the door. He explains how now he sets his interns obscure research tasks in order to inspire a similar sense of curiosity. “So many interns want to do everything tomorrow”, he remarks, arguing that menial talks such as newspaper tagging become an invaluable way to learn about someone’s strategy and mindset. Why am I doing these tasks? Why are they important for the business?
“Make shit happen.”
Cooke next moved to work for Stella McCartney. He loves start up companies and is passionate about the mentality to “get shit done”, pushed to the limits in terms of resources. This attitude he also connects to the big company environment, where you need the same mindset, collaboration, sense of risk taking and ability to make mistakes. Both Cooke’s and McCartney’s mothers tragically died of cancer but this gave the pair a unique understanding and bond. The impact of loss similarly informed his relationship with Christopher Bailey, creative director at Burberry, who had suffered a great loss with his partner. Cooke describes this as giving them “the same vision… the same language…When you lose someone that close, something happens to you as a person… you’re forced to, you know, take control of your life… it gives you a killer instinct… you have to do everything yourself”.
“I subscribe to the whole sliding doors thing. There are people that come into your life at certain moments and whether or not you realise the connection or reason why they’re there, it all comes back to mean something.”
Having become the PR Manager Worldwide for Stella McCartney, Cooke was headhunted “out of the blue” by the best of British, Burberry. He met with Christopher Bailey for an interview at 6:10 AM; a time at which, Cooke exclaims, Bailey came in every day. Ironically, he had been served by Cooke on the Gucci shop floor; something which Bailey very much remembered. Cooke assumed control of PR at Burberry. The company wanted to turn its’ UK image away from “the chav time”, something Cooke found slightly derogatory as he believes, “everyone should be entitled to wear what they want”. Work was like a drug for the pair and there was an incredible balance on the design team between the commercial and creative. However, Cooke warns that the biggest potential challenge in a large company is the lack of innovators; “you have to step back and bring people in who can dream a little bit”.
“It’s like the computer says no thing, eh eh ehhh.”
“You can’t let your job be boring and if it is, you’re doing the wrong thing… just get out of there immediately and go do something you love because it’s a waste!” Cooke is a big advocate for doing the things you love and is passionate about taking great experiences from technology and incorporating them into his work. On holiday, he would draw out the website and customer experience for Topman, having picked up on techniques from Ford and Bailey similar to that of a film director’s storyboard. Inspired by his trips to the USA where you can send people episodes digitally over the TV, Cooke developed a new piece of technology for Facebook where, during Topman catwalk shows, you can share a favourite look or song via social networking during the show. The instantaneous dialogue speeds up conversations about the brand and establishes a unique digital experience.
“Style is emotional.”
Music is a huge influence on Cooke’s understanding of conveying messages. It is a conjuror of personal experience, unique to every individual and able to evoke a specific and desired mood. He goes on to say that, as well as style being emotional, it is also about confidence. “Every brand in the world wants a 16 – 25 year old customer” but for Cooke there is no single Topshop girl. It is about feeling confident in what you wear, not your age. He also talks about print as the new luxury. Catalogues and hand signed books accompanying a product become treasured pieces that a customer wants to have in their life, rather than a loose bit of paper. The company instills an emotion in a customer which is what attracts them, rather than the product itself. Not to mention Cooke loves print and associates it with downtime; the Daily Mail crossword is a must.
“Clarity… that is what sets [designers] apart”
Cooke has a hunger to “see everything”; nine out of ten people write to him with new ideas and he likes to see them all. A couple of people who he was in contact with recently received seven figure grants. He likes to help. On being asked about young designers, he remarks that it’s not realistic that everyone can make it. “There is so much product” and “great product is minimal expectation”. What sets companies and individuals apart is the mix of three key ingredients: excellent product, service and experience. “It’s the emotion [a brand] builds into you”, he explains. What about the many British designers he knows? Cooke concludes that what sets them apart is an “incredible point of view” that they are able to articulate with absolute clarity; whether through products, messaging, interviews, the way they speak or the choice of their models. “That is probably what sets the good ones and the great ones apart… It’s a really difficult thing to do”.That’s how we felt after the talk: mesmerised and inspired
Set up by Imran Amed just over five years ago, The Business of Fashion has carved a niche for itself in the international fashion community as an irrefutable resource for dissecting fashion business intelligence. With a focus on emerging designers, disruptive technologies that affect the course of fashion and the growth and expansion of global brands, BoF has acquired an extraordinary online presence in an astonishing amount of time. With over 800,000 followers across all its social media outlets, its voice has changed the way we view fashion. Indeed, in recent months, it’s a voice that has been recognized, with a recent nomination at The Webby Awards for best business blog and also substantial financial backing from fashion purse string holders Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey. LVMH was just one company from an array of prestigious investors that have recently pumped an astounding £1.3 million into the company, an investment figure that demonstrates the BoF’s reputation as one of the movers and shakers in contemporary fashion.
An associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins, Imran’s business acumen has helped many aspiring designers to recognize the importance of establishing a financially viable label or career in an industry that is as quick to make people, as it is to break them. With great pleasure, 1 Granary sat down with Imran for a chat about his incredible work and also the importance of Central Saint Martins and its fashion students within the business that is fashion.
The fashion scape itself has seen a re-shuffling over the last few years, “The biggest thing that had changed since I started was the emergence of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. No one was on Twitter. During my first year of teaching, Gareth Pugh was a guest to one of my lectures, and he’d just started doing fashion films”, remembers Imran, “the biggest change I’ve seen in students is how much more immersed they are in digital media and social media and the alternative technologies that are shaping the industry. I don’t feel I need to teach them about those tools anymore because everyone is using them, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter. They’re tools that have just become everyone’s life”.
“They should explore the full boundaries of all the ideas they have because this is the only place you can really do this – there’s no commercial pressure. You need to discover your creative voice, your special language, and your point of view. But, it’s also never too early to start learning and thinking about how the business of fashion works – the truth is that fashion is not an art, it’s a business”.
The fact that these tools have become so inherent in our daily lives is, to some, overwhelming. Given the current economic climate, there’s never been greater financial strain on fashion students or indeed all art school graduates. Putting pressure on students has raised the question of creativity versus commerciality. “I think that students at CSM should let their imagination run wild”, Imran hits back, “They should explore the full boundaries of all the ideas they have because this is the only place you can really do this – there’s no commercial pressure. You need to discover your creative voice, your special language, and your point of view. But, it’s also never too early to start learning and thinking about how the business of fashion works – the truth is that fashion is not an art, it’s a business”.
Imran notes the example of Dutch designers, Victor & Rolf, known for their outlandish presentations that garner a lot of media attention. Of late, it has appeared that the duo’s ready-to-wear business is not particularly successful, yet “they have one of the top selling fragrances in the whole world. What they do in their runway shows – all the crazy, conceptual, theatrical events they do, inspire an emotion around the brand that then allows them to translate that into a very successful fragrance. There really are a lot of formulas available”.
“You need to learn about the industry as it really happens.”
That understanding of the way a fashion business works becomes very real upon graduation or in the placement year that so many CSM students point out as a real eye-opener. “During fashion week it’s really amazing. Going around all the designer’s studios and meeting the students from Central Saint Martins out in the real world. It’s great getting real experience. As much as anyone can teach you in a classroom, as much as I can stand in front of you and go on and on about something, what really makes it come alive, is when you’re in a real studio. You need to learn about the industry as it really happens”.
“It also depends on what you want to do. Do students want to set up their own business, do they want to work in a big brand, do they want to leave fashion altogether? Everyone has their own journey and you have to try as many things as you can and don’t fixate on just one thing.”
“It is not easy. It’s a lot of work and it requires an incredible amount of self discipline, a strong work ethic, it requires talent, someone who is good in team building and an ability to interact with buyers and press and all the other people that will help you set up a business.”
The importance of financial stability is something that has been a recurrent concern for all recent graduates. Some really great talents have had to bite the bullet of late because they simply have not had the strategy to withstand the test of time. “A designer will have to have had their own business on their own for two or three years without investment. They will have to make it through that and they’ll have to make it as a team, set up a studio, get stockists and get some good press attention. Most importantly to start developing a real language, a real creative language that translates into product and collections that people want to buy”. This mind set is something that Imran stands by and makes no secret of in his lectures at CSM. “In my first lecture I give, I call it the reality check lecture, I ask everyone to put up their hand if they want to start their own label”. Naturally, everyone quickly raises their hand and at the end of the lecture, the question is repeated, with everyone keeping their hands rooted firmly in their laps.
“It’s not to scare people, but to say: Listen, if you’re going to do this, know what you’re getting yourself into. It is not easy. It’s a lot of work and it requires an incredible amount of self discipline, a strong work ethic, it requires talent, someone who is good in team building and an ability to interact with buyers and press and all the other people that will help you set up a business.”
Tapping into that wide network of skills and resources is a daunting thought and deciding where to go about doing that can be equally so. The rise of the fashion week has opened up new avenues to designers, yet has also made others a lot more treacherous. “At the end of the day, you have to go to where the market is. It’s split into two things, one is where you show or present your collection and many young designers find that showing in London is a great platform. A lot of people come to London, as there aren’t a lot of really big brands competing for attention, there are a lot of young brands. The second question is; where do I sell my collection? Even though we have so many great designers in London, they sell their collection in Paris. They go to Paris because that’s where a lot of buying appointments are taking place”.
“I don’t think in the era of a digital revolution you can ignore or pretend the Internet and digital media don’t exist. … You are giving someone else an opportunity to talk about your brand. You need to own your presence in the digital space”.
In recent years, a new frontier of presenting and selling a collection has opened up which has swung the fashion capital’s spotlights off the runway and onto the ever-growing online world. “I don’t think in the era of a digital revolution you can ignore or pretend the Internet and digital media don’t exist. Should you have a website? Absolutely. If someone googles your name, and often someone hears about you in conversation, or sees your name in a magazine, the first thing they are going to do is google you. Things will come up about you, but the first thing that comes up about you should be your own website, because it is your opportunity to tell your story and talk about your brand in your voice, otherwise you are outsourcing it to someone else. You are giving someone else an opportunity to talk about your brand. You need to own your presence in the digital space”.
It’s refreshing to listen to Imran talk about embracing these new digital tools that are so often quickly swept under the rug in light of their mass use. So often we’re bombarded with social media that all we want to do is switch off our smartphone or pull the plug on our computer. Yet “even if you don’t have a lot of money to make something beautiful, you can still be successful. You guys know this from 1 Granary! It is very simple, but it’s about the content. Isn’t it interesting? That the reason why it is so good is that the content is good. I am a digital guy, I believe in all the tools available”.
“I am a digital guy, I believe in all the tools available”.
Having a sense of self-discipline within your work is also important, notes Imran. “Stockists get comfortable when they feel confident. When they buy into a designer’s collection, they count on the clothes to be delivered at a certain time, at the right level of quality and at a price point that makes sense. Those designers who have an organized operation, who are professional, that answers their emails and that are disciplined – those are the designers that get attention”.
Imran has now been teaching at CSM for six years – almost the same amount of time that The BoF itself has been running. “I love teaching and I take it very seriously. I expect a lot from my students. I remember that there were a lot of people that taught me things, who opened my eyes to something really important. Every year I feel that there are some students I really connect with. That’s the main reason I teach, because I really enjoy doing it.”
“Those designers who have an organized operation, who are professional, that answers their emails and that are disciplined – those are the designers that get attention”.
At first, Central Saint Martins seems an unlikely pairing for business minded Imran, with the students often grabbing international headlines for their way-out collections that don’t stand a hope in hell in hitting the shelves. “That’s why it’s so important for me to teach there”, says Imran, “As far as I know there are no other business courses in the entire fashion programme at Central Saint Martins. I could teach at London College of Fashion and Parsons, both incredible schools as well where I would be honoured to teach, but at Central Saint Martins, there is a real need for it. It’s an incredible institution with very very talented students and very very talented faculty staff who really care about what goes on.”
“The fashion world without Central Saint Martins would be a very different place. There would be no Mary Katrantzou, no Thomas Tait or Christopher Kane”. A substantial amount of presentations at London Fashion Week are by students from Central Saint Martins and you just don’t get that anywhere else. “Everyone is looking at London now”.
You can vote for The Business of Fashion to win Best Business Blog at the Webby Awards HERE. It’s certainly got our vote!
Italy’s leading fast fashion retail brand, OVS, has launched F4YG, #Fashion For Young
Generations, an innovative project to create opportunities for emerging young talents.
Since its target is a new generation of young customers with a feel for fashion F4YG’s debut collaboration is one with Central Saint Martins. Designer Matthew Williamson, who graduated from CSM in 1994 was appointed to chose a young designer who would design the first F4YG capsule collection under his guidance.
Chosen out of many candidates, this designer happens to be Tracey Wong, 26, who graduated from womenswear in 2011.
We met Tracey to talk about her CSM memories, her life as a freelance designer and the F4YG collection.Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from and what did you do before CSM?
I was born in Holland but moved to England when I was two, where I grew up in Birmingham.
Before CSM I did my A-levels and then after realising that to get into CSM I needed to do an art foundation I applied to LCF foundation. Well actually my textiles design teacher contacted the head of my school, who then sent a letter persuading LCF to offer me an interview because I completely missed the deadline by 3 months. Long story short I didn’t realise it was such a requirement to have a foundation in art and design or the equivalent, so I applied to CSM degree without and was rejected outright. This was my fault because I was so adamant back then that I did not want to waste time doing an art foundation which I thought was for people who were not sure about what creative path they wanted to go down.
People are always surprised to hear someone choosing LCF foundation over CSM especially if they plan on studying fashion at degree level at Saint Martins.
It was a deliberate choice that I stand by; LCF foundation is completely fashion based including ‘sample room,’ technical classes which I knew at the time CSM did not have as much of, if any. This definitely gave me an advantage I feel when I started at Saint Martins.
Why do you think you got into CSM in first place?
I applied through the advance UAL internal compact scheme, which meant that I didn’t have an interview and luckily found out quite early on in the year that I was guaranteed a place as long as I passed the foundation course. It was purely based on the portfolio, which was probably a good thing because back then I was terrible at explaining my work and being interviewed. In fact I am pretty sure it would have gone against me. I think that I understood what CSM were looking for and from the start I tried to present my work in that way, being able to draw definitely helped. I remember when I went to drop off my portfolio with everyone else, some people had ten times as much work as I had, with all these elaborate boxes and presentation stands that they had made. I think my portfolio was only 15 pages in total. To be honest these tutors looking at your work know within the first couple of pages whether you are right for their course or not so it really is not about quantity.
So during your placement year you went to Ann Demeulemeester and All Saints, what did you learn in your internships?
I learnt why the fashion industry probably would not be able to survive without them!
But in all seriousness I learnt so much that it’s pretty difficult to summarise in a few sentences.
At Ann Demeulemeester I learnt the importance of organisation, this extended through every part of her business to such an extent that everything was always finished and ready 2 weeks before the shows in Paris. This was so that Ann had time to focus on briefing the sales teams and concentrate on styling.
Ann’s words of advice to me were ‘no guts no glory!’
She is someone who I greatly admired and still do hence my determination to intern there, she has been doing this for over 25 years whilst maintaining so grounded throughout, at the same time she has built this incredible business that has such a loyal client base. I think she has a lot of integrity as a designer and the designs with an intelligence and emotion that I relate to.
Ann’s words of advice to me were ‘no guts no glory!’
…it’s not enough just to live in a creative bubble if you want to make it as a designer.
AllSaints was completely different but I wanted to experience both levels of the fashion industry.
It was tough at first because I had worked 6 months previously earning the trust of my boss at Ann Dem and gaining more and more responsibility, so to start again from the very bottom was a tough reality.
At the time I was the only intern at AllSaints and on one of my first days I was told to go around everyone in the studio and empty their rubbish bins, it can be pretty demoralising, but you have to just suck it up and get on with it. Everyone goes through being an intern at some point, it’s like a rite of passage.
I was given the opportunity to do some paid freelance illustrations for them, which was great. It really challenged me because I realised actual work better under pressure. Overall my time in industry taught me how much goes into the running of a successful business; it’s not enough just to live in a creative bubble if you want to make it as a designer.
Your final collection looked very sophisticated, what techniques did you use?
Thank you, I used foam in my BA collection which was a bit of a challenge, I didn’t even realise there were so many varieties! I think my one was a white reflex 300. I wanted to create soft padded areas that would have a sculptural feel, everything else I tried would loose shape with steaming so this was the best alternative. I had to shape it around the body and cover it, which was technically very difficult to do seamlessly with fabric.
The coloured elastics were also a key decorative feature on the garments; they were precisely cut lengths so that they would fall in a graduated way and had to be secured in a concealed foundation piece. I finished all the exposed ends by hand with these gold plated caps sourced from Hong Kong, pliers and plenty of UHU glue.
The skirts were actually cut to wrap around the leg and become joined at the crotch, underneath the sheer overlays, so technically they were not skirts as they had two leg holes. This was important to ensure that the pieces felt secure and fitted to the body without exposing too much. For me it’s always about understanding what it feels like from a woman’s point of view when you wear clothes, which tied in with my final year dissertation.
Did you have any crazy stories from your years in college? Come on, tell us something.
It depends what you mean by crazy? I’m sure I had my moments especially after a crit. If I’m honest I never really felt like a student during my time there, I’m sure my classmates would say that I wasn’t the most social of people, I treated it almost like a job keeping my personal and work life separate.
It’s the only course I know of where as a student we were praying for more hours in the day to work!
The course is so competitive, not just to get onto but even more so once you’re there. Everyone has the same passion and wants the same thing, to stand out.
Had I been anywhere else I don’t think I would have been pushed and challenged to the same extent. It’s tough but the reward is really the process not just the final outcome. It’s the only course I know of where as a student we were praying for more hours in the day to work! We used to joke about it being pointless going home and security always had a headache trying to kick us out at 10pm. In my final year, my experience of London was literally the Pret by Frith Street and the CX womenswear studio.
I made some really amazing friends during my time in halls and the great thing was that they weren’t doing fashion or on even at CSM so I had that natural distance away from it all, this probably kept me sane. The last thing you want to do when you’ve been at college all day is to talk about it.
…working all hours of the day never feels like work.
For the most part, at college I just kept my head down and worked hard, I felt that I had a lot to prove to myself especially because studying womenswear at CSM was all that I ever wanted from the age of 13. I wanted to make my parents proud and prove that fashion design is a valid career choice, something that I felt I had a natural instinct at. Coming from a culture where creative careers are not given the same approval, as perhaps more academic pursuits, can be frustrating, particularly when people do not understand how much work goes into design.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have always known what I want to do and where working all hours of the day never feels like work. This project for OVS has been fantastic, having the genuine endorsement of such an established designer and exposure is something money can’t buy. Ready to wear design is my passion and I know what kind of designer I want to be so I hope to continue to learn from those in the industry and hopefully one day I can realise something on my own.
So we come to the F4YG collaboration, how did you get chosen for it?
Willie Walters and other CSM tutors selected a few graduates, including me, that they thought suitable for this design brief and eventually I was chosen by Matthew Williamson as the one to do it.
What kind of work did you show Matthew?
Many design drawings, mainly drawings I had done after my graduation and projects I have done by myself, because when you are in college you tend to design without thinking much about selling. I showed him stuff that had moved away from college designing into a bit more of a commercial direction – real clothes that one can actually wear, but still interesting. I think that’s the stuff he liked.
What was it like working with him and OVS and where did the inspiration come from?
I feel very fortunate as a young graduate to be selected by Matthew and CSM, of course. He has been incredibly supportive throughout this experience and a great mentor. He was very laid back in the way he managed the process and very encouraging.
For the collection, the initial starting point was to explore and understand the type of woman who represents my aesthetic, someone who conveys a quiet confidence with an edgy more androgynous approach to dressing but who is ultimately feminine. I wanted to focus on silhouette, proportions and intelligent design details in order to communicate what a young designer can bring to a fast fashion range.
Then It was about merging that with Matthews more earthy and bohemian sensibility, hence the graphic clean lines with the softer pleating with the graphic/floral print.
I was drawn to images that recall a feminine fragility and playfulness, contrasted with much more minimalist imagery, such as that of the sculptor Christopher Wilmarth.
It was super exciting and a great job. A new and interesting challenge was to work within price borders and that thought me a lot, because everything is based within a budget.
The first fittings were quite stressful because I had no experience in that but then it got better with the next ones.
What would you put in a survival kit for collection-making?
Tea! And some crap TV every now and then.
My time at CSM taught to design intelligently, it took me until final year to really understand what this meant. Freelancing and working in the real world takes it to another level in terms of working for a client where you can’t just design out there crazy stuff and put flaps on a garment for no reason. When you are solely responsible for fitting a collection that you know is going to be produced in the thousands, standing in a room with ten Italians and Matthew scrutinising everything that you’re doing, trust me you learn quickly!
What are your future plans after this collaboration?
I am open to opportunities job wise and I want to gain a bit more experience in the industry and see where that takes me.
I cant afford to do the MA at the moment, it’s an amazing platform to launch young talent, but I feel like I would want more industry experience before going that way because lots of designers who launch their own labels after MA just burn out after a year or two because of a lack of understanding about how to create a viable long term business and manage the financial cost of it all, which is huge! Most of all I want longevity as a designer and I have a huge respect for those who manage it.
What advice would you give to current students?
Try a variety of internships in your placement year and don’t be snobbish about places – high-street or not, everywhere you will learn something valuable because for a young designer it is so important to understand what goes on in business.
We heard that the advertorial is shot in CSM’s building, is that true? Did you take part in the art direction for it?
Yes the campaign backdrop was shot in the building to communicate the partnering of Central Saint Martins with this project.
However the concept and artistic direction was all down to OVS and WRG, the creative ad agency working with them. They wanted something different from the normal campaign images you see when you flick through a magazine, so their idea was to have a giant Alice in Wonderland-esque girl who is seemingly intrigued by the inner workings of a fashion college. Matthew and I expressed our outfit preference to be used; we chose the one that we felt would best represent the collaboration and both of our aesthetics. I think it works well because it’s quirky and suits their target market and younger audience.
The photographer was Jem Mitchell who has worked with clients such as Burberry and Vogue, makeup was by Laura Dominique who did the Céline campaign, so we were confident that it would be a great outcome. Everyone knows the type of budget needed for a campaign and ad space, so unless you have serious financial backing it’s not always a viable option, even for established designers.
Hence it’s pretty amazing to be a part of something like this with my name and collection shot in a campaign alongside Matthew Williamson.
We also asked Matthew Williamson for a quick advice to young designers.
“I would say the best advice is to have a clear vision. Have a strong believe in what you are doing and make sure that it has a USP /unique selling point/, that it has an identity that is different from what else is out there. This is what made Tracey’s work stand out for me and I think when I left college what I did was different to the main contemporaries. It has to be something they haven’t seen before.
Strong vision! That’s my advice and that’s the first thing you need and then come a hundred other things.”
The capsule collection, 19 items at prices between 19.99€ – 99€, will be making its debut in over 100 selected OVS stores in Italy and worldwide, on 20 April. It will also be available online at
Irish designer Sharon Wauchob is the creative director behind ethical fashion label, Edun alongside her own namesake label. Having graduated from Saint Martins in 1993, Sharon made a name for herself working first for Koji Tatsuno, where she polished her aesthetic of Japanese-influenced draping and silhouette. Later, Sharon moved to Paris to work for fashion super-brand Louis Vuitton to work as part of the prestigious atelier.Source: Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America
In 1998, Sharon launched her eponymous label with a focus on nurturing textile factories in France, Italy and Japan and now, branching out into Europe, using fabrics such as Irish tweed. This approach was recognised by Ali Hewson and Bono, founders of Edun, whom appointed Sharon as creative director of the fashion label in 2009.
Supporting Africa is inbuilt into the core of the label; ensuring an open trading relationship and exercising a strict third party factory audit to ensure a consistent moral code across all sourcing and design. Edun also supports cotton farmers and to support families in need of work. Here, Sharon talks to us about her time at Saint Martins and her current work on both her own label and Edun.
First of all I wanted to ask you about your time at Saint Martins, what was it like, did you like it – hate it? Do you see any differences between Kings Cross and Charing Cross?
Yeah it’s very different – I do see differences of course, visually it’s very different. Obviously when I was at Saint Martins it was Charing Cross road. It was very different and I enjoyed it. For me it was a very big step from Ireland where I was from. It introduced me to fashion. I think where we were located in Charing Cross road was exciting because you were in Soho, Covent Garden was very interesting at that time as well. It was a good location and you were constantly seeing things.
The area – that’s something that we hear from lots of people. They constantly say when we ask about Saint Martins that the area was amazing, people were partying, the nineties lifestyle etc. – what about the school?
I mean the mix of people was very important as well. It was international but it was very dispersed. There were a lot of different groups in the year; a lot of different cultural groups mixed together which was great. It tended not to focus on any one culture. People were quite individual in that respect. I was the only Irish person. Everyone was an individual to some extent, which I think was good. And age, there was a big age difference at the time as well, we had quite a lot of mature students and then I was a very young student just out of school in Ireland. Again it was quite a broad mix.
Sometimes it looks as if CSM’s system to teach is not teaching you at all. They let you go, do research projects, come in once a week and sometimes we think ‘oh maybe we could do it ourselves’. But we understand that you can’t, you grow so quickly because of this system.
I think that’s part of Saint Martins. I think that although maybe some people can find that difficult it’s what really shapes the individual here and that’s what gives the course it’s own identity; it allows individuality to prosper. Individuals are allowed to go their own way. I think that suits some people but it doesn’t suit everybody. That’s really what the course has been about. And I think it probably gives you a good window in to the industry because that’s how the industry functions. Fashion is not an industry that steers you along, it’s not like you’re going to medicine where you have to adapt to certain procedures. Fashion is in itself very individualistic and you can take many different routes but you have to be driven and you have to be determined, focused, have initiative. I think the fact that Saint Martins lets you go on your own prepares you for that.Sharon Wauchob A/W 13 Source: Style.com
What made you want to start your own brand?
I had worked in a very small company when I came out of Saint Martins, with a Japanese designer, and then I had worked in a very big company, which was Louis Vuitton in Paris. I had seen the two extremes quite quickly. I think that was probably one of the reasons that I decided to do my own label because I had very quickly experienced those two extremes so I felt maybe a little bit complete, quicker than you know, normal. In the small company I had a lot of responsibility, quite early on, and when I went to Vuitton I also had quite a lot of experience early on, in both situations. I had done apparel and also done accessories. I had suddenly fast-forwarded it, maybe, then I felt ‘ok what else can I do?’ and maybe that’s where it came from?
You didn’t have any fear of starting your own brand?
It’s very difficult to start your own brand, was it different then?
No, it wasn’t easier. Starting your own fashion label in Paris is not going to be easy because the standard is pretty high. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a moment either. The re-emergence of the big brands was really just starting and I started in a period where in a way it was more about bigger brands becoming cool. I was going against the grain a little bit, I wasn’t ever worried or scared – probably something to do with my age because I was pretty young.
Did/do you read reviews of your shows?
I read them more for my team. I read them because I know who’s worked with me and think of them when I’m reading them. I read them the next morning and then I stop. Now, as in one week since the show, I don’t read anything now. I’ve done two shows in the last few weeks – one in New York, one in Paris.
I’m not reading anything now. It’s interesting, it’s not a conscious thing but today I never thought to look even. I know things are still written, especially with New York because it advertises and there’s quite a lot written, but no. I read it immediately and I check where it lies.
Do you care?
I think to do that work and not care would be unusual. I think anyone who doesn’t care – I’m friends with a lot of the designers I work with.
Have you changed something because of the reviews? Your design process? More colour…?
No, honestly. Before this collection just the morning of the show I thought ‘Oh my god! I haven’t actually acknowledged what one of the journalists wrote.’ I said it to my stylist that was worked with me, his attitude was ‘it isn’t what you do, if you’re sure you have it – you do it’ and he’s right. You can momentarily think and have… you know – a moment of doubt. But honestly I don’t set out to steer the collection in a particular way.
Is it hard to be a woman in fashion? Starting out your own label? Is it more of a male lead world?
It’s probably not easier being a woman. I try not to think that it’s more difficult but it is sometimes pointed out to me, look at statistics. Of course we don’t think about it. I’m sure as women we tend not to lock ourselves in the bathroom reading that sort of thing. I’m sure it’s not… statistically I’m sure it’s quite scary. I don’t know the statistics but there’s not so many women designing when you think about the amount of students, female students, and then you look at the actual amount of women who are independently having their own companies and designing. You know… what can I say?
Do you have any advice for girls that want to go and do fashion or are part of a family? It’s amazing how you can deal with both things at the same time. Do you have any advice for them?
I think it’s interesting that there are now quite a few women in fashion that in the last few years have had children. I absolutely understand that it’s not easy. I’ve been awake all night with my baby; she’s eight months so I know from experience. At three o’clock this morning I was wondering how I was going to get here, but that’s in any job to some extent it’s not easy to be a woman working with children. I think it’s good to see that in the last few years Phoebe had a baby, I had a baby, Sarah Burton had a baby
I think, you know, there are six in the last two years – maybe less actually.
I think it happened because they got the right to have maternity leave. Before Phoebe no one was leaving for a long time. But she made a precedent…
I only got a week, ten days. It’s your own company – own choice – but I guess the great thing of having your own company is you can always take your baby in to work so that’s another way to do it! I think that yes, I do think it’s great if it’s accepted in the industry instead of being frowned upon, sure. It’s great and I think that maybe subconsciously that if you look at it, quite a lot of girls have done it in the last year. It’s not so unusual actually. Even if you’re doing an interview and they say, a lot of people will say to me last season, last show you were pregnant. It’s true; you don’t have to be so scared about it.Source:
Fashion changes so quickly now – how do you see the development of your brand? Do you design because you really like it? Do you think only about next season? Or do you have a specific goal for the next 10 years?
I think you go through stages. I think it’s interesting you’re a young designer and then you’re not. You go to the next stage. I think now I’m probably entering in to that next stage. And I think it has to be viewed as a challenge. As much as the first stage is a challenge, the next stage is a challenge as well. How do we adapt? How does our customers adapt? How do we routine the same customers? Take them with you to the next stage? Because as much as the beginning is difficult there’s also that honeymoon period when you come out and you’re stuck and there’s a lot of customers that won’t pick up the ‘new’ thing. Then you have to prove you can sell, prove you can deliver, prove that the woman wants to wear you, that your price point is right. Although the first step is a test there are a lot of tests along the way afterwards. I think that it’s quite interesting. The current environment is also providing another test from the fact that economically Europe’s in such a tricky situation.
It’s amazing your collection is very elegant and feminine, and then you see what you show in New York under the Edun name.
When I’m doing Edun, I think of a young girl, because of the price point as well. Energy, youth – very New York. I see through those eyes. When I come to Paris after New York I take another different perverse pleasure where I can really play it up with luxury. So, when you break it down as individual pieces of course sometimes the age doesn’t really matter because you know there’s a cross referencing because maybe we have quite a lot of mini skirts, younger pieces. We rework it in a certain way. The age is something I don’t really think about. Maybe luxury, the luxury we think about, definitely in Paris we think about luxury a lot
Do you think designing for Edun has influenced your own brand?
Being in New York. Seeing New York has influenced it. I realised the importance of luxury. In Paris I saw them, I think being just in Paris I was becoming blasé to luxury. I wasn’t showing it even if I had it, I was almost hiding it. I think that… now I’m showing it more in the collection. I still think it can be young and I still think it has to be young. It’s a continuous yin and yang thing about how you make luxury relevant and modern and it doesn’t become old.
Do you look up to other designers now? Do you look at each other? Judge each other?
I think we judge a bit less, maybe, sometimes. Especially when you know the people. You know what’s gone on in their life, or what they’ve been doing the past six months or the problems they’ve had. You look at it and you’re more sympathetic and a little softer. Some of the collections maybe we view them harsher, we don’t have much time to judge. Fashion Week passes. I never see any shows, never ever anymore. Now I kind of get a chance to reflect like, oh that’s what they’ve done. There is of course a certain amount of critique that goes on among the designers. In general I think there’s quite a lot of mutual respect and it’s not a slanging match that’s going on. I find France quite respectful; people are quite tolerant and respectful of each other to do their own thing. It’s not very incestuous. It’s a long time since I’ve been in London here working. What we did in New York was very much our own thing, the team and I. We were really working; we weren’t looking around us at what the competitors were doing. My approach to Eden was always to challenge New York, challenge fashion there.
Were you classmates with Heather Sprout?
We were at college together, yeah.
Classmates? Or just at college together?
We weren’t in the same class at the beginning because it was alphabetic. We were different.
Katie Grand was at the same time…
Matthew Williamson, Antonio Berardi, quite a few.
It’s funny how when you look at the gaps of time, there’s some time when lots of amazing designers came out in a certain few years and then for some time there wasn’t really anyone.
Yeah, I don’t know. It’s a big debate; one reason could be that one person does it so it gives courage to other people – one reason. Another could be that it was just a time, or another could be that maybe the industry allows little bursts to happen, then suffocates between. I honestly don’t know. A lot of people mention it to me because of the year I was in, it’s very difficult to analyse why. It’s interesting that it’s happened again as you say. I’m interested; I find it quite interesting as to why that happens.
Maybe the classmates influence you that much.
I don’t think it’s to do with the genre of design, from my class the design is very different. Incredibly different. I don’t think we formed a type of fashion, it’s not like the Belgian six. It’s not like that; I think it’s more subconscious courage to take it all.
What do you think is important now, I’m sure you get lots of interns and new designers coming – what do you look for in those people? I’m sure it’s different than twenty years ago.
Not so different. Good people are good. Good is like – somebody who is going to be good in the industry you can spot. Individually when they’re taken out of college and in the environment like Paris you don’t see so much of the college, you just see the individual.
When you say you can spot that person, you mean you can see the work or you can see the personality?
For me it’s the attitude. It’s the mentality. It’s the mindset. And you can see, yeah they’ve got the balance, the initiative, the hard work, the good eye for design and that they can fit within our industry with how they eat up the industry or if the industry eats up them. You can see certain people have just got the right calmness maybe to take it on. Or you sometimes see people who are suited to certain companies, or a niche in the industry, try to advise them which way to go. Sometimes we would have people come in to our company and I know they’re good but they’re just not right for maybe our company but in another environment they could do very well. You can see that also.
London-based graduate Holly Fowler has gone from strength to strength following her graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2012. Having worked for renowned companies such as Galliano, Vuitton and DVF, Holly’s graduate collection was bought in its entirety by luxury high-end fashion brand, Browns.
All Holly’s pieces are unique; she chooses to paint directly onto the garments she creates, shunning conventional digitized printing. Inspired by jewellery, Maharajas and British Regalia, Holly has an extensive catalogue of gem studies, all used as reference points when appliqueing paint to fabric. The results are exquisite one-of-a-kind pieces – trompe l’oeil gowns that baffle the eye and excite the senses.
Holly’s latest collection has just hit the shelves of Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Here, she talks to 1 Granary about her time at the college and how her signature aesthetic has developed.
Tell us about your time in CSM? What are your best memories?
I loved being a student at CSM I have so many great memories! The Grayson Perry project was pretty amazing. Also, the end of school party when Pulp played was incredible! Lots of memories just from being in the print room and messing around in class are just as fun.
The fashion design with print pathway is gorgeous because it brings together all the different disciplines of fine art into textiles and fashion. It encourages you to design fabrics and textures and think about illustration and colour.
The illustration classes were amazing too, Petra Borner is an incredible teacher and illustrator, I remember she would put on the most wonderful music and this wonderful Australian woman called Vanessa would wear swathes of fabric and robes and sit cross legged or draped across a kind of table in the middle of the room and we would all throw watercolour paint and charcoal onto paper and the music would be playing and it was really special – that feeling of the whole class drawing altogether.
In your opinion what makes CSM special? Was it special for you?
Of course – because of the amazing friends I made there. Also, because of the tutors, who were wise yet incredibly demanding. Above all, I think its the freedom you’re given. You’re encouraged to experiment. To really question what you’re doing and to think about the image you’re creating. Design/ style/music/ film/ fashion all rolls into one and you learn a unique way of saying something through design.
What was most difficult part of the course?
The essays! Analytical writing and post modernist theory are not my strengths!
What was most difficult during your final collection? Do you have any advice to the students who will graduate this May?
During final year the most difficult thing for me was the pressure. It seems as if with your final collection you must create a perfect representation of you and the way you design. It is a daunting prospect, and I think it becomes very overwhelming. But I could see what I wanted my collection to look like in my head and I concentrated on bringing it to life and remembering that at the end of the day- it is just clothes!
My advice to graduating students would be that your final collection is not the end – it is the beginning! These clothes are part of a long journey ! And enjoy all the time in your class and with your friends because it will be over so quickly! Oh and also always take on board Judith Found’s advice, she’s an amazing teacher and she’s really good fun too!
I wish I had had more opportunity to be taught by Howard Tangye. In the print pathway we had him for one illustration class and he completely brought to life the way I draw. He told me to feel definite in my line and not afraid to draw the face of the model, and since then I’ve never looked back! The drawings from that class inspired my muse, Princess Pamela, she is a character based on my Grandmother as a young woman and she has adventures in each new season! You can follow her blog at www.princesspamela.co.uk - a day in the life of a contemporary princess!
What are the main things you have learnt in CSM?
That it’s not the end result, it’s the process you go through to get there.
Tell us about your internships. How would you describe your whole experience? What did you learn during them and did they change your perception of fashion and designing in a particular way?
Yes definitely, my internships changed the way I saw and thought about fashion completely – coming straight out of college and going into industry like that. Fashion is such a raw and creative idea at college, at least to me it was, and suddenly being surrounded by the reality of a fashion house, taking a raw concept and translating it into desirable, luxury clothes- the fabrics, the fittings, the process of a collection, it was a real learning curve. In Paris I was at Chloe in the print department, assisting two wonderful women who taught me so so much, but above all the art of dyeing and colour and the way to use and place fabrics. Then I went to John Galliano which was a fantasy, you really never knew what was going to happen each day. There was a lot of champagne and amazing things like frog skins, jewels as big as your fist and a huge 6ft tassle sitting in the studio that someone had brought back from a couture show. I learnt so much about embroidery and embellishment there, and their atelier is enchanting- everyone wears white coats and takes tea together in the afternoon. My last internship was in New York at Diane von Furstenberg, which was incredibly glamorous. The studio used to be underneath her apartment and there was a real sense that this was her home and her place of work, I learnt so much about embellishments there, the team is really small, really close and has this spirited energy.
I think ultimately my internships made me realise that I love working with people, and in a team- and that good relationships are really the crux of any good fashion house.
Do you enjoy working in fashion industry? Is it different from what you expected?
Yes I do enjoy working in fashion but it is very different from how I expected. I find that now, running my own label I have become a pattern cutter, seamstress, PR agent, web designer, saleswoman, production manager, photographer, writer, accountant, art director and a cleaner, courier and coffee girl all in the same moment of being a designer!
It is really really hard work, and sometimes I get down about it. But every day I wake up and I am excited by what I have to do and I know how lucky I have been to have the support and opportunity from Browns in London and Bergdorf Goodman in New York as stockists. I ‘m really excited for this year.
What were your first months after graduation like?
Very odd, it was this amazing party time, and we were going out and celebrating so much, but then there was such a fear for the future and all these big questions to answer. I was really lucky because Browns bought my graduate collection which of course I was over the moon about! And then I started working freelance for Louis Vuitton, so I had work and projects to focus on.
What is beauty to you?
What inspires you?
Maharajas, princesses, roses, jewellery and gold. I love history and real life stories about kings, queens and princesses. The Tsars of Russia, the Indian Empire, the British Royal Family, I find them totally inspiring.
Who are your favourite artists?
I adore Jean Cocteau’s illustrations! Also my wonderful friends Stephen Doherty and Eloise Jephson are the most incredible illustrators.
The late Munnu Kasliwal of The Gem Palace was an outstanding jeweller – his attention to detail is second to none. I love Louis Francois Cartier too; he crafted the most beautiful jewellery creations and watches.
I love the Pre- Raphaelites brotherhood especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti.