Walking back home from a Pina Bausch performance last week, we were overwhelmed by intense emotions. We all felt the need to discover, create and experience more deeply. Only a very specific type of work has the power to spark these feelings: the type of work that is not just marked by an excellent quality or avant-gardist levels of creativity, but also by an individual effort of transforming private thoughts, emotions and impressions into a work of art. The type of work that doesn’t intimidate, but on the contrary elevates and inspires you. During the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion show we all felt it again, this explosion of creativity, shifting the limits and possibilities of human talent: the result of countless sleepless nights, crits and mountains of double shot lattes, brought together in a fashion show that runs less than an hour.
Becoming excellent at something is not easy in the least. It takes physical and mental pain, both of which MA Fashion students experience in those two years they polish their craft, voice and identity. And every year we can be part of that process, just for a moment. This constant pushing and striving to become the best is what we look up to, one of the things we admire greatly in the MA class – not only this year in particular, but all the years that have gone before, under the tutelage of both Fabio Piras and Louise Wilson. These designers propose new ideas, solutions and come up with unthinkable concepts. They are not trying to pretend and make work they think is ‘relevant’ to the industry, but relevant to them, and that’s precisely what makes them stand out from everybody else currently operating in the industry. Let’s hope these young designers find a way to hold on to that level of work and spread it throughout the fashion industry (and why not, every industry) in the same way they managed to inspire an entire room.
These instances of concentrated creativity are rare, and the chance to witness and learn from this type of work is a privilege. Post-show, we spoke with the 16 MA Fashion students that showed their work and discovered what their collections are about.
Interviews Marijn Brok, Brenda Ws and Kristina Ezhova Photography Phillip Koll
“It was about a movie by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Inferno, that was never finished – they found the film rolls only a couple of years ago. A documentary was made about it in 2009, which was quintessentially ‘the making of a movie that was never made’. That’s why the collection was so intersecting: you have the shearling that moved into the more classic tailoring, which then moved into the plastic fuses. The film was experimental – so that’s why there are classic elements such as the grey flannel cashmere alongside colours. It’s really about modernity and not referencing anybody.”
“The aesthetic is 1930s modernism and the clothing was inspired by applying these 30s ideals to the way I view clothes, in terms of wearing t-shirts differently, or them having a more practical purpose. My inspiration came partly from my own wearing of clothing and playing around with techniques, but I knew I wanted it to have a very minimal modernist look.”
Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena
“Our collection is about Bulgarian national dress and 80’s rock climbing. I’m Bulgarian [says Emma], so we’re modernising folk fabrics – they’re all antique – and the rock climbing came from us finding that we needed something really synthetic to modernise it. We wanted bright neon colours and all the metal to contrast.”
“My collection is about the combination of traditional tailoring and elements I’ve collected from 70s outerwear. The inspiration comes from the London Tweed Run, where everybody is wearing their vintage suits while cycling. The traditional tailoring is very precise with ungiving fabrics – it restricts the body – so I just want to keep the particular sense of tailoring, but make it functionable for the outfits.”
“My starting point was the process of fabric becoming a garment. The body will always be the centre of it. The garment, instead of constructing on the base of the figure, tailoring something, builds on the body. I am more interested in the concept that the garment is an entity by itself and can be quite a beautiful object or piece.”
“The inspiration behind the collection was glamour, couture, it was emotional – I experimented a lot on the stand to create the silhouettes. I referenced an era which I love: the 70s and 80s couture.”
“In normal clothes there’s so much to be discovered still, even by changing really simple things. The collection is almost entirely made from elastic, the shredded tops are polyester, the tops are plastic: I wanted to take everything out of its context, the jumper is no longer comfortable because it’s made out of plastic. It’s about pushing everyday clothes to their maximum. It was really labour-intensive as well, the weaved coat had to be printed four times. Digital print has a reputation of being very flat and quick, so I wanted to add texture and handwork.”
“The collection was based on my own universe of elegance and glamour, because I think that is something we really need at the moment. It’s glamour with references from workwear. I made my own fabric from paper, foil and organza, making interesting combinations of cheap and expensive materials.”
“I have questioned the meaning of the ideas behind my work in order to create a philosophical framework and vernacular approach to the process behind my design methodology. I’ve learnt the importance of making the work accessible aesthetically whilst at the same time progressive in its utopian vision. Focusing on singular colour palettes and a dogmatic regard for the consistency of fabric, fabrication and functionality.”
“My main reference was [the artist] Stella, and his use of crazy materials, abstract textures, paint and collage. He uses a lot of metallic, nudity and seduction in his paintings. He looked at the world in a different way, and that’s how I wanted to interpret my work. I made everything three-dimensional, I looked at party streamers, cassette tapes, everything that was obscure and something that you wouldn’t use for embroidery. With all my hand embroidery skills I sort of built on that, using the idea of sensitivity, transparency, as well as sparkle, glam; it’s about some woman who has hidden vices. She has gone out innocently and comes back really fucked. Very happy and joyful, but very true to a woman.”
“My collection was mainly inspired by the 19th century’s fashion. Trying to redefine menswear: doing tailoring in a modern, contemporary way. The fabrics are very contrasting but in a subtle way, making use of stone-washed cotton and nylon for example.”
“The inspiration was a seemingly normal school girl, but who has something hidden inside – some kind of anger that she tries to express in a quiet way. The materials were polyester shirts and wool skirts – uniform fabrics. We crocheted in wool and cotton – these natural materials that take really long to do – rather than machine-making them, which is how uniforms are always done. I wanted details such as hidden bows or ribbons under the skirt, which kind of tie her legs together and restrain her.”
“The inspiration was a film by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire called Johnny Mad Dog from 2008, that follows the story of a group of young rebel soldiers. They all don these alter egos when they’re going into battle and see it as a form of protection. It was about creating these individual identities and designing for the characters.”
“It’s about people that have a hands-on approach to everything, from couture to everyday things like vests; people that have inspired me in my life, aunts, grandmothers. The embroidery comes from things I found in my gran’s house. The clothes come from my first love which is couture, mixed with things that can be described as basic. It’s the extraordinary and the mundane. Something that looks very simple can actually have an ornate process. All the dresses were spray painted – so something that looks very simple is actually very complicated.”
“My collection was inspired by a man’s relationship with flowers. I came across a photo of market flower sellers in India. There is nothing feminine about it, they are usually in a grubby, sweaty wife-beater vest, badly fitted trousers and ugly sandals, but then they have all these flowers, heavy and hanging from their shoulders.”
“It was about excessive readings of the collection, so that the collection appears really monstrous, but the monstrosity is actually in the excess of interpretations. It was about the orifice – a visual metaphor for consumption; kind of what’s going on politically at the moment and uncertainty for young designers.”