During London Collections: Men, the support for recent Central Saint Martins graduates continued: just as Fashion East took on Grace Wales Bonner directly after her BA collection, so did their initiative ‘MAN’, with CSM’s MA menswear graduate Rory Parnell-Mooney. For his first season after graduating, he showed alongside Nicomede Talavera and Liam Hodges, and continued to explore his past collection’s point of view, but with a new outlook. Boys walked the runway with slick hair, wearing floating black- and navy garments, to the sound of Nirvana’s ‘Breed‘.

What was the starting point for this collection, and what did you look at for FW15?
I wanted to continue looking at what I was doing at the Masters at Central Saint Martins. When I graduated in February last year, I realised that I wanted to start my own thing; I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I looked back at what I have been doing for the last two years — still looking at all the things that interested me, but mostly still the same point of view as for what I did on the MA.
“When you work on your own, it’s really just the pressure that you put on yourself. There is no-one there to check up on you.”
What did you do differently for your first show with MAN, in comparison with your MA collection?
I think that the MA was very much about creating ten perfect looks. I think that’s how the MA works, and I think that’s how it should work; it’s also how you work with the tutors, but I think the collection I just made is more spread out. It’s more like one idea used widely, in different garments. I wouldn’t want to say I designed it quite commercially, but it’s not as ‘full-on’; as extreme as what I did for the masters, you know.

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How different is the pressure between producing a collection for the MA and a collection for Fashion East?
I would probably say it’s the same amount of pressure, but it’s different because at the masters you have tutors, who come into the studio to check on your work. But when you work on your own, it’s really just the pressure that you put on yourself. It’s about what you aim to get done. The main difference is that there is no-one there to check up on you. It’s your thing now. You really take ownership of what you’re doing, and have more confidence in what you’re doing.
“I’m really trying to make staple pieces that are, like a perfect linen top… There’s a lot of handwork and labour involved to even make a t-shirt.”
Did Fashion East approach you or did you apply?
I was talking with Charlie Porter at the Saint Martins exhibition and we got talking about me setting up my own business, and other things, and when I sent him an email three months later, we also got talking about Fashion East. So I filled in an application, had an interview a month later, and a month after that I got it.

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What has the response been this week after the show?
Very positive! I don’t want to say my collection is something new or something groundbreaking, but I think it’s something that London probably hasn’t… I think a lot of young London designers use print or that sort of stuff, which I don’t. I have to push it a bit harder with the fabrics; some of the fabrics are bonded and really structured. It’s more about that for me. I think it’s something that I haven’t seen in London for a while: this luxury, which is still minimal, subtle and super clean. I’m really trying to make staple pieces that are, like a perfect linen top… There’s a lot of handwork and labour involved to even make a t-shirt.

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Do you see your customers wear your garments for seasons and seasons until they fall apart, and then get something new?
That’s probably why I like designing — why I do what I do and make what I make — it’s because I kind of have this thing in my head that in ten years time, you’ll be able to wear a coat from this FW15 collection with a pair of trousers from the collection in ten years. There is something classic about it, something which is not trend-driven. I wouldn’t work like, ‘oh yeah, we’re doing shearling because shearling is cool right now!’ I don’t like that. I do the things I love. It’s about creating things that will last a long time.
“It’s about doing yourself justice and not spending an entire day writing an email and then make a coat in five minutes, you know.”
What do you think you have improved most on since you graduated?
I’ve become a lot more organised. 90% of my day is responding to emails, and talking to people, which during my MA I wasn’t as good at. I’ve become better at being a person. Like actually responding to emails that are important and managing my time. I have the collection done a week before the show, because things just need to be done. At the MA you don’t really think about them, but when you start doing things yourself, you realise that everything needs to be done a week before the show. For example, I have to do all the casting myself; there’s no-one there to do that for me. But on the MA, the models will all just show up on the day…

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Is all the admin stuff that you have to do meddling with your creative process?
I try to do as little of it as I possibly can, like responding to emails but do that in enough time, so that I can make a lot of time to make clothes and do creative stuff. It’s about doing yourself justice and not spending an entire day writing an email and then make a coat in five minutes, you know. I suppose, there’s something really nice about learning all this stuff. At Saint Martins I never did a casting sheet, now it’s actually interesting to learn about pricing, stock mark-ups, etc, that’s actually a nice learning curve and I’m enjoying it a lot.

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 What are your plans for the next season, do you have to reapply to Fashion East to stay in the scheme?
Yes, for Fashion East sponsorship you have to reapply, so I will definitely do that for Spring/Summer 2016. You can only do three seasons in total with them, so I’ll definitely apply for Spring Summer in June. But, I also hope for the Fall Winter 2016 as well, because it’s really such a great platform. I think they are all so super helpful, they’re really amazing at their jobs and they work crazy crazy hard to get money for young designers, and to get them off the ground. Last night I was in the Fashion East office talking about sales and pricing… They’re super helpful, so I’d love to stay with Fashion East for as long as I can. And then of course it’s applying for NEWGEN when the time comes. Hopefully it’ll be onwards and upwards!
All visual content by Dom Sebastian

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