Photograph by Irving Penn. Publihsed in Vogue, December 2003.
V&A is one of the greatest museums in the world and its installations and exhibitions often feature works of artists, musicians, architects and designers who studied at Central Saint Martins…we do not even mention the Fashion Galleries. Go and see Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, open from Sat 19 May 2012 –Sun 6 January 2013.
Britain Creates 2012: Fashion + Art Collusion (6th July – 29th July 2012) is a free display of works created in collaboration by leading fashion designers, most of whom are CSM alumni: Hussein Chalayan, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou and milliner Stephen Jones, and notable artists from Britain. They have come together to celebrate and promote the creative relationship between fashion and art.
Yesterday 1Granary attended an evening talk at V&A where CSM’s notable alumni Hussein Chalayan and Gavin Turk, leading UK artist and RCA drop out, discussed their collaboration for Collusion display, with curator Susanna Greeves.
Unique copper master (used for the pressing of limited edition vinyl of the audio work ‘Four Minute Mile’). 61cm x 61cm. © Steven WhitePhotograph taken from http://www.britaincreates.com/presentation.aspx?pid=2Photograph: Stephen White
The talk was mainly about Hussein’s and Gavin’s collaboration on a beautiful vinyl disc and an audio track called Four Minute Mile, but they also spoke of their time back in university, their work and personal approach to art and design.
Here is some part of an interview with Hussen Chalayan:
SG: You studied in one of the most prestigious art school in the world – Central Saint Martins; could you please speak about your time in university?
HC: Central Saint Martins was great, the campus was much smaller when I studied there and everyone used to hang out with each other because we were in the same building as Fine Art students. I didn’t think that I was being cool by hanging out with artists, it was so natural. Maybe since then Central Saint Martins got much more institutionalized; it is still an amazing institution, but it felt different on Charring Cross road.
Looking at your career, it seems that you could have chosen any other discipline than fashion; you could have been an architect or a designer equally. Did it feel like that to you at that point?
I was certainly of an idea’s person and I was very excited by clothes, so I thought I want to combine the two together. I loved design and was very much excited by the things that would evolve around the body in various ways. I didn’t really like labels, but was definitely very excited by clothes, so I guess my work has evolved in a certain way.
I remember when I was on Foundation course before Central Saint Martins, my tutors would actually say, “You know, you can also apply to an art course as well at Saint Martins.” But I thought that my work would be more interesting if I did fashion with my approach…somehow.
Your work has been often on themes of displacement and duality, why so?
Well, I come from a war stricken place. It affects you. And it affected me, but in a good way because I can see from another person’s perspective. Muslim background, although I am not religious at all, makes me see the opinion of another… in a positive way. So, I feel lucky.
Did it establish certain types of rules and limitations on yourself by doing fashion in that prescribed mode of expression?
Yes. The fact that you have to deliver collections all the time and the time of it is quite mechanical; I find it very difficult. I am not saying that artists don’t suffer from having to produce work quickly, but I definitely think that we are more in an industrial situation and there are financial restraints like there are for the artists as well. I also find that the product has to be perfect or near enough perfect, and you really strive for it to be perfect, but yes, it definitely affects the creative process.
I personally think that fashion is really tough.
You know, I’ve been in fashion for 18 years now and I never stop questioning myself. At times I feel like a hamster in a wheel… it never stops. I often think, do people really need more clothes? At times it is ridiculous to think about! I doubt if I need to go on, but then I also think that it is amazing…so, questioning never stops.
Interviewed by Collusion curator Susanna Greeves.
1Granary had an opportunity to ask one question:
Please share one particular memory when you were a student at Central Saint Martins.
One of my cherished memories would be the first day at Central Saint Martins. Back then, CSM was different, it was smaller and very hard to get into. Everything was much smaller than now, and then, everyone knew the faces much better. I remember how on the first day we were all crammed into one room at Charring Cross road and remember just how everyone was, everyone thought that they were special. It was also very competitive and people didn’t often speak to each other. (Laughs) I always got along much better with girls than boys. And I remember feeling like a sort of a catalyst. Later, I was introduced to some people, but they still weren’t speaking. Of course there were more interesting people than others, but fashion people often are not interested in different stuff, I would say. If you asked them some questions, they would say something like – “ I’m too intense.” (Laughs) Why be interested in only what other designers do or the 90’s fashion? I mean, I am interested in that too, but I do think that there are a lot of fashion people who are on their own planet. It can get boring.
But yes, the first day at Central Saint Martins, I would say, was quite special. It was like out of a film.
But of course, there are so many more memories of Central Saint Martins.