For menswear designer and BA Fashion Print graduate, Beth Postle, opening the degree show was the pinnacle of year’s worth of intensive concentration and hard work. Beth’s 2D prints, which were spliced across her garments, had more than a little of a Picasso feel about them and set the tone for a show that was to be as experimental as it was beautiful.
Beth’s structured garments fell around the body in a way that mirrored the sculptures of the human body they were inspired by and, with their white and pastel palette, challenged traditional conception of menswear. Beth explains that she found reconciling menswear with print with a difficult process, often leaving her feeling looked down upon because she was not doing traditional tailoring. We couldn’t disagree more, finding the collection to present refreshing new ideas about menswear – just what the industry needs.
Beth, we love your BA final collection, especially your prints. Where did these originate from?
I have always been obsessed with black outlines, I think this stems from my love for Niki De Saint Phalle’s sculptures of the human form. Every print or design I draw is outlined with thick black pen. In the first few years I don’t think I really understood what I was doing with the black line. It was mainly an illustration tool until I realised that making and designing with these cartoon-like drawings would bring them to life. The focus of the collection is the naïve portrait prints that are spread across the looks and fragmented by each garment. The shapes are simple and bold. The two-dimensional forms are influenced by 1920’s Soviet costume and a 1970s paper costume book for children.
Do your draw your ideas from the same general area for each new project or does it change every time?
In many explanations of my work people have drawn on cubism and Picasso and, although this was not necessarily intentional, I have always had Picasso postcards on my wall and have always been subconsciously obsessed with cubism. I came up with this idea of fragmenting the prints from one single image I found in an ‘80s menswear magazine. It was a picture of a guys tie with a jazzy floral print that matched his shirt perfectly, when he walked it left a white space where the tie had been. I really liked the idea of the space left behind. When the layers of my collection are taken off one at a time, the white spaces left create something very interesting and when different looks are mixed together it’s almost like one of those paper games you played as a kid where you fold the paper back and draw a part of the body to make a mystery person.
Your garments are very different to traditional menswear, were you designing with a particular customer in mind when you did this?
I don’t think I had a particular market in mind. I suppose I was completely driven by the aesthetics, bringing the drawings to life rather than actually creating something wearable. I find it boring researching clothing which already exists. Since the beginning I had it in mind to use the prints on t-shirts and more wearable items, I think the garments in my collection were just showcase pieces for the prints.
Designing your final collection is a lengthy process, how do you feel about it now it is finished?
I’m not completely happy with the collection. A year is a long time to work on one thing. My ideas stayed the same from the very beginning unlike lots of other people but I think this frustrated me, I kept having days where I would scrap everything and try something new but it would only ever last a day. I think I just needed to get other ideas out of my system. One day I started drawing dogs on big dresses for men. I just needed to get it out there so I could realise it was shit and carry on with the project. But I am bored with it now and I want to start something new. I guess it would be more worrying if I wasn’t bored. I change my mind about things very quickly even before something is finished I’m thinking about the next thing.
What advice would you give to someone just about to embark on their final collection?
I would say not to think too much about what you’re doing. I think if you start building it up in your head you won’t get anywhere, nothing will be good enough because you think it needs to be the best thing you’ve ever done. Just treat it as any other project because at the end of the day you have so much time to change things. And you shouldn’t be precious about anything. Or hold on to anything in particular. Let things go and change as you progress. I became obsessed with the fabric being stark white and, although to many people it is white, to me it wasn’t white enough and this hindered me moving forward. What you have to realise is people are seeing this for the first time and don’t know what you intended.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in fashion?
I’ve always wanted to own my own pub in London. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to buy a property and start my own business at the moment, but I play the Euro millions every week so fingers crossed.
Finally, tell us a little about your time at CSM.
In foundation everyone who was doing the fashion pathway seemed to have mapped out the journey since they were young. I had no idea what I was doing there, I was completely out of my depth. I remember thinking everyone was super weird and and that I was really boring and normal and that I didn’t fit in, but that went away when I realised how nice everyone was.
Moving to London at 18 was really daunting I had only ever been a few times before on family trips and to see my sister. I never planned to live here, I wanted to go to Glasgow school of art but I didn’t want to do a foundation at home and it was really important to me to move away from Wolverhampton. After the first year London wasn’t that scary anymore.