Spanish-born CSM BA Fashion Design and Marketing graduate Claudia Girbau Pina approaches her designs as architectural experiments, describing her garments as “jackets, worn by a person, but buttoned to a wall.” While she initially found the autodidactic method of Central Saint Martins “disorientating,” her final collection is a refined exploration of the feminine subject in the masculine, modern city; fitting, as she packs her bags to explore another European fashion capital.
Claudia was born and raised in Barcelona, and from a young age, she dreamt of pursuing something creative. “I’ve been filling sketchbooks with drawings of women ever since I can remember,” she explains, as she recalls her early years of creativity. At the age of 15, she enrolled at Central Saint Martins for a summer course in fashion design, and she was immediately hooked. After high school, she eagerly went straight to the foundation course of the same institution, before embarking on a BA in Fashion Design and Marketing.
Claudia’s garments appear as sculptural manipulations and distortions of the human shape and body. For her graduate collection, viaduct and wall-like architectural structures merge with recognisable, classically tailored pieces. Using foam planes bonded with tweed, she explores sculptural territory but through fashion-familiar means: “I wanted to use very traditional fabrics that would make the structural silhouette more relatable,” she says. She began applying bonding techniques to tailoring in her second year, when manufacturer Dyloan Studios came to do a collaborative project with her pathway, Fashion Design and Marketing.
“The effect I wanted to achieve with these straight planes that fit on to the body was that of a jacket worn by a person, but buttoned onto a wall.“
Her shapes echo the work of sculptor Joseph Casky, but are not kept to a surreal or abstracted imagination – they appear actual, wearable, as they are presented on moving female models. They are at once architectural experimentations and high fashion garments – deceiving the eye as they reflect upon the human figure, in art, fashion and architecture. “The idea of trompe-l’oeil has been quite recurrent in my project,” she says, explaining how she wanted to expand this idea onto a larger scale, resulting in an actual manipulation of the human silhouette. “The effect I wanted to achieve with these straight planes that fit on to the body was that of a jacket worn by a person, but buttoned onto a wall.“
Despite her strong sense of self-motivation, Claudia initially found CSM’s infamous autodidactic method “disorientating” – left to her own devices, she was forced to introspect and generate her own teaching method. “You realise your own curiosity is the best learning tool you have,” she reflects, and indeed, teaching herself paid off: her placement year led her to prestigious internships at J.W. Anderson and Vivienne Westwood. “Now, after graduating, I realise how lucky I am, and how many doors this school opens for you.”
“You realise your own curiosity is the best learning tool you have”
Inherent in her work is a critique of modernism – a period characterised by a masculine hegemonic aesthetic, both in architecture and art. As the female subject reclaims her status in society, a dissonance becomes visible; “in terms of scale and aesthetics between the modernist urban planning principles of the 50s and the people who lived in those sites,” she explains. “With these pieces, I wanted to create a sense of continuity between the human body and those massive concrete buildings [of the modernist city]. The wearer adopts the architectural language in order to harmonize with a modernist habitat.” She mentions Michelangelo’s Antonioni’s 1961 film La Notte as a prime example of the lack of harmony between the main female character and the city she lives in. As she opposes and contrasts the archetypal feminine and masculine ideals, she articulates a discourse on gender; but to this, she adds: “I would say the concept of the collection specially relates to womenswear. Although, considering the new direction in menswear, I am not sure making gender distinctions makes much sense any more.”
After having spent the first five years of her adult life in London, Claudia is ready to once again have a change of scenery and context. She plans to move to Milan in the immediate future to look for a job in the city’s fashion industry, which operates so differently from London. “I want to move to a totally different scenario and see how can I adapt,” she finishes. “I think moving into another completely new country is something I won’t be able to do when I’m older, so I want to take the chance now.”