On a cozy afternoon, an abrupt phonecall from my editor dragged me from the latest issue of Fucking Young, and 30 minutes later, in the CSM library, I was sitting opposite Jamie Cockerill and Annie Wooding, former classmates and CSM graduates. Now, they’re the designers behind luxury Parisian leather house, Jitrois. “We cannot get this quality of research in Paris,” explained Jaime when asked why they were here, behind a pile of fashion magazines after a talk with the Fashion Design and Marketing class.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Jamie: I graduated in 2009 from BA Fashion Design and Marketing, and I again in 2011 from MA Womenswear, both at CSM.
Annie: I started working in the industry after graduating from the BA.
What do you think of the new building, 1 Granary Square? Is it your first time here?
Jamie: We use it as a regular research facility; we can’t get this quality of research in Paris. The Granary is a modern fresh space. It’s nice that the old school campus has the historical elements, and amazing people came out of that building, but this is a new vision for Saint Martins and for designers of our age.
Annie: It’s really interesting. It’s like an exhibition space for young artists and designers.
Do you mind sharing your career path with us? Before working for Jitrois, what else did you do?
Jamie: I worked as a model throughout my BA and MA, which gave me an interesting insight into the fashion industry. After my MA I was contacted by Kanye West to work on his label, and I also worked freelance for LVMH. I was approached later by Jitrois to become their Head Designer.
Annie: When I left my BA, I worked for a stylist for a number of months, and then decided to go back into design. I went to intern at Balenciaga, and whilst there, I was contacted by someone I had interned for about a job opportunity at Aquascutum. I was there for 2 years before I went to work with Jamie at Jitrois.
How would you describe your personal design style?
Jamie: Annie is great at soft tailoring and sportswear.
Annie: Yeah, but I like evening wear too. I like real clothes and coming up with something wearable but contemporary. I have a definite love for fabric and texture. As for my design style, its not androgynous, it’s more like ‘strong feminine’.
Jamie: For me, I guess I am inspired by many aspects; I like to keep changing the tact of design and the research. I have always enjoyed working with techniques and working graphically. I am always searching for modernity, but I guess the heart of work is sexiness… well it’s more about femininity than sexiness.
Feminine as Versace, or Céline?
Jamie: I guess it is somewhere between the two. They are both inspiring for different reasons.
So, do you think your personal styles fit with the ‘essence’ of Jitrois?
Jamie: The style of Jitrois is ever changing, and it adapts with us as well. We are adapting to it, and it is adapting to us. We are trying to make it more contemporary and take it away from obvious sexy and um…
Annie: … Trying to make it more intelligent sexy.
Jamie: Yes, and trying to broaden its reach as well, in terms of customer base. It used to be that Jitrois was very much just into one type of woman, and we are trying to make it more diverse.
Is Mr. Jitrois himself still involved with the company?
… More about the operation or design?
Jamie: He started the company in 1983, and is very much the face and name of Jitrois. He is restructuring the company at moment to have us all in one building. Previously the company was split between Press, Sales and Marketing, and us in Design, the Atelier and Production. Putting us all in same building will mean we will all be working together, which will allow the process to become more symbiotic.
Annie: He keeps his eyes open to see what’s happening both on the street, and in fashion in general. He goes to the flagship store every Saturday to see how things are going there. He is very involved, and his opinion adds great value to our process.
Stretch leather is a signature of Jitrois. Were you familiar with it before working there?
Annie: I had never worked with stretch leather before. I worked with different types of leather and fur, but only as a portion of a collection.
Jamie: It was very interesting to us to work with leathers throughout the whole collection, and it’s quite unique as well to work every garment with leather. So we create the whole look with different mediums, different textures and different types of leather.
Annie: We are trying to make sure that the collection has a rhythm to it by developing textures or techniques. I’ve never had to think about embellishment so much.
Taking you back to CSM, what was your most memorable moment in school before beginning your formal career?
Annie: I liked the green tea with jasmine that I used to get from the canteen every morning when I did my shirt project – that was a good routine.
Jaime: I guess for me it was straight after my MA, when the old campus closed, there was a great party, with all sorts of people from Saint Martins reunited that night, partying the night away with Jarvis Cocker performing! That was an unforgettable way to finish my time at St Martins.
Annie: Yeah, there were a lot of good times; we were lucky, we had a good group.
Jamie: Yeah, I think the biggest thing you take away from Saint Martin are the friends you make.
How do you think CSM helped with your career?
Annie: CSM is definitely very competitive, and that makes a lot of sense, but you have to find your way there with guidance from the tutors. You have to be really on it. In that sense, that’s good preparation for the industry.
Jamie: Yes, you are just preparing for the industry. That’s quite tough.
Any future plans for the company and yourselves?
Jamie: As far as the company goes, we are just trying to broaden its reach. We are expanding in America and Asia. We are trying to give it more of a fashion edge, but still remaining a luxury label at its core.
Annie: In life, being content with the way you act, your job; to keep being creative alongside everything else. And yeah, be happy.
Final question, any words of wisdom for current and potential CSM students?
Jamie: Just have fun! Saint Martins is really your one chance to experience a lot of things that you might not get to do when you start working. Really enjoy the city, because London is really a great city.
Annie: Make the most of it and take it with you when you leave CSM.