*This interview originally appeared in 1 Granary Issue 3
The current fashion system often puts pressure on students to think about their ‘future careers’ at the time when they are meant to be exploring and experimenting as much as they can in the timespan of their studies. With the recent news that maintenance grants will be turned into loans, the government is not really helping to improve the situation and give some breathing space for fresh talent. However, instead of abiding to the system and fulfilling certain expectations of how one should ‘act in the market’, a new establishment is resisting and expressing their points of view in rebellious ways. Richard Malone is one of them. Graduating from Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion in 2014, he was awarded the LVMH Grand Prix scholarship for his collection, after which a London-based support scheme offered him a place to show his work — under several conditions. Richard did not agree with them, so he declined and staged a guerrilla exhibition in Old Street tube station instead. Come 2016, he has shown his SS16 collection with Fashion East in the form of a presentation, and is currently preparing for his catwalk debut in February.
It’s not unsurprising, then, that when we ask him what he would say to the Prime Minister if he had a direct line to him, he replies: “Get your shit together mate and stop cutting arts funding,” likely as a response to the new Conservative government’s proposed spending cuts. “You are sucking the life out of the country,” Richard continues, “and not having concerns for young people from all walks of life is disgusting. Everyone should have the same opportunities to education; to accessing creativity, to learning. I honestly couldn’t go to university now with the fees. How can you justify that? It’s a disgrace and it will kill the amazing reputation that this country has established.”
Richard Malone fittings
The most plausible government action that would make Richard leave the country, expectedly, would be ‘more cuts’. But that doesn’t mean that he is largely negative about the future – it’s just that things have to change for good. In a time when small businesses are disappearing by the month — first Band of Outsiders, now Meadham Kirchhoff — Richard notes, “They may have disappeared but the work they made was amazing. Sometimes it’s more important to make incredible work that’s real to you than it is to sell a million logoed sweaters. I have the utmost respect for them. I’m generally a positive person, so I try not to think of everything going to shit too swiftly.”
Malone would like to stay in people’s minds as a designer who’s doing something different and intuitive, and one who really focuses on cut and finish. He names Schiaperelli (the original stuff), Alaïa and Watanabe as the gold-standard examples he look to. What really drives him, he says, is that he loves what he does. “I feel like I’m resolving an equation or a problem, and it’s never resolved until the last minute.” When he considers the things urgently in need of a change in that exact fashion system most young designers are becoming fed up with, he’s quite unforgiving.
“Sending these damaging ideals that beauty only comes in the form of a tall white skinny girl is damaging and it’s Aryan. It’s complete bullshit. I’d like to see more women being celebrated for their accomplishments: artists, writers, CEOs — not just the ones who can fit in sample sizes; real women. Send the right message to young girls now; show them they’re worth way more than that. I refuse to photoshop my images and I only shoot on healthy girls. I’d like fashion houses to stop taking the piss with waste – you cannot call yourself a contemporary designer without considering the world around you. Have some fucking dignity. Make a difference. It’s so unbelievably egotistical to just make make make: to literally fill the world with your shit. Stop it. I could not sit in an office at a company like that and be okay with myself. It would be like blood money to me. Also, all of these houses coaxing journalists with their fancy pre-collection shows: no one can be critical anymore. Everything is fabulous once there are free flights and a few handbags. It’s just fake. Imagine if they pumped a quarter of that money into scholarships for students who can’t afford university. We might actually see some diversity returning to our art schools. But no, we’ll spend it on fucking flowers or monogrammed towels and let the art schools be taken over by Notting Hill it girls and bloggers. Can’t wait.”
Words by Jorinde Croese
All pictures courtesy of Richard Malone