Fiona Blakeman‘s graduate MA collection has simultaneously been described as ‘fragile‘ and ‘fighter‘, but she really just wanted to portray “sexy as elegant and to be provocative but beautiful.” She did so, by mixing Jean Arp and Helmut Newton with a dash of fishnet, to create a strong sexy woman. Fiona, who did her BA Fashion at the Nottingham Trent university, remembers one of her tutors being quite negative about her chances of getting a place on CSM’s MA course. Alas, she’s proved them wrong. 

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The MA at Central Saint Martins

When I ask her if she thinks that Louise Wilson embodied the MA, she agrees. “Absolutely. It’s by no means an exaggeration when I describe Louise as a life changer. She was the MA and she is the reason I applied.” she says. “I remember thinking after my initial interview, that I’d probably not made it on to the course, but at least I had the chance to meet her! And while it was a grueling experience being taught by her, I feel very privileged. I learnt something new every time I stepped into her office.”

A grueling experience; was there ever such a thing as an ‘unexpectedly easy’ part on the course? Though Fiona would’ve barely admitted it earlier this year, she says she didn’t expect the second part of her MA to go so well. “It certainly wasn’t easy, but compared to the first year – where you don’t know if you will even pass into final year – I felt more contented.”

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Her collection has been referenced with the term ‘fighter,’ so how she sees herself as a fighter? “I’ve never been prepared to compromise on my goals, and don’t feel like I’ve taken a particularly easy path so in a sense I’ve had to ‘fight’ for what I really want to do.”

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The Final Collection

Did she, I ask, have a clear vision of the design she wanted to make, when she started the MA course? “Not at all, and even if I did, I’m sure it would have been diminished. When we started it felt like we had to unlearn everything and retrain our brains.” Retraining her brain for her final collection, Fiona looked at the connotations of fishnet and Helmut Newton’s portrayal of strong sexy women. “Jean Arp’s painting “Constellation to the Laws of Chance” inspired me to collage with the skins, where I used the body as a base,” she says.

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Lasercutting leather: Aroma of burnt flesh

Fiona’s approach to creating new textiles, is to use existing fabrics or materials as a base and renovate it. “For this collection I started laser cutting into the chamois before I knew how it would be used, or what I would be combining it with. When I had created a few samples, I started to drape with them on the stand to see how they would behave and this provided the basis for the collection. ” For her graduate collection, she engineered every laser-cut pattern within the shape of each skin; and traced the natural imperfections and holes all around. Worst experience? “Laser cutting the leather creates a strong aroma of burnt flesh, which made me cringe!”
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The print approach

She intentionally interned at Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou’s print department as they were both acclaimed for their approach to print and textiles. She gained the (specifically digital) print skills during her BA, which was a very technical course. And she admits she isn’t quite intrigued by print at the moment, but more by textile techniques that dictates or enhances the silhouette, she believes there will always be a place for it.

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Reflecting on her internships, she takes a stance. “While I’m all for gaining industry experience interning, the payment situation is very unfair. However, I think it’s for the industry to cope with it. If they need the help, new blood and fresh ideas, it shouldn’t come for free. I interned because I felt I had no choice but I think change is due.”

For more of this year’s MA graduates, check out Graham Fan and Serena Gili.

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