Jake Burt is not afraid to bring up the familiar and practical (often overlooked) aspects of fashion design when he discusses his graduate collection. From the start of his MA at Central Saint Martins, he did not hesitate to disregard the things that he did not want to do. “I didn’t want to over decorate, I didn’t want to design something that felt senseless or was designed for the sake of design. It was really important that it came from something that I loved.” Something he won’t change moving forward. Looking at next year, Jake is considering multiple options (consulting, experimenting with photography, styling and art direction, or working on a new collection).
When we enter Jake’s kitchen, I decide to sit down on the chair next to the window. Sensing that I may have taken his seat, I quickly move across to the other side of the kitchen table. Slightly relieved, Jake apologises as he returns to his usual spot. Staring out the small kitchen window, he observes the continuous flow of people passing by.
Discussing inspirational obsession, Jake explains the importance of observation in relation to his garment making.This daily ritual led to his fascination for pace and the rhythm of a city, especially how fast everything moves. Bike couriers and motor scooters going through the city are examples of what typify pace and speed for Jake. “I love seeing them when it’s a really hot summer day and they still have to wear this huge coverall, amazingly shaped, biker gear to protect themselves.” Jake pays meticulous attention to detail in describing a passing moment, which is made obvious through his countless photographs and sketches. What is noticed at a glance while relaxing has proven to be most inspirational. “When it comes to design, my main inspiration is whatever I find easy to notice… and Cindy Sherman.”
Even without prior knowledge or understanding of Jake’s work, a sense of immediacy and urgency is evident in his portfolio. “There must be a lot of instinct involved in traveling around the city at that speed and I think that relates to instinct in design. There were a lot of false starts throughout the whole project. I ended up with a really simplified collection but I’m happy with that.”
The way he translated the idea of speed and safety into design can be traced through his drawings and research. “It was important to capture the lines, even the clothes. I just wanted everything to look fast.” Various anime and films such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell became foundational reference points for the simplicity in drawing out the essence of speed that everyone moves at. However, there is a difference between capturing movement and capturing the result of movement, Jake explains: “It’s not necessarily the movement, it’s the shapes that clothes and people have, bunched up like insects on scooters.”
The emphasis put on sourcing fabric and material for this collection played out from an early stage. “I bought all these motorbike jackets, cut them up into pieces, and started to photograph them on the floor.” Experimenting with the original shapes, he re-collaged the pieces and developed the outfits through his drawings. In the end, Jake learned to listen to the sketches: finding a motorbike jacket that he loved, taking it apart, and putting together a simplified silhouette.
Looking not only at design but also practicality by doing additional research on protective wear, the main fabrics that he used were a huge roll of rubbery, stiff pool lining and bengaline. “I understand why, in this time, people would be obsessed with protecting themselves.” Most of the fabrics have the feeling of protection. They all have stretch, they can be worn and still support the shapes because they have tension in them. This is particularly true of the trousers from this collection, which shows through the kick at the hem and the gathering at the knee. Through the simple and seamless construction in the collection, the silhouette itself starts evoking the feeling of being sketched. The human figure is simplified to a familiar yet radical shape that encompasses the idea of ‘fast-pace’ within the garments.
“This is probably the truest thing I can say. When I’m on a bus, I look at everything. I can’t stop looking at the street and everything around me. It doesn’t necessarily come from street style, it’s the movement of what’s around me.”
Words Soeun Grace Ahn
Images Jake Burt and Stefan Cooke