When I meet Nolwenn Faligot, one of the few students on the MA womenswear course at Central Saint Martins, it’s inside the studios on a Friday afternoon during the end of the spring term. The studios, which are typically found with students sprawled over tables cutting papers and draping mannequins, are instead divided into sections featuring each student’s pieces from their graduate collections — their labour of love from the past 45 weeks. It is quiet, except for a few individuals wandering, having hushed conversations with fellow students and pointing at different pieces. One can only imagine the amount of hours spent in this room tirelessly working, yet Nolwenn looks anything but stressed as she greets me.
We begin by going through a photo book of her inspirations, and as she turns the pages, there are several photos of Buddhist monks clad in a Kasaya (traditional robes of Buddhist monks), in a temple in Tibet. “I looked a lot at Tibetan monks and how they dress in a particular way,” she says. “They don’t necessarily wear the sleeves, because it has to be more practical. And there are arches, otherwise they’re stuck in movement. So it becomes quite a new way of looking at clothes and how things would be worn. On the other hand, I wanted to look at more military aspects and place some strictness into my looks.” Even the parka Faligot is wearing during our interview is reminiscent of the dark olive green staple of military uniforms. “In my aesthetic, I see a woman who isn’t quite girly. She is active and has a slightly masculine side to her. That’s why I looked at menswear and the military,” she adds. The focus in her collection is on the individual pieces and the craftsmanship behind it, not the body. As an example Faligot holds out a dark dress that features gauging pleats all over the bodice. “All the details come from different places,” she remarks, indicative of her own background. “I really love to draw on the identity I have, because it’s quite specific. I’m actually French, Breton, but I’ve been living here in London for seven years. It’s kind of a mix of all cultures and I really hope to bring that into my work as well.”
Faligot moved to London when she decided to pursue fashion design as a career. “I was quite young when I knew I wanted to go into fashion, I think around 11 years old,” she explains. Through researching fashion education, she came to realize that London was where she needed to be. “It’s much more technical in France, but I wanted that creativity you find in London.” She completed her BA Womenswear in Kingston University, and interned for Meadham Kirchhoff for two seasons, as well as Hiroko Koshino in Japan. “That was great, because I’m interested in the Japanese philosophy and how they think about the body. Just to see the way they were doing pattern cutting was really interesting.”
Faligot then went on to study MA womenswear at Central Saint Martins. “I think there’s so much pressure at first. Because you think: ‘I need to really work hard’, but in the end, you need to realize that the fact you got on the MA means that there is something about you that works, and that it is good and creative enough,” Faligot admits. As for plans post-MA course? “Hopefully getting a job soon! I want to work somewhere, because there’s still so much to learn, and you need experience to build a company. Making this collection made me realize that when you have to do everything on your own, it’s almost impossible. If you work in a company, you have specific people to handle things. Here we have to focus on everything at the same time. So it would be great to work somewhere with less pressure.” Will then there be any possibility for Nolwenn Faligot to be seen stitched on a label? “Maybe in ten years or so! I’m not in too much of a hurry to start my own label. I want to get as much as I can from the industry first and work wherever I can. I really want to go to Paris for Hermès or Christophe Lemaire. Then, you never know, you just might find that you don’t need to start your own label!”
Words by Natalie Chui
Lookbook photography by Tony Tran