Central Saint Martins graduate Strong The certainly is an analyst. He is always looking at his surroundings and at himself, a result from his childhood spent in the hospital having an abundance of time to think, to observe and subsequently, to have a greater appreciation for those in the medical industry. This is where he developed his understanding of people with a disability who refuse to accept a static lifestyle. A creative individual with an ingrowth of wisdom, Strong claims a philosophical mind and convergent thinking from his experiences, rather than allowing life’s imperfections to hold him back. “Find yourself first and your work will come naturally.”

That is why he decided to centre his graduate collection around disabilities. He began his research by filming public spaces looking for people with physical impairments, with many of his clips filmed around CSM. He spoke with great inspiration when showing me some of his video research, stating that it was “really enjoyable” for him and that he “became happier each time because they’re not giving up.”

Some generic responses to questions on passion and fashion are not to be found here. As he tells me his BA in Thailand was “art and 2D, all I did was art and 2D,” but that he had always been interested in how people dress, particularly older generations, who he thinks portray experiences better than some youths following celebrity trends. This interesting reflection on how people dress comes to surface even more as I question his experiences throughout his childhood and how it has impacted his creative process leading to his MA research.

He explains that he was born with really bad asthma and is prone to sickness and has numerous allergies. This is why his mother called him Strong ‒ a constant reminder from birth to be persistent, “to be stronger.” He tells me that “An awareness of your weaker areas is positive as you can work towards your strengths more,” as not to be completely ignorant of your weaknesses makes you and your work… Stronger.

The surprising asymmetry in his shirts, he explains, demonstrates your changing temperature when you’re sick. Too hot. Too cold. His masked sling jersey top designs combine elements of fluctuating body temperatures and the idea of wearing masks in public to prevent spreading your illness. In one design there is even the translation of a sling used for injured arms, however as part of the garment rather than an ‘add-on’.  Asymmetrically draped trousers translate walking with crutches as one leg is always raised, bent.

It’s enchanting hearing the graduate speak so passionately and empathetically about physical impairments and fashion. I have never thought of combining the two ‒ if your arm is broken you have a cast and sling, your legs are supported by crutches, it isn’t ‘fashionable’ and a bit dreary but that’s always been the acceptance, the forfeit of injury. Well, not for this innovative mind advising ironically to “Just walk with it, don’t run and skip it because everything is shaping you to something and when you run and fall, you fall harder.” This metaphorical thinking with the practicality of his aesthetics is just another factor in the creative’s thought process.

Words Melys Edwards
Images Joyce NG