Bag projects have kind of become a ‘thing’ at Central Saint Martins. We can guess that it is because in reality accessories have been booming in sales for the past few years. Like Zowie Broach, the Head of MA Fashion at the Royal College of Art, told us: “You know how accessories are a very powerful thing for money, and in the industry it’s the thing that we all know moves faster than a dress. I mean, how weird: we all want to be the dress designer when we know it’s the bag designer who makes way more money.” And while there is no accessory-focused BA course at CSM, there are in fact a number of industry-based accessory briefs for BA Fashion students. We spoke with Jiale An, who finished his Céline project last year, subsequently interned for half a year and travelled the world to gather inspiration for his graduate collection, which will be ready in a little more than 6 months.
Can you explain your course a little bit?
I’m on the Fashion Design and Marketing course — we design in response to the needs of the market. The designs are not constricted to menswear or womenswear; we are free to make whichever we want. It is a four-year sandwich course and in the third year we are free to go for a placement year.
What were your ideas when you started out?
When I began my bag collection for the Céline project, I wanted to create something that was multi-functional. There’s a 1970s Chinese documentary called ‘Revolution’ about people living in the countryside in the early 20th Century, earning a living by taking and selling their craftwork to the markets in town. They have to carry a lot of things, bags and bits and pieces of all sizes; as a result they walk very slowly. I based my conceptual practice around this and wanted to create something for these people. As the project was a collaboration with Céline, I also researched the brand. So, apart from the emotional idea behind the outcome, I worked to create ideas for the brand’s future production.
Whose pieces do you personally wear?
It’s a Sunday afternoon and you’ve finished all your work for the week (imagine)… what are you going to do?
Go to interesting exhibitions or wander around the markets.
If you were to wear one piece of clothing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
An ankle length black wool coat.
What are you working on at the moment?
My graduation collection.
Where should we expect to see your pieces in the future?
Do you have any comments about your material practice?
Yes I do, not only in the womenswear department, but also with my accessories. After six months of internships, I chose to travel to gather inspirations for my material practice. I traveled across Europe, North America and Latin America and my inspiration for the materials I am using in my graduate collection came out of those journeys.
Do you plan to set up your own design business or work for a bigger entity?
I will work for a big entity first, and see how that goes.
If you were given unlimited money to spend what would you do with it?
Me and my other half would launch a CSM-like library in China. However, this project has already started; at the moment we are collaborating with Harvard Jennifer College architecture graduates for the interior and spacial design part.
Follow @jiale_an’s work on Instagram
Words by Clem Macleod