Going into her placement year, Central Saint Martins Fashion Communication and Promotion student Lydia Chan shows us that her journey at Central Saint Martins is about making the course work for you. Not finding FCP everything she had anticipated, she was determined to branch out of the course’s norms and found her skill in the varied mix of set design, hair, millinery and jewellery making. We talked with her about the collection of ‘monster’ jewellery she is working on, and how the time she spent feeling like an outcast fueled her obsession with the scary.

What brought you to CSM to study FCP?

I wanted to be a stylist, and felt that London was the right place. I’m from Canada, and there are not a lot of opportunities there. They do a lot of commercial styling for TV shows, commercials and adverts for things like cars or supermarkets. I wanted to come to CSM to really push my styling and creativity, and I was interested in all forms of promotion.

How did your work begin moving away from FCP?

I feel like not being able to fit in with the culture of my course motivated me to find a creative space that could accept me. My course pushes photography a lot, but I don’t think I really have the eye for it. I’m usually too focused on the content or fashion in the image to feel uncomfortable when I see photos with bad composition. It’s something I try to work on, but I don’t see photography as something I want to do for the rest of my life. A lot of my classmates make work in a documentation photography style, capturing young people in a sort of easy unproduced way. But the work I’m more interested in are some of the things produced when Nicola Formichetti was at Dazed or when Meadham Kirchhoff was at their height — when everyone was dressing really colourful and wild.

I think people in my class see me as being ‘too much’, so I thought I’d start doing my own thing. I started doing set design and I’ve always made jewellery in my own time. It’s getting a lot better now, but I always felt that there was too much quiet jewellery in the universe. The philosophy is if you are going to adorn your body, you should go all out, make it a party, have some fun. The rest of my work just grew from there.

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“Being in FCP rather than jewelry gives me a different approach to my jewelry. I’m less concerned about a concept and more about the story my jewelry communicates. Doing my placements really helped with the promotion and business side of my work.”

When did the hair and millinery start?

My last project of this year was focused on hair, which we did in collaboration with SHOWstudio; that was when I really got into making hairpieces.

What are you working on at the moment?

My previous work has been with yarn or toys that I assemble together into necklaces. After a while it felt like I was too reliant on ready-made objects. The work I was producing didn’t feel authentic enough. My current collection is 3D beaded jewellery inspired by monsters. It’s really colourful and cartoony.

Where did the inspiration come for monsters?

Being an outcast, not fitting in, people thinking I’m weird or people not liking me has been a motivational factor in most of the things that I make. Monsters only exist because they are an outcast to normal society. If you don’t accept them, you turn them into something monstrous. Also I think of myself as a bit of a maximalist, and I always think of monsters as ‘too much’. Like too many eyeballs, too many mouths or too many spikes.

Where did the process for your collection come from?

When I was in the fourth grade it was very popular in Hong Kong to make 3D beaded animals, and I got really into that. Recently I went back to that 3D geometric beading technique and that’s how I began making my monster necklaces.

What do you think about being interdisciplinary?

It’s great because I’m always thinking of new things I want to do, being interdisciplinary allows me to achieve all of them. But one of the problems is that I don’t have enough time to focus on one thing and be an expert in one field. I’m like a jack of all trades, and end up being good at a variety of things but an expert at none. It becomes a bit harder to establish myself as the go-to person for a particular thing when there are so many people who are experts in those fields. But when I graduate, the main thing is doing jewellery and set design. I’m planning on starting my own brand, while doing freelance set design.

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“Being an outcast, not fitting in, people thinking I’m weird or people not liking me has been a motivational factor in most of the things that I make. Monsters only exist because they are an outcast to normal society.”

What kind of materials do you use?

Mostly beads and monofilament. Currently I work mostly with faceted acrylic beads because of the scale and price point of my jewelry. But in the future I want to work more with swarovski or with custom molded beads.

What is your take on jewellery while you’re not doing the course, but FCP instead? Do you feel like you have any advantages?

Being in FCP rather than jewelry gives me a different approach to my jewelry. I’m less concerned about a concept and more about the story my jewelry communicates. Doing my placements really helped with the promotion and business side of my work. Ultimately, though, being self taught means that there are a lot of gaps in my technical skills and my creativity is limited by that. But I can gain those skills along the way.

What exactly are you planning for your final year project?

For my final project in FCP it would be a presentation of my monster collection, which I will hopefully use as a launching pad for my brand when I graduate. I am currently working on finishing my major monster collection. It’s difficult to say where I want to position my jewelry at the moment. It really depends on how I refine my work later on. In the next few years I want to have a sustainable jewelry business and see a few of my pieces worn on the street.

Three most exciting experiences from the past year?

  1. Doing the set with Gary Card for Charles Jeffery’s first menswear show.
  2. Finishing my first major monster necklace, I was working on it on and off throughout the year, it’s magnificent.
  3. Entering the live butterfly and insects gallery in Edinburgh. Butterflies flying all around, watching as they struggle to emerge from their cocoons and then fly away victoriously — it was amazing.

Words by Eleanor Sutherland

All images courtesy of Lydia Chan

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