Michelle Lowe-Holder is one of the CSM kids back from the 90’s. She has graduated with an MA in Knitwear and has been creating innovative accessories collections under hew own label ever since. Browns, Topshop and over other 100 boutiques worldwide had sold her hand made designs. 1Granary had a pleasure to interview Michelle where she spoke of her story, how she got into MA and most amazingly, how she asked Louise Wilson for a cigarette while the later was about to decide her future. No more, read it for yourself!

What is your name?

Michelle Lowe-Holder

CSM kid is…picked, prodded and prized!

You were one of those kids, when attended MA in 1999. Please tell us about your time in CSM. How it was then? And what is your most cherished memory?

I interviewed with Louise Wilson for CSM Masters Program while over from a job in NYC where I was working and living at the time. I went straight from the airport with my suitcase and portfolio to the scruffy hallways of Tottenham Court Road’s Charring Cross campus. Nervous and waiting – my name was finally called to go into the infamous office.

It felt like a set for a fashion film – Louise & co., barely visible through the thick smoke, were wearing long black, with long dark hair, heaps of silver jewellery, all red lipstick, powdered skin and cigarettes –a glamorous gothic dream team!

I had not yet heard the legendary stories of Louise and her controversial verbal accolades… so, I walked in and asked her for a cigarette much to her surprise! She was actually very kind to me and told me to go outside after the interview while they discussed my future. She said since I was already working that she would…with respect – tell me on the spot, so as not to waste my time.

I patiently waited outside for my name to be called and walked hesitantly back into the smoky office to be told, “Yes – accepted.” I was over the moon – happy. It had always been a huge dream of mine to go to CSM for the Masters Program.

Many current MA students describe their experience in college as very “painful”, was it like that then as well? 

It was extremely “painful” – I had worked before in the industry and it is always hard to go back to “student” status after receiving a salary!

Do you ever come to visit college or tutors?   

I recently came to see the CSM graduate static shows, and was invited to see a lecture on “Science and Design”. I think the new building is beautiful and so very, very different to our CSM experience!

In 2009 LCF’s Center for Sustainble Fashion has invited you to a year long mentoring program. Tell us more about it.

Yes, I was mentored by LCF Centre of Sustainability in 2009/10 for a year and re-evaluated my design process and collections during this time. Recently LCF and CFS invited designers Christopher Raeburn, Matthew Miller, Alina Moat and myself to be involved in the NIKE “Materials Sustainability Index “ Makers Challenge project. Nike has been developing an app which measures and evaluates thousands of materials “carbon footprint” and “environmental impact” which is being tested and used by teams of chosen LCF students. We are currently mentoring these teams with the design brief set by Nike. It is a really exciting project and I feel honoured to be involved.

I have also been working with Istituti Marangoni for 5 years now and currently lecture on textiles and sustainable fashion. This is a very different experience but one I really enjoy and feel lucky to be a part of.

Describe your favourite collection ever created.    

Always the next one!

In recent years, you have changed your design direction onto the path to sustainability… What are your plans of developing your creativity? Any desire to come back to fashion design? Was it something particular why you decided to stop designing clothes and be a full time jewellery designer?                                                                                                               

I love making accessories and would like to expand this range – at the moment, I am happy to move slowly and steadily. All my pieces are hand-made and production is difficult, so my creativity is constantly challenged on many levels.

What is your design process like? What is a starting point for you?                                                                                                                 

I always start with materials/textile design or manipulation – I do not draw or sketch. We make prototypes in my studio and work outwards from that point. The process is organic and the materials reaction, look and aesthetic create the direction for the collection. Each collection grows from the past ideas and designs – and eases forward. Accessories lend themselves to this evolution and are quite different from clothing design.