They say that it takes 10,000 hours to hone one’s craft, and after 18 months of focused creation, Central Saint Martins’ latest MA graduates are certainly on their way. Last night’s show was the perfect celebration of these emerging talents, released into the world on the second day of London Fashion Week.
Garments are a transcription of lived experience, a surface through which one can contemplate and record utopian ideals and alternate ways of being, interactions with memory and nostalgia, political ideas and conversations – worldviews in their broadest sense. Each designer’s collection was defined by their own fragile interpretations of the world around them, and, whilst once out in the world clothes eventually lose their connection to the initial ideas that inspired and fuelled their creation, the show was an apt reminder that inspiration is indeed all around us; all we have to do is look for it.
Last night’s collections were incredibly diverse, some focussing more on concept whilst others evidenced a clear affection for traditional craftsmanship and material processes. Constantly referenced was the intersection of construction and deconstruction, a recurring theme being the emphasis on sculpture and form, beginning with Liam Johnson’s bouncing silhouettes and culminating in Edwin Mohney’s exaggerated, theatrical forms. There was ethereal, printed womenswear draped and tied around the body, deconstructed reminiscences on schoolboy uniforms, oversized florals embossed and debossed on felting and coats with unorthodox quantities of belts and pockets, perfect for someone leaving the house with more than a phone and credit card but not quite enough to justify a handbag. We saw sculptural jersey pieces and deconstructed takes on menswear suiting, loosely tailored and elegant in their androgyny, the occasionally flared suit pant sure to be the envy of many a female colleague or companion. Hours had been spent on knitting machines, the final pieces reflective of immense craftsmanship; a true labour of love. Elise Perrota’s knitted collection was cathartic, a thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of classic knitwear pieces.
However, it wasn’t just the clothes that had everyone talking – the shoes alone provided plenty of inspiration. Mid-calf 60s boots with circular cut out detailing at the back, wool felted pumps resting on sculptural heels, and barely there, soleless footwear that collided somewhere between a sock and a beginner’s ballet shoe. Donald Trump’s head even touched the runway, wrapped around a model’s feet (which wouldn’t be the first time).
At a moment in which the business is already oversaturated with designers, one can’t help but wonder where we, as new designers, are all going to fit into the equation. Yet, as is the case each year, industry leaders look to this set of graduates for fresh perspectives and novel interpretations of the world, green minds ready and eager to level with an industry that is overworked and over-scheduled, desperately seeking revival and reinvention.
The exuberant spirit that characterised many of last night’s collections reminded us that fashion should be expressive and enjoyable, an outlet for relief, a form of reprieve and a perfect opportunity for escapism at a time in which the world needs it most.
Words Lucy MacDonald Images Liam Leslie
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“In terms of the fabric, I chose fabrics that felt very cheap to me ‒ flat, nasty, unexpected.’ Using this as a starting point, Liam’s challenge was to elevate his textiles to a luxury level. He focussed on the intersection of two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality, bringing flat printed elements to life in 3D form. An important aspect of his process came from an awareness of the space around each individual piece, examining where the 2D meets the 3D and where the 3D meets the space. “I was trying to break everything down to its original form, it’s most abstract shape.”
Liam works closely with textiles but isn’t particularly formulaic in the way he designs; rather, he describes his process as unstructured, drawing on everything around him. “It’s about what you feel. I was just trying to make everything as honest as possible.”
Womenswear designer Rebecca Jeffs took away one of two L’Oreal Professional Creative Awards on Friday evening, her collection an attempt at “challenging the many facets of ‘femininity’ and questioning the gendering of material objects.” She says that her process of development and creation unfolded very organically over the course of the project, as each garment maintained its own individuality, yet remained connected to one another through the details.
ARCHIE ALLED MARTINEZ
Hailing from the knitwear pathway on the BA Textiles Degree, Archie identified from the outset of the MA his desire to create a collection that was reflective of both his technical skill as well as his interest in knitwear design. “I intended to create a collection where each one of the garments was entirely designed and knitted from scratch by me: jeans, shirts, tailoring, felted coats.”
Captivated by the Parisian night scene of the late 70s and early 80s in combination with an exploration of gay culture during this period, the aesthetic of his collection emerged from an effort to infuse his pieces with undercurrents of sex and desire that were palpable at this time, all the while maintaining a sense of elegance and composure.
Driven by the ambition to create objects of desire, Archie explains his pursuit to redefine modern elegance, simultaneously challenging the audience’s perception of what high technical knitwear can be. “I came from BA Textiles at CSM having a strong technical knowledge of knitwear but having no clue of what my vision of menswear was. I think the most challenging aspect of all this process was really to identify who was I designing for and who my man really is.”
‘I wanted to bring something that was related to me and my family. All the women in my family are very important to me, they have big personalities and an incredible sense of style – think loads of jewellery and purple hair.’
Ernesto started collecting various objects from his grandmother’s home from which he began creating sculptures. These assemblages gradually became very heavy, so he set about refining them into more portable versions. Many of his pieces incorporate these sculptural elements in exaggerated, brooch-like forms that descend down the garment with their numerous playful accoutrements. Long, blunt, square footwear, tasselled headpieces and hanging plates that resemble enormous sequins exploit the theatrical spirit of his collection, undercurrents of humour and irony running throughout.
“My knitwear and textile research is all based on really crafty techniques, hand knitting, wet felting, needle felting. I was going through tons of vintage craft magazines to source cable stitches and old methods of soap felting. I think there’s still this idea that when women are creative and can work a skill with their hands they are ‘crafty’, it’s something I’ve been hearing since I was in art high school in Italy. So I kind of wanted to take that idea and be playful with it, work with techniques and aesthetics that are even a little ugly and turn them into something else.”
Having already honed her skills on the BA Textile Design, the steepest learning curve of the MA for Elise was the journey to uncovering who she was as a fashion designer. Describing her aesthetic as “soft but bold, playful and feminine and also very fluffy,” Elise’s collection highlights her sensitivity for materiality and form, showcasing her ability to infuse her design with innovative material qualities as well as her capacity to reimagine and contemporise classic knitwear.
Menswear designer Daniel Crabtree’s collection began through an examination of British fine artist of the 80s, Christopher Nemeth. Crabtree was inspired by Nemeth’s crude approach to fashion, which, despite not knowing how to make anything, emerged as a logical solution to his inability to find clothing that he liked. Through his own collection, Daniel reinterprets Nemeth’s haphazard approach to design, drawing patterns free hand and constructing them out of upcycled garments to give old pieces new life. He explains, “Every piece is, therefore, a bit cropped, a bit square and a bit weird.” This ‘weirdness’ is further echoed in the details, interpreted through elements such as a handcrafted stitch, his design methods honouring slow processes and resourceful approaches to pattern cutting and use of materials. Influenced by Buffalo and the Beat movement, his boyish collection has “got a kind of old man thing about it.” Daniel describes it as “resourceful,” functioning as a body of staples that although designed independently of one another, when styled together seem to make perfect sense.
Womenswear designer, Yuhan, used her collection as a platform through which to explore Asian femininity and its connectedness to western culture, specifically exploring the notion of women indoors. She explains, “Everyone who lives in a crowded city has the experience of your neighbour’s window facing yours, or you are passing by a private building with half covered windows – the curiosities always tempt people to explore the possibilities of the stories behind the curtain, leaving you in suspense as to what could be on the other side.”
Working with the curtain as a metaphor for the boundary between public and private, Yuhan’s collection decodes the way in which we dress our bodies and the kinds of stories that these choices create and project into the world. Using the body as a metaphor for the private space or room behind the curtain, the designer analyses clothing as a medium through which we conceal and reveal feelings and share stories. The sheer fabric used in her collection toys with the frontier of public and private, Yuhan’s ethereally draped, floral printed dresses drawing on historical loungewear references, building an aesthetic that the designer describes as “beauty with weirdness, softness, delicacy and sensibility.”
Originally from Italy, Camilla’s womenswear collection focuses on the transition between the 60s and 70s, seeking to capture the youthful spirit of the student revolution that took place in Italy during this time. One of the key starting points for her collection was the study of structures that move when worn, specifically focusing on the form of a braid and the way in which it unravels. Materiality was an important aspect of her collection; she chose to use rubber in place of leather, constructing pieces from tyres and using leather-working techniques to stitch them together. An unanticipated body of accessories evolved very organically alongside her garments throughout the production process; bags that when opened extend out theatrically in the manner of accordions.
JOAN ROS GARROFE
Joan’s collection centred on the empowerment of the working class. He examined hard mod culture as a representation of the pride of the working class, fusing this with the silhouettes and constructions of Cristóbal Balenciaga. As Joan explains, Balenciaga was one of the first designers to bring back references of labourers and reinterpret them into couture.
Describing his collection as, “bold, severe and essentialist,” Joan says that his process of development and creation was totally linear; “It was like a funnel, the deeper I went, the more concrete it became. At some point it was like taking out everything I had around me, standing naked, just looking inside me, and from that, starting to build it again.” He credits time, organisation and discipline as key components of his creative success, and feels fortunate to have been in an environment in which he was surrounded by people who had “the ability to put our brains inside theirs, analyse and take the best of each of us.”
One of very few students on the MA to have originated from the BA Textiles degree, Moon used her understanding of and fascination with materiality as a defining feature within her design process. Her collection is incredibly personal, largely functioning as a reference to what she herself wears and feels inspired by.
Moon’s collection began as somewhat of a critique of the fashion industry, a meditation on the incessant consumerism and subsequent culture of disposability that is so characteristic of contemporary society. With this in mind, the starting point of Moon’s research was the concept of a uniform, one of the first ever mass produced garments. She began by researching traditional men’s uniforms, contemplating their inherent utilitarianism and looking also to traditional workwear references such as lab coats. Part of her quest in designing the collection was the conceptualisation of a body of garments that serve as a counterpoint to an industry saturated by clothing that sexualises the female form. She says, “Society is so homogenous and we’re all acting the same without realising.”
Moon’s work embodies fascinating paradoxes; every garment in the collection originates from a single pattern – the trousers are all cut from the same pattern, as are the jackets. However, unlike uniforms, Moon’s designs are fabricated from eight or nine different materials, each of which interacted with her patterns in entirely unique ways, rendering every individual piece limited edition and entirely bespoke.
Womenswear designer, Joshua Kim, perfectly captured the spirit of his hometown of LA, his collection an embodiment of a collision of American sportswear and haute couture. He says, “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was always drawn to its two realms: tacky red carpet glamour and laid back street clothes. There’s a laziness but also a high-maintenance sensibility to the way LA girls dress. I love this contrast. And it’s what makes my girls so distinct.”
With this LA attitude in mind, Joshua used couture techniques for his construction, working with corsets, padding, tailoring, embroidery and draping, offsetting these traditional material techniques with grey marl sweat fabric. He says, ‘Making beautiful clothing is indulgent. Making a point of view is challenging.’ Craft is key for Joshua; every collection he conceives incorporates some form of sparkle and embellishment, the challenge within this being the quest to find a modern way to integrate these details into his design. “There was so much problem solving involved to make the clothes structured and easy looking.” It took Joshua three months to construct his two embroidered pieces; during the day he constructed his garments and every night he embroidered from 10pm until dawn, attaching his mirror shards and plastic pieces.
Whilst research, sketching and styling are all essential aspects of his creation, Joshua begins the whole process on the stand, free hand draping and cutting. “Everything started from inside out. Inner corsets with shoulder pads that I’ve carved and shaped. Then draping and folding inspired by classic evening gowns. To clash it, I made Lurex t-shirts with my logo design (some printed, some embroidered) and incorporated streetwear details and closures.”
The inspiration for Nick’s collection originated from Propaganda Magazine, an American cult publication of the 80s and 90s that covered emergent gothic subculture, founded in 1982 by Fred H. Berger, a photographer from New York City. Using this as a starting point, Nick’s collection evolved into an exploration of Gothic mourning rituals, examining the beauty and extravagance intrinsic within them. Nick references his fascination with these rituals, explaining the influence that they have had on his work, noting the level of self-indulgence involved. “Families would literally spend all of their money to show that they were in mourning for someone.” As such, many of the pieces in his collection are based around the reconceptualization and contemporisation of traditional Victorian mourning pieces.
Referencing the quote, ‘beauty is terror’ from Donna Tartt’s novel, The Secret History, Nick maintains in his own words that, “If you find something beautiful you should be kind of afraid of it.” This sentiment is clearly identifiable within his own work; he has an exacting vision that very neatly treads the boundary of darkness and light, and, in keeping with Tartt’s observation, beauty and terror.
Nick’s development process involves finding physical evidence of the kinds of things he would like to recreate – tangible pieces that he can use as starting points within his own design process. For this collection, the Indiana born designer shopped a body of vintage pieces, identifying the fabrication and the techniques he wanted to use, drawing on elements from all around him. A lot of his vintage pieces came from the States, specifically the patchworks, embroideries, and jewellery. Many of the embroidered edges in his collection are made from upcycled antique Jet pieces (the material used in Victorian mourning jewellery), bits that he and embroidery designer, Hattie McGill, dismantled and reused fragments of. Jeweller Chris Habana’s moth brooches (cast from lace) lend a level of sensitivity to his collection, the jewellery symbolic of reincarnation and new life.
French-Danish womenswear designer, Anne Isabella, had a clear idea of what she wanted to achieve through her collection from the outset. Working from the idea of an existing garment, she took images of vintage pieces that she loved and put them through a scanner, focussing on the idea of bringing a two-dimensional form to life three-dimensionally. The collection originally began with the concept of flat packing clothes, however, when a glitch happened during the scanning process, she saw an opportunity and began exploiting it.
“It became about the small glitches. I kind of wanted to focus on the details; I worked on creating these buttons that were a bit off in shape, I wanted it to be really subtle so that on the first look you weren’t quite sure what was going on and on a closer look it was that subtle detail. Something looking very conventional that maybe becomes a bit fucked up.”
Vintage garments from around the late 60s and early 70s were a formative aspect of her inspiration and as such, when it came to building a collection of her own, wool jersey became one of the key fabrics, the material qualities of which allowed her to capture the spirit of the original vintage garments to which she was initially drawn.
Dohan’s menswear collection began from his own personal quest to determine what defines masculinity, a subject he has pondered since his adolescence, during which time he had health concerns that slowed his physical growth and development. Left wondering during this period what he would look like once he eventually did mature, Dohan’s work seeks to encapsulate these lines of questioning, using tailoring as a medium through which to distort symbols of conventional masculinity, particularly how it manifests itself in youth.
The central material within his collection is linen, which he has transformed through the use of traditional Korean techniques such as starching and moulding in order to achieve three-dimensional, sculptural forms. This is Dohan’s first ever menswear collection, having produced a body of womenswear pieces during his final year of the BA at CSM. Dohan explains that he has felt much more connected to the process of designing menswear. With this being a very personal collection, designing pieces that are so intimately connected to his own personal taste and identity as a young male has allowed for a much more organic creative journey.
Eleanor’s starting point begins with the collection of old photographs from markets; images that document proportion and evidence what she refers to as ‘real clothes’. “The clothes that I design are supposed to be worn and you should be able to wear them all day everyday and they should feel amazing.”
Eleanor graduated from the CSM BA Menswear in 2014, since which time she has continued to be fascinated by the way in which clothes are so often just thrown on. She is particularly charmed by people wearing pieces that were not necessarily intended for them, and the interesting shapes and disparate proportions that transpire from these slightly awry combinations.
Eleanor does a lot of vintage research, carefully selecting beautifully constructed vintage pieces from charity shops and using them as reference points for her own collections. Her work is all about shape and proportion – because of this, the way that she works is very tactile and very physical. “Everything is about the pattern cutting, so I just toile and toile and toile and toile and toile until something feels right or until I get an idea down.”
She says, “The inside is really important to be because that’s what touches you and that’s what you interact with the most. So all of my jackets had this really beautiful satin lining and then a slightly different one in the sleeve – that’s really important to me, actually.” Eleanor’s entire collection is hand finished, from the under collars to the linings. “If I were to buy something, that would really matter to me. It’s all these really stupid things that no one would know are there. It’s such a cliché but menswear is in the details.”
For Australian twins, Laura and Deanna, the MA was the perfect opportunity for collaboration. They functioned as an ideal duo, Laura hailing from the womenswear specialization and Deanna from the knitwear pathway. Inspired by late 1960’s Italian space age films as well as armour, chain mail and protective sportswear, their collection evolved through an analysis of the shapes and colours of protective wear and chain mail garments, reworking and refining these ideas through their final collection.
A key component of their collaboration was effective communication with one another. “Our collaboration has been quite seamless, it’s been a pleasure and we’re looking forward to producing more collections together.”
Does anyone know where we can find Olaf? He’s not responding to our emails!
Paula begins each collection by gathering lots of images and constructing narratives. In this instance, she was particularly struck by the work of Paul Lee and the slightly peculiar, uncomfortable ways in which he fuses shape and colour. Spanish artist, Ouka Leele was also a formative influence within her research, the sense of oddity identifiable in both Lee and Leele’s work something that Paula attempts to infuse into her own design practice. Through her MA collection, she set out to achieve these sentiments of abnormality through the juxtaposition of complex visual sensibilities such as the shiny and the matte, the natural and the overly synthetic.
“I wanted the collection to be positive, but not childish. I believe there is a real gap in the market for womenswear that is sophisticated and empowering without being tailored and minimal.”
From Edwin’s polite request to refrain from answering the time-honoured journalistic classic of, ‘What was the inspiration for your collection?’, emerged my favourite answer to date: “I don’t believe in inspiration.” More interested in putting a collection out into the world to provoke a response rather than trying to control the dialogue around his work, the designer explains that he would rather his audience attribute their own meaning to his pieces.
Naturally an analytical person, Edwin set out to create a collection that was highly considered and ultimately all about being well made, yet simultaneously about something undefinable. “I think it’s about making something really honest and instant…something that I needed to go through, something I needed to use as a stepping stone to develop as a person.”
The designer’s exaggerated sculptural forms closed the show on Friday night, which, beyond the obvious significance of this as an important career moment, also held particular personal significance for Edwin and his boyfriend and fellow designer, Liam Johnson, who opened the show with his own uniquely sculptural silhouettes.
When asked what he will miss most about his time at Central Saint Martins, Edwin says, “I think that the safety of that bubble, the community of people, the like-mindedness, the acceptance, the warmth, the hilarity, the ridiculousness. It’s just been the most incredible adventure and thing that I’ve ever, ever been lucky enough to be a part of.”