On a sunny Tuesday morning in busy Shoreditch, Harry Evans sits calmly in his chair in a small corner café. “It’s really personal, actually,” says the young designer, reflecting on his new collection. He then sets off talking through the course of his career since graduating from Central Saint Martins’ Fashion MA in 2014, our conversation lying somewhere between an interview and a chat, as if we’d simply met for a coffee to catch up on life.
Evans has the extraordinary ability to achieve whatever he sets his mind to. Since his BA Knitwear debut—where he presented at the graduation show and received the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award in 2016—the young designer has appeared as a poster student for a successful career in fashion. The most impactful achievement, however, was perhaps the opportunity to present his eponymous brand’s SS18 collection at Fashion East in 2017. “I felt a lot of pressure before working with them, although it was definitely coming from me,” he tells me. “There was going to be this big audience and it made me really insecure. It made me hold back in what I was doing.”
“There was going to be this big audience and it made me really insecure. It made me hold back in what I was doing.”
Indeed, you can hardly compare his current collection with the one he showed at Fashion East; while the latter was colourful and bright, playing with bad taste and kitsch, Evans’ latest creation channels darker, harder energies, an aesthetic rather similar to his graduation collection. This time around, the designer drew inspiration from the distorted bodies in horror movies by David Cronenberg, from divinity and heroism, as in Caravaggio’s Judith and Holofernes, as well as from haute couture and female elegance. In order to achieve the creation of a beautiful piece out of disturbing images of the body, Evans relied on his extraordinary talent in knitwear. “I tried to find people who could help but they all said it’s too tricky,” he admits almost bashfully when asked about the making of the most technically challenging designs.
In fact, the most labour-intensive piece took him an entire month to make. The solid patterns for the black, loose-hanging dress, as well as its crocheted inscriptions, are knitted on the stand; piece by piece, they are fused with lycra to achieve a stretchy, comfortable feeling. Besides the grimace, directed right at you, the words “FUCK YOU” are covertly stitched across its arms and body. It’s the ultimate literal fashion message, whether sent consciously or unconsciously by the wearer to the crowd. Considering that Evans describes the collection as the embodiment of his feelings at the time, it is as authentic and direct as a collection can get.
After the Fashion East presentation, many things came together for the young designer. Professionally, the SS18 collection was not quite what he had been aiming for, both in terms of design and the response it received. And personally, the winter that followed had a few backlashes in store. “I was really down for a really long time. It was kind of intense— it’s kind of strange looking back at it now.” As many designers in similar positions do, Evans channeled his emotions into his design process. The depth this gives the collection is almost impossible to articulate—which is just what Evans aims for. “If I were able to describe what makes me want to make clothes in one sentence, I wouldn’t need to make them.”
“The big brands used to be exciting, but they’re not anymore.”
On the upside, Fashion East led the CSM talent to take a step back and make the decision to design off-schedule, at his own pace and with ultimate control over every step of the creative process. He was then able to create beautiful but time-intensive pieces, like the bronze knit dress. Its different panels are each created from different textures, some made by hand, others by machine. Hardly a surprise, then, that its creation took over a week. The seasonality and pace of the fashion system, however, makes work like this impossible. Instead, it forces many upcoming talents to keep up, to fit in. The vicious circle of the market’s demand, and brands’ focus on turning out and selling collections, takes away from the originality and personality of the creations. As Evans says, “The big brands used to be exciting, but they’re not anymore.”
Looking back on his lowest point since graduation, he admits that, given his circumstances around his SS18 collection, he would’ve done quite a few things differently. Maybe, however, this is exactly why he learned so much from it, especially when it comes to knowing “what to focus on when you put together a collection, what’s important, what people want to see. You have to make it a bit more true to yourself.” When asked about the “high” of his time since the MA show, he smiles: “Honestly, this collection. So in a way, the lowest point brought out the best of me.” Personalities like his could make fashion exciting again.
Words Laura Bachmann