“Originally, I was going to study architecture instead of fashion, I think it still influences me in some ways.” Ernesto Naranjo, a second year womenswear student, proves that you don’t have to wait ‘til you are in final year to make your first collection.
Ernesto’s classmate, Derek, sat down with the young designer whose achievements quite stand out from the young Central Saint Martins crowd. Back in the first year, Ernesto’s garment opened the White Show; this year, he showcased his first collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid through Samsung EGO, the platform for young fashion talents. The clean and modern collection filled with unexpected silhouettes and architectural shapes was a continuation of his white project. It won him the Mercedes Benz Fashion Talent Award and an opportunity to show the collection at Prague Fashion Week in April.
When did you first have a relationship with fashion?
It was when I went to buy a wedding dress with one of my cousins at the age of 16. I was helping her to pick the right dress. Interestingly, my mum told me that when I was little, back at home in Spain, I would throw fabrics into the air to see how they fall. My mum said that maybe that’s my first association with fashion.
Did you have any previous experience before coming to CSM?
For one and a half years, I studied fashion in Madrid. The reason I quit, is because they were really commercial and that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. Additionally, I worked for several designers in Spain, who taught me a lot through making garments for real women. In Spain, a lot of boutiques take a tailor-made approach to sell their clothes, and they have a loyal clientele. After Madrid, I came to CSM to study Fashion Folio. After that, I did a short placement with Balmain.
Do you think it’s necessary for anyone to have some experience before coming to CSM?
I think it’s important because we don’t really have a lot of pattern cutting or sewing lessons here. CSM is all about the concept and imagery. However, I think in the second year, we focused much more on the garments. The teachers didn’t even look at the sketchbooks.
Is Central Saint Martins focusing too much on sketchbooks, layout and drawing?
I learnt a lot about making sketchbooks and developing ideas in fashion folio; I am not really against that, because it’s where you show your concepts and inspirations. But in the end, most people will only judge you based on your garment.
I actually enjoy doing sketchbooks a lot; sometimes I enjoy doing sketchbooks more than actually making the garments. So it’s not really an issue for me.
Isn’t that a little bit detached from the real industry?
It could be one of the problems, but I think we are here to be creative, and do things that you enjoy. After that, you’ve still got time to learn about how real business works, like pattern cutting- these are things that you almost only can learn through real work experiences.
What is Spanish fashion like?
It’s very traditional, for me, it’s a little bit boring. The focus a lot on sales. I remember seeing images of what people were wearing in the 80’s in Spain, and they were much more interesting than how the people dress now. I think it’s also strange that the industry doesn’t support small labels. Also, fashion houses such as Zara and Mango don’t support local talents and young designers.
Tell us something about your experience with Samsung EGO at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid.
EGO is a platform for emerging talents in Madrid sponsored by Samsung. I was sharing the same make-up artists and backstage crew with the big brands, which was great. Even though Madrid is not a big fashion capital, it’s really nice to show your work in your own country and to the press, with that much complimentary support.
Tell us about your collection.
It is very different from what you would see in Madrid fashion week. I took my white project, expanded it and developed it further. The collection is called ‘Limit’, because it’s about limiting lines. I was exploring the contrast between the stillness of the sky with the chaos of the city, mixing them together.
How did you manage your time between this and school?
It was pretty crazy, but I didn’t want to lose it because it’s a big opportunity, and we had quite a long break. In CSM, every month we have a different project, and I think the projects are quite long; therefore I can make time for my personal work.
Did you sleep at all?
YES I did, I really did, and I never lose sleep. I always sleep more than 6 hours a day. I think that if you can manage your time very well, it’s possible. I think that’s quite important for a CSM student, actually.
Did you get any feedback or requests from buyers?
I did, but I don’t want to sell my first collection, I want to keep it private. I wanted to make it crazy and didn’t want to focus too much on selling them. Maybe later I will think more about that. Some buyers did want to buy some of the more commercial pieces, but I think for now, I should focus more on exploring myself at school.
Do you have any advice for young designers who want to apply for EGO or other similar platforms?
I think you have to be clear about what you want, maybe a platform like this is not your way of improving or exploring yourself. But for me, I think it was a great chance to do more work for my portfolio.
For the application part, I basically just showed my two sketchbooks and some 3D work to them.
Where do you want to go for your placement year after summer?
I don’t really have an absolute favourite brand, I look at each brand season by season. I think I will probably go for a small brand, so that I can learn more from it rather than being lost in a big brand. In Balmain, although it’s a big brand, the whole creative team included all of the interns’ work together and it was really nice. I want something like that. I like Lanvin, Comme des Garçons but I can’t speak Japanese, Margiela, Haider Ackermann, I liked Balenciaga before but now, I am not sure…
I also want to go from Paris to New York and then maybe somewhere else, but we will see.
Do you feel like the fashion world is becoming more and more commercial?
I saw the Viktor and Rolf RTW fashion show in Paris and it was a huge disappointment. Maybe they are focusing more on sales now and that’s why. I think when you are in the real world, you really have to think about who your customer is. But for example Gareth Pugh is doing something really cool and unexpected; it’s not so much about the trend.
Are you worried when you know that so many fashion graduates struggle so much to get a job?
Yes. There are certain requirements such as drawing in computer and technical drawings that we have to learn by ourselves. The freedom we have in CSM is unique – and that’s what makes CSM special – it can’t be changed. You have to be independent and maybe take courses outside.
Any survival tips for people who want to study at CSM?
Just be yourself, and go see fashion and look at things that you love. For me, my life is fashion. And don’t be too nervous about the tutors’ critics. I think CSM tutors are very honest, if they don’t like the work they will tell you, and I prefer to listen to that honest feedback at school.