Representing the creative future

Central Saint Martin’s Reset 2023: A new era for the White Show

The White Show turned fully circular

Over recent years the standing of the catwalk show format has been picked apart, reformed, digitized and deconstructed in a seemingly endless cycle of the fashion industry’s constant desire to stay ahead of the curve. But after being challenged to rethink how we present clothing when tasked with putting on the first-ever Reset show, the new name of CSM’s long-running ‘White Project’. This year, the fashion department of the university pushed the students to think fully circularly and not be precious with their designs, which they will be going to Sweden to become thread again so next year’s students can use them again. We spoke with course leader Sarah Gresty to start exploring how fashion education can work with textile companies and the supply chain at large to make school projects more relevant.

Despite keeping the baseline of working entirely with textiles devoid of any colour, pattern or distinctive textures the new name of the project came with a brand new concept. “It’s come off the back of about a year’s worth of relationship building with Renewcell.” Says BA Fashion Design course leader Sarah Gresty, introducing CSM’s newfound partnership with the Swedish textile company whose motto is: making fashion circular. “They gather [textile] waste from across Europe and America; cotton and viscose or denim, like pairs of Levi’s 501’s. They’ve developed a technique where they can completely recycle them up to seven times; they make it into a sort of pulp, which are then made into these raw paper-like sheets; then they get sent to Portugal and woven into thread, made into this shirting-type material, or Ultrasuede which is completely plant-based.”

The full show

“After the show, when they’ve finished we’re asking for all the garments to be returned. Then we will send them all back to Sweden, it’ll all get turned back into pulp, back into thread, back into fabric and then the new fabric will be sent back to us for the next year’s first-year students to use.” – Sarah Gresty

Working with these recycled cottons, vegan suede, and even the raw-unprocessed sheets of cotton-pulp, provided by Renewcell, Italian cotton weavers Beste and the Japan-based textile company Toray, 1st-year fashion students were challenged to incorporate the concept of circularity into their look from the very start of the project. “After the show, when they’ve finished we’re asking for all the garments to be returned.” She continues on the ‘Reset’ aspect of the project. “Then we will send them all back to Sweden, it’ll all get turned back into pulp, back into thread, back into fabric and then the new fabric will be sent back to us for the next year’s first-year students to use. So it’s properly circular.”

Describing this shift as “building on the legacy of the White Show,” as opposed to throwing it all out and starting from scratch, the element of collaboration stayed and was thankfully kept intact amidst the reworking. Working across the five design disciplines CSM’s first-year Fashion Image and Promotion (FIP) students – also assuming a new name in 2023, previously known as Fashion Communication and Promotion – were tasked with managing the entire production of the inaugural Reset Show, including coming up with the concept, theme and staging. “The FIP students were challenged to RESET the stage of fashion […] which came through via the vibrancy of READY SET,” says Fashion Communication tutor Melanie Ashley, who worked directly with the group throughout the project, “We’re really proud of the music, movement, energy and optimism.”

Taking inspiration from the field of competitive sports, satirising Sports broadcasting and streaming sites, the concept of READY SET was built on the idea of fashion as a sport: “A perpetual game and we are its zealous players.” States the READY SET Website. “All the content and digital media were produced by the students.” Ashley adds, “It’s a huge project to take on in your first term, it’s a challenge but the students’ creative resilience powered through, it’s safe to say that I would hire some of these 19-year-olds to produce shows with me today.”

The level of student-lead preparation was all the more evident in the final presentation which transformed CSM into an athletic arena; set against a soundtrack including Arca, Ethel Cain and Cher remixes interspersed with Match of the Day-esque soundbites; READY SET was a playful spectacle, without forgoing the celebratory energy of White Shows’ past. Diverse looks united by a singular colour, or lack thereof; including Womenswear’s Konnie Stafford’s ‘Making Interning Chic Again’ ensemble, Fashion Design with Marketing’s Nicholas Skeen’s APPALACHIA tentacle-clad look and Menswear’s Ryan Honza’s trolley-pulling finale some notable mentions.

Challenged with designing an impermanent garment, something which will only exist for a certain amount of time before being transformed into a new, literal blank canvas for next year’s crop of fashion ingenue’s is a new concept for many designers, radical and freeing, instilling an influential mindset of circular design in the next generation of design talent. “We’re making the White Show more relevant,” Sarah adds, expanding on her plans to continue this new circular process for the foreseeable future. “The response has been excellent and I hope other universities are inspired to do similar circular projects. I’m excited to see where it’s going to go.”