Representing the creative future

CSM MA 2024: If I work hard enough, can I control my future?

Discover the CSM MA 24’ designers’ sketchbooks and collections

“I realised I’ve given up my youth to pursue my passion,” Paula Mihovilovic Einfalt, one of the MA 2024 designers told us when we asked about the most challenging part of the last two years. “There’s always another creation to make, another design to perfect. The industry’s demands create a perpetual cycle where there’s something more important than socializing, spending time with family, or connecting with friends,” she added casually. Acknowledging the hard work and perseverance that go hand in hand with the competitive nature of a top fashion degree, or the industry at large, is not a novel discovery. Yet, it is like this year’s graduates see overworking as a solution to scarcity.

It makes sense. When the fear of uncertainty takes over, all you can do is try to gain back control. The majority of the soon-to-be industry freshers mentioned the word “scared” more than once. Scared to start a label, scared to wait for a job offer, scared to freelance, scared to “lose the pressure of the MA.” Notions that previous years’ students yearned to free themselves from, such as the stressful environment of peer-to-peer competition and making a collection are this year presented as “privileges”. That is new. Have we become addicted to the adrenaline of working ourselves into the ground? Has stress become our comfort zone?

The collections reflect this hovering state of unpredictability the designers seem to be in. Hanging tight to artistry, from reviving traditional Icelandic craftsmanship to using domestic craft methods, the 2024 cohort of graduates directly addresses the industry’s failure to take care of its makers and questions the future of textiles, couture, and fabrics in search of stability. Gracey Owusu-Aguemang grew her own regenerative cotton in Zambia. Taking advantage of the safety the MA offers when it comes to experimenting, she planted 170 seeds during her summer holidays in her backyard, had them overseen by a farmer gardener while she was back in London for the course, and harvested them on the first day of this year. Forward-thinking processes like this make one wonder: Can a designer be given the time to experiment with new ways of working once out in the industry? The lack of time, money, and opportunities keep creativity captive, and these young designers are well aware of that.


On one side, we see a group of fashion-makers translating deep concepts such as cultural identity, queerness, and feminism into garments. They are strictly working with ecological ways of making clothes and proudly accept all the hardships that come with them. They challenge industrial methods and design with zero-waste cutting techniques. They confidently question everyday-wear silhouettes and are eager to subvert long-standing couture methods. But then, when asked about the future, they turn humble, quiet, and self-contained. Some would call them pessimists. We would call them the kids of recession, Covid, the living crisis, and wars. “The only thing that excites me is eventually earning some money, so I can finally afford that Tesco finest hummus,” Slovenian designer Lovro Lukić panted with frankness. “That is of course, if I get employed, doing my own thing would probably lead to even more poverty. The only thing I fear is that the fast pace of fashion is going to make me end up hating it.”

This year we are celebrating 40 years of London Fashion Week. Four decades of fashion honouring glamour, illusions, self-expressions, raw creativity, and confidence. But systemic change is clearly not coming from what we have been celebrating all these years. Maybe change comes from designers who are in touch with reality, who don’t stop asking themselves about the point of their work, and who, no matter how much they have already sacrificed in the name of a career, aren’t scared to ask: “Is it worth it?” and “Can I do it differently?”



Thora Stefansdottir

Drawing on Icelandic folklore, Stefansdottir crafts narratives centered on women who shapeshift. She explores body parts women around her wish to alter, using this insight to play with proportions and create distortions in her designs. Inspired by the beauty of her native environment, Thora pays homage to Icelandic craftsmanship, viewing it as a testament to the beauty that emerges when people harmonize with their surroundings and utilize available resources. In celebration of artisans who blend fashion with nature, the designer minimizes the use of artificial dyes and fabrics, honoring her heritage. Thora feels that creating extravagant and glamorous items is inappropriate given the current environmental context. Upon reevaluating the purpose of fashion design, she finds that embracing empathy and vulnerability is the most meaningful approach. Driven by a desire to contribute positively to the industry and promote true sustainability, Stefansdottir eagerly embraces the challenge of innovating with new materials.“The things that scare me also excite me. Changes must be made in the industry, and I am excited by that potential.”


Julia Sue Dotson

The thread that unifies Julia Sue Dotson’s work is their primary source of inspiration: their distant cousin Clara, the only link Dotson has to queer heritage through family history. Clara was a queer individual living in Reform, Alabama, during the 1950s. Dotson delves into domestic craft methods and the lives of queer communities in rural settings, employing graphic logos, screen printing, and patchworking with found materials that carry symbolic significance. Reflecting on their university experience, Julia highlighted the challenge of learning to trust their instincts in an environment that often encourages self-doubt as the most difficult aspect of their education. Pragmatic about the competitive nature of the fashion industry, the American designer is prepared to pursue a freelance career. Dotson harbours a greater ambition to establish an artist residency on their grandparents’ farm, drawing inspiration from Black Mountain College and Donald Judd’s work in Marfa, Texas.

Daniel Radke

How can craftsmanship and tailoring take the archetype of traditional masculinity towards a more progressive direction? This question underpins Daniel Radke’s creative endeavor. With carefully curated fabrics that are accessible, yet unique, such as  Italian cotton or German corduroy the designer uses tailoring to turn robust materials into lightweight, comfortable garments. In menswear, it is easy to get lost in the details of your designs, Radke suggests; this fear encouraged him to retain focus on the bigger picture, and the message he wanted to convey through his collection. Locating the industry’s issue to care for its artisans, Radke is excited to work with practitioners he aligns with, and to keep learning.

Paula Mihovilovic Einfalt

Inspired by her personal style evolution over the past five years and aiming to celebrate the transformative power of fashion, Croatian designer Paula Mhovilovic Einfalt marries street style with haute couture. She achieves this by integrating artisanal techniques and fine fabrics with materials typically reserved for everyday wear. Reflecting on her creative journey, Paula underscores the importance of dedication and relentless effort in the competitive realm of fashion. ‘In my quest for excellence, I’ve consistently opted for hard work over leisure,’ she shares, her tone light yet conveying the depth of her commitment and personal sacrifice. Despite being deeply immersed in rigorous work, the designer contemplates striking a balance between meeting the industry’s high demands and preserving her personal well-being.

Dhruv Bandil

Drawing inspiration from the archaeological sites in the Indian countryside, Dhruv Bandil, this year’s Loreal Professionel Prize winner, focused on statues that symbolize feminine power, reimagining these figures as ‘Art Addicts’. In his textile work, Bandil delved into the paintings of Jamini Roy, highlighting the artist’s distinctive graphic and ornamental style. Throughout his MA studies, the Indian designer mastered the art of maintaining composure and persevering during challenging times. Bandil views failure as an integral part of his creative journey, seeing it as an opportunity for growth. Post-uni he aspires to carve out a niche in the industry that allows him to challenge prevailing industrial practices.

Renato Bras

The archeology of childhood memories; was the inspiration source behind Renato Bras’ MA collection. With the Portuguese crafts and notorious textile industry leading his work, the designer subverted archetypal garments through pattern cutting. Locally sourced wool, organic jersey, and cotton shirting dress the feeling of being at the beach during the winter. Keen to bridge the gap between the creative carelessness of education and the reality of the business of fashion, Bras made an effort to specify his consumer, and this helped his process vitally. Feeling lucky to be amongst people who give so much of themselves to follow their dreams Renato is looking forward to finding some time for reflection after seven intense years of studying.

Gracey Owusu-Aguemang

Combining two existing brands, the African agriculture-focused Vallèe Noire and the luxury Afro-Asian DIJÁGO Studios (co-founded with Khudija Zaib), the collection is informed by Afrotourism. Owusu-Aguemang’s work seeks to create fashion products that regenerate the soil and restore the earth. The designer used only natural fibres and botanical dyes. More specifically, natural indigo, mordanted with alum, and Red onions & cutch, with iron water were used on pure hemp and hemp/cotton blend. Impressively, Gracey grew her own regenerative cotton in Zambia from seed in August 2023 and harvested it on January 1st 2024. The designer planted 170 plants in her backyard which was overseen by a farmer gardener while she was back in London continuing the MA. Passionate about garment traceability, Owusu-Aguemang is planning to expand on growing he own fibres from the soil in harmony with nature, “the regenerative way,” as she says, whilst linking farm to clothing and “SLOWING FASHION ALL THE WAY DOWN.”

Joyce Bao

Exploring her perspective as an Asian American woman and the pressures of the clashing Eastern and Western expectations and stereotypes, Joyce Bao work is a response to others’ assumptions of her based on race and appearance. Looking into Eastern and Western historical armours, Bao used quilting and hand-dyed, light fabrics to capture the movement of the Chinese TV heroines of her childhood. In an honest effort to get over her “unreasonable perfectionism” Joyce learned how to embrace the unexpected. Post-MA she wants to start her own brand but also wants to become healthier, she admits. The industry for emerging designers looks scary, but this is exactly what seems to motivate Bao: the adrenaline of fashion’s hardships.

Jonathan Ferris

The fear of failing in fashion and having a nine-to-five job was the inspiration point for Jonathan James William. Looking into office uniforms and environments, including literature such as The Office by Steven Ahlgren and High Fashion by Pawel Jaszczuk and BDSM culture, William developed a collection that features a variety of fabrics and colours from tailoring fabrics to cowhide, and boiled outerwear wools to shirting fabrics. As a result of personal growth and maturity, Ferris got over the pressures of starting a brand straight out of college and realised that working under a designer they respect could be as fulfilling. Frustrated with menswear week getting tacked under womenswear fashion week, the Liverpool-born designer wants nothing more than their work to become a good reason for menswear fashion week to be rebuilt.

Maximilian Raynor

Made entirely of deadstock materials and zero-waste cutting techniques Maximilian Raynor’s collection is “an anti-patriarchal protest set in a purgatory.” The collection’s story is set in the misty grounds and corridors of a sinister Manor House, where characters await their entry to heaven. Raynor’s work features shredded tweeds, awkward stripes, glitching ginghams and supersized knits. The Derbyshire-born designer had to tame his wild imagination in the name of the discipline that is required by an MA student. Confident in his leadership skills Raynor seeks to start his own brand and show his work at Fashion Week. The designer knows the hardships of running your brand though, and frankly hopes that “the big money sponsors continue to believe in young creatives because it makes a colossal difference not simply on the outcomes but the mental and physical health of young designers.”

Zhuoran Liu

Inspired by their own experience of studying sculpture for 5 years. Liu’s parents hoped to see them as artists, yet, Zhuoran always wanted to follow a career in fashion design. Embedding their sculptural influences in their collection, from clay-inspired colour tones to silhouettes that resemble sculptural tools the designer expresses the feeling of being bound. “The whole project is about me because I think sculpture is part of my life,” Liu explains. The menswear designer sees clothes as “soft sculptures” and aims to use this concept to keep exploring the possibilities of fashion making.

Mira Maktabi

Beirut-born designer Mira Maktabi delved into her identity and the intersectionality of Arab female experiences to build the conceptual foundation of her collection. Exploring the theories of gaze and representation Maktabi examined the socio-religious constraints placed on the female body. Inspired by the work of Madame Grès and Madeleine Vionnet as well as photographers like Man Rey, and Peter Lindberg, Mira worked with draping, delicate satin fabrics, and sourced design elements from Armani’s menswear in the 80’s and her vintage garments. “My design approach subverts polished ladylike silhouettes by introducing heavy outerwear, semi-sheer black tailoring, and vintage men’s brogues to birth something new and powerful,” she explains.

Kaine Ballard

With a cult-like and militarian approach in mind, Kaine Ballard wanted his work to ignite the reaction “I shouldn’t go near that person.” During the draping process, Ballard thought of how a garment usually works and turned it the opposite way. Kaine’s methodology is based on immediacy and the removal of excess. No zips, no buttons, no unnecessary hardware; elastic serves as the only means of accessibility. Letting go of their comfort zone when it comes to making revolutionalised Ballard’s work and made the designer work freely: “Working in real-time tangibly. It’s a more beautiful way to be creative.”

TraiCeline Pratt

Rethinking luxury and the idea of the consumers seeing themselves in the clothes they buy was TraiCeline Pratt’s main inspiration. Sourcing elements from six prominent figures Pratt saw growing up in the Bahamas: The mistress, the single mother, the businesswoman, the housewife, the stripper, and the thief. When asked about their time at the MA Pratt wanted to pay tribute to CSM’s security guard, Phil: “Warm-hearted guy always with a smile on his face. Wishing him nothing but blessings and prosperity over his life.” Post-graduation, TraiCeline’s goals are clear: Bottega Veneta. “Once there, we put the fashion industry in a chokehold like no other,” Pratt says confidently. For the MA graduate, nothing seems scary; “Growing up in The Bahamas has prepared me for a lot of things that I didn’t think I would ever need off of the islands; mentally, physically and spiritually. I survived there, I could survive ANYTHING!”

Lovro Lukić 

Yogonostalgia: The nostalgia for Yugoslavia. That was the main inspiration for Slovenian designer Lovro Lukić. Being nostalgic for something you have never experienced might seem absurd, but the Lukić managed to materialise this feeling through the use of Yugoslavian blankets, vintage upholstery fabrics, and found objects. Having experienced immense pressure, and getting close to quitting fashion when making his collection Lovro felt proud of himself when he completed his final line-up. “You definitely have to have your feet in more than two ponds, if you want to survive in London,“ he says, reflecting on the uncertainty of post-uni life. He is open to possibilities: starting a brand with his girlfriend, freelancing, or accepting a surprise job offer. “The only thing that excites me is eventually earning some money, so I can finally afford that Tesco finest hummus,” Lovro shares. His only fear? That the industry’s fast pace rhythms will make him hate fashion for good.

Phoebe Pendergast

The coming-of-age “breakthrough” leap from adolescence to adulthood and its energy of in-betweenness led Phoebe Pendergast to mix DIY textiles and transformative silhouettes. With tactile materials like foam, felt, and fleece, she is trying to create the illusion of fading memories, reminiscent of the self-portraits of Pipilloti Rist and Francesca Woodman. The most important learning experience during the MA for Phoebe was overcoming the negative voices in her head and believing in her skills and abilities. Facing the fact that her dream of running her own brand might be impossible, Pendergast expresses her sadness about the demand from designers to wear so many hats, from fashion-making to business, to navigate even the minimum challenges of setting up a label: “The more I learn about the realities of running your brand in this current climate, the more pessimistic I become.”

Flora Kejia XU

In today’s economy, the 9 to 5 has evolved into a fluid work culture. Flora’s collection draws inspiration from modern nomads and reimagines their office look, as the lines between work and personal life blur. Technical fabrics such as lightweight outdoor waterproofed nylon, coated cotton, and soft technical wool put functionality as a priority. By mixing two garments’ patterns such as a shirt with a coat, and trousers with an outdoor jacket details Flora highlights mobility and newness. Making this collection put the Chinese designer in a process to question her healthy relationship with work and realised that taking distance from her work, even for two days was defining for editing and completing her collection.

Joshua Ewusie

“You don’t fear the cold,” is a phrase Ewusie’s grandmother used to say to their sister when she would go out clubbing in the dead of winter dressed in revealing outfits. The reference to the cold is also a metaphor for the hostile British attitudes towards immigrants. The collection tells the story of two generations; the opening look is designed through the mindset of Joshua’s grandmother, migrating from a hot climate, referencing traditional Ghanaian silhouettes such as the Kaba and draping heavy materials like leather and wool. As the line-up continues more skin is revealed, referencing the dress codes of the UK Garage scene and what Ewusie’s sister and her friends used to wear when going clubbing.

Yanya Cheng

Peaceful but in the rush; Cheng’s collection is an active avoidance of “the correct way of dressing”, experimenting with multiple versions of one piece, working with only rectangle patterns, and trying out adjustable cording. On her way to the airport, she got inspired by the concept of transit and the randomness that comes with it. The designer played with the inaccuracy of AI generation and 3D scanning and used the results as her starting point. Embracing the uncertainty was also part of Cheng’s personal journey; “I find things always out of control. But this also leads to the best part: getting along with all the changes that suddenly appear, starting to appreciate them, and starting to appreciate me for dealing with them.”

Alvaro Mars

“What kind of designer am I? What can I offer to the industry?” These are the questions Alvaro Mars has been asking himself since starting the MA.”Creating beauty is not enough of a reason anymore to me, it feels meaningless.” Mars fell in love with craftsmanship, something he feels is now missing from the industry. Inspired by this yearning for artistry, the designer created a collection that explores the relevance of couture today, through studying classic couture techniques and volumes and applying them to items that everyone has in their closet. “Couture out of context seems so fresh,” Mars explains. All his materials are responsibly sourced, dead-stock fabrics, and leather leftovers from big fashion houses that produce goods in Spain. His feelings post-uni? “Uncertainty. I am learning to deal with it.”