Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Show 2020: Full line-up

IMAGES COURTESY OF Central Saint Martins

Butch tailoring, crochet "truckstop lizards" and virtual reality. Meet the CSM MA Fashion class of 2020.

The CSM MA Fashion show took a new format this year, not only changing location within the college, but also adding a layer of technology in partnership with Three. During the finale, model Adwoa Aboah looked on as a digital rendering of her walked down the catwalk, visible only to those sat in the front row and armed with Three phones. Meanwhile, a projection of the rendering, in which she wore a look by MA designer Paolo Carzana, strutted across the three-story-high library wall. The opening was much more understated, albeit more impressive. Opening the show was sustainable designer Matthew Needham, who opted out of the catwalk format in favour of his own installation, entitled Øyeblikk (‘in the blink of an eye’).

Emerging from two years of personal growth as well as professional development, the class of 2020 presented a show focused on introspection and identity. “I didn’t want to think about fashion anymore, I just wanted to think about what makes me happy,” says CSM MA designer Leeann Huang. Happiness is a running theme with this year’s crop of talent; it seems like everyone is looking to define their own version of it. Paolina Russo and Alexandra Armata have revisited childhood memories, finding comfort and inspiration in nostalgia. Meanwhile, Alex Wolfe, Gui Rosa and Jawara Alleyne are focusing on future happiness, exploring new, softer visions of masculinity for a more inclusive future. 

Sarah McCormack‘s ethereal take on dystopian fashion earned her the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, alongside psychedelic textile designer Leeann Huang. Meet the CSM MA class of 2020…

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Paolina Russo

Paolina Russo

For her MA collection, Paulina Russo is tapping into a distinctly Canadian strand of childhood nostalgia, repurposing her old ski jumpers and jackets into stretchy corsets that feel soft on the skin. “You still have the look of a corset, but without all the discomfort,” she says. The limitations of her suburban upbringing are an ongoing source of inspiration for the BFC and Isabella Blow scholar. Her upcycled creations combine the silhouettes she coveted as a child with the fabrics she was stuck with. Building on the success of her BA collection – which saw her partner with Adidas and create capsule collection for Selfridges and SSENSE – Paolina is working with hand-knitting techniques such as ‘illusion knitting.’ She already has a group show at Paris Fashion Week under her belt, but the L’Oreal Professionel Young Talent Award-winner cannot contain her excitement for the CSM MA show. “It’s the best part of it all!” she exclaims.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Johanna Parv

Johanna Parv

“When in doubt, drape.” This is the mantra Johanna Parv lives by. The womenswear designer fuses 1950s couture shapes with performance fabrics from modern sportswear, draping her way to form and function. The fabrics float, ruche and swaddle, making it hard to see where the clothes end and the wearer begins. Handbags sit underneath, providing structure and sculpting shapes. The resulting garments resemble cars or motorcycles protected from rain and roving eyes by waterproof nylon sheets. After internships at Dior and Balenciaga, Johanna wants to question whether femininity is an image or an action. How can the wearer retain a sense of femininity and elegance, when modern city life favours function and speed? For the color scheme, she kept things simple. “Navy is not my favourite colour, but most people like it,” she laughs. “It’s easy to digest.” That said, her collection hardly plays it safe. “I’m mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar,” she adds. After eight years of studying, the Isabella Blow scholar is looking forward to the validation of graduating: “You study for the same amount of time as a Doctor. I want the feeling that I am a designer.” She is the first Estonian ever to present an MA collection at CSM. “I believe my talent is worth something. It makes me work harder.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Saskia Lenaerts

Saskia Lenearts

“It’s the cherry on top of the cake,” says Saskia Lenaerts when asked how it feels to be part of Central Saint Martins’ MA Fashion Show. Specialising in menswear and bags, the MA student took her personal penchant for the aesthetic of men dressed in armour and gave it a twist. “I’ve used a series of military garments and tried to demilitarise them. It is about having a more borderless, less aggressive world,” she says. Existing military garments such as fighter pilot jumpers, uniform jackets and combat boots were repurposed to make different types of shoes. Describing the silhouettes, Saskia says: “They have been developed by looking at the negative space between people. That’s how I came to a lot of quite big and imposing silhouettes. It’s like an allegory to close the socio-political gaps between people.” This year’s recipient of the L’Oréal Professionnel Scholarship, Saskia was awarded the Considered Design award in 2018 sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin, who also supplied her with fabrics for her MA collection. Being of mixed heritage herself, the Belgian designer’s collection aims for a “transnational way of life by disarming prejudice” by conveying energy, happiness and acceptance.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Masha Popova

Masha Popova

With a BA in Architecture as well as Fashion, internships at Margiela and Galliano, and an upbringing in post-Soviet Ukraine, Masha Popova has amassed an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. “A perfect appearance constrains you,” says the Ports 1961 and former LVMH scholar. “I am interested in an imperfect look, which gives you freedom.” Her MA collection – ‘Disobedient Dress’ – aims to challenge the logic of beauty and show irreverence as the ultimate seduction. “My collection is semi-autobiographical,” she says. “It is departing from the traditions of haute couture and childhood memories, blending character study, social criticism, elegance and low culture.” The sense of oddity and the subversive use of materials gives the elegant collection a care-free feeling: old sportswear material is used as the core for an evening dress. “This is a collection for anyone who wants to look elegant but not conventional,” says Masha. “It is for someone who values individuality and freedom. By looking perfect, we lose the magic of seduction.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Cecile Tulkens

Cecile Tulkens

“There isn’t a particular start or stop point for inspiration,” says Cecile Tulkens. “I’m questioning the politics of hierarchies within the industry, asking why knitwear is valued differently to tailoring and examining the two together.” For the knitwear designer, who won the LVMH award last year, inspiration is an holistic process. Yarn choices can come from textures and colours in paintings and then go on to inform an entire collection. “It’s much more abstract,” she says. “It’s material first.” Cecile uses knitwear for suiting that implies a softened masculinity. “It’s not like I’m making something that’s camp, or ‘not menswear’, but when it’s made in this way, it doesn’t seem to have the same kind of social standing.” Her garments explore traditional ideas of tailoring and masculinity by taking the established silhouette out of context. The muted, subtle tones of her collection highlight the garments’ construction and technical aspects. “When does a knitted suit become a twin-set?” she asks. “It’s a matching pair, after all.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Leeann Huang

Leeann Huang

“I didn’t want to think about fashion anymore, I just wanted to think about what makes me happy.” Inspired by childhood TV shows like ‘The Powerpuff Girls’, MA designer Leeann Huang’s colourful and camp collection radiates happiness and positivity. “It’s all about these super positive and authentic women who fought crime and then went on with their day,” she says.  Specialising in textiles, Leeann’s designs are an explosion of colourful fabrics and prints that create “a childhood fantasy of the future.” Some prints even create a “walking television” effect as they move. The cuts are clean and simple, influenced by futuristic furniture from the 1960s. Despite plastic being “demonised” in sustainable fashion circles, the Californian designer uses recycled PET and TPU for embroidery, embellishments and faux fur. “There are many different ways to use materials that are sustainable besides the obvious,” she says. After completing her Foundation, BA and MA at CSM, Leeann sees the upcoming MA show as sweet relief.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Cameron Williams

Cameron Williams

A third-generation British descendant of Jamaican grandparents, Cameron Williams experiences a lack of connection to his family’s West African heritage. “Growing up in London, surrounded by people from so many different cultures, makes you want to express yourself and your culture,” he says.  “It makes you really hungry to find that identity within yourself.” For his Menswear graduate collection, Cameron finally got the chance to explore his own identity. Cameron’s collection draws on inspiration from African tribes and cultural groups in the hope of giving them both representation and an honest identity, without any stereotyping, tokenism or fetishisation. “There is a lot of resemblance to African cultural groups, but done respectfully in a very balanced aesthetic,” he explains. The “frugal, functional and wearable” garments present a raw authenticity, demonstrated in the nostalgia they evoke, and the flashes of different cultures present throughout. The collection explores transportation and both physical and cultural displacement, Cameron explains. “Being in a different place, or being subjected to different conditions, makes parts of your culture either thrive or fall to the wayside to accommodate a changing lifestyle. The clothes are reminiscent of that, but functional to highlight that many displaced people have to carry a lot of things – children or elderly people – which has heavily inspired the pattern cutting and draping.” 

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Samson Leung

Samson Leung

“The goal of my collection is to celebrate the state of being overwhelmed – overwhelming anxiety,” explains CSM MA student Samson Leung. “You can wear negative emotion and be comfortable with it and embrace it.” Born in Taiwan and raised in Hong Kong, the designer moved to London for CSM, where he did his BA and MA in womenswear. Anxiety is a running theme in Samson’s work: his graduate collection evolved from a film he and his friends made about the subject. The garments are partly sculptural, but toned-down to be more wearable, using cotton and linen as well as oil paint and starch. He describes them as “quiet, honest and tactile.” Having interned at Craig Green and Proenza Schouler, Samson was awarded the Lane Crawford Scholarship. Does he feel the pressure leading up to the show? “I’m excited,” he says. “But my excitement is not too over the top, because there is still a lot to prepare.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Joshua Crabtree

Joshua Crabtree

“We are all humans at the end of the day,” says MA designer Joshua Crabtree. “We all have feelings, we all have emotions and I want to try and get that across.” His collection, designed for the urban man who wants to have more contact with nature, explores what it means to be human in tumultuous times. The BFC scholar considers his collection a “hopeful” offering. In a palette of black, white and soft, pale yellow, it carries some of the tension of a life spent between nature and big cities. “Black and white are polar opposites,” the Westminster alumnus explains. “The yellow, being in the middle, represents an area of serenity in all the chaos around us.” A former intern for Craig Green, the Newcastle-born designer is hoping to bring a fresh perspective to menswear, putting a positive spin on an industry that sometimes seems numbed by negativity.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Alexandra Armata

Alexandra Armata

Tracing back three generations to her grandmother’s house in Poland, womenswear designer Alexandra Armata sifted through family archives to piece together her identity. Her MA collection is a collage of memories that capture the nostalgia of immigrant culture, emphasising the odd and ridiculous nature of clothing at the time. “It’s Soviet-Polish fashion through the eyes of its descendants, but mixed with a suburban North American kid,” she says. Alexandra plays with subdued colours and skewed hemlines in suits, dresses and blouses to create off-kilter silhouettes. “There are bits of comedy and sentimental memories that mix different aspects of my personality.” Armata also adds illustrations into the mix, with caricatures picked up from scattered childhood memories. Born in Toronto, she finished her BA in fashion design at Ryerson University in 2016, before moving to London to pursue a graduate diploma in fashion design at LCF. A recipient of the Isabella Blow Foundation Scholarship in 2018, she found her time on CSM’s MA program thoroughly gratifying, especially her stint working at Chopova Lowena. 

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Sun Mu Lee

Sun Mu Lee

“Geometric, energetic, unpredictable” – this is how Sun Mu Lee describes his collection. The South Korean designer finds a lot of his inspiration in architecture. “I like clean shapes; neat, straight lines – like this sofa!” he says, pointing at the sharp, rectangular piece of furniture beneath him. His favourite architect is the late Zaha Hadid, and his collection pays homage to her dynamic creations. Nylon is squeezed and shaped into sporty garments, while the occasional patch of suit fabric shows you his softer side. Less building, more human. There is a sense of movement in his menswear that alludes to his former life as a professional dancer. “I use fabric to create moving and flowing geometric pieces, something that you can dance in,” he explains. “Design and dancing my two greatest passions.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Jegor Pistor

Jegor Pistor

“I don’t want to have too many expectations,” says Jegor Pister of the MA Fashion show. “I am happy, grateful but also don’t know what to think yet.” For a designer who emphasises the need for male vulnerability, this statement is true to form. The Russian menswear designer has chosen to centre his graduate collection around hyper kinds of sadness and happiness. Seashell prints appear on jackets and clutch bags, inspired by Aphrodite,  the goddess of love and femininity. This is one of several allusions to sensuality, which also appear in corset-effect blousons, chest-baring blazers and heart-print jackets. “The message is freedom, sex and excess,” he says. Armed with a scholarship from Alexander McQueen, Jegor found his own liberation. “The scholarship allowed me to buy a 3D printer, which produced the shells and other experiments in print,” he explains. In a collection of high-collared satin jackets, exploding with orange, red and purple, the Russian designer’s inspiration is obvious. “If I look at my clothes, I see Freddie Mercury. He is everything: music, passion and vulnerability. If you’re passionate about life, then you would dare to dress like this.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Womenswear designer Aleksandar Mitrovic describes his collection as “quite severe.” The Serbian native escaped the Yugoslav civil war for Canada as a child and considers it one of his influences, along with his definition of success and power. “One of the things I looked at was powerful clothes like business suits or military coats. I wanted to break down the idea of powerful clothing into different facets.” Ironically, his clothes are constructed with foam, not the first fabric that springs to mind when you think of power. Patches of detail are constructed out of carpet, referencing paternal power with a nod to his father’s old job in a carpet store. Despite the exploration of power, Aleksandar doesn’t want people to intellectualise his work too much. “Just enjoy it!” he says. “Enjoy it if you can and do not politicize it.” For the accessories, the Ye Lin scholarship student partnered with Melissa and ceramist Nick Lenker, who made two bags and a tie for the collection. After seven years at CSM, Aleksandar is ready to cross the finish line. “It’s the culmination of years of hard work,” he says.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Jawara Alleyne

Jawara Alleyne

“It’s the regurgitation of the power of the masculine, transformed into a collection for the man who chooses to define himself.” Jawara Alleyne’s graduate collection is inspired by “men throughout history who have chosen to step outside of the context of what we consider to be masculinity,” he says, carefully hand stitching finishing touches onto an exquisite black suede patchwork jacket. Before landing at CSM to study MA menswear, Jawara designed womenswear at home in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. “The collection is very layered,” he explains. “The way I design for a man doesn’t come from a ‘menswear’ perspective, because most of my inspirations and references are womenswear, but it’s executed in a menswear way.” The Nii Agency co-founder’s aim is to leave people with questions, not to answer them. Look at his clothes, take a moment to reflect, and then figure out your own point of view.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Ella Boucht

Ella Boucht

“It’s butch, tailored, very personal and very bold!” Ella Boucht says of her MA graduate collection. “My models are all from the queer community, so my sexuality definitely shines through.” The Finnish designer’s relaxed tailoring takes classics from the boys and gives power to the girls. Like the Robin Hood of gendered fashion, Ella references the theory of Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam to challenge the erasure of accessible lesbian icons. She learned the art of balancing advocacy and commercial design working for Adidas and Etudes. “Those projects were such a good learning curve for me,” she adds. Popsicle oranges, washed out pinks and prints with erotic female sexual organs decorate A-Line vents, sharp pleats and 1970s lapels that “empower the chest rather than bind it.” Best known for her sportswear – once worn by Rihanna – Ella is changing tact for her MA collection, tailoring her focus as much as her new clothes.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Alex Wolfe

Alex Wolfe

Before the show, Alex Wolfe is tight-lipped about his MA graduate collection. His CV boasts the Self-Portrait Scholarship, as well as experience at Walter van Beirendonck, SHOWStudio and working for fellow Central Saint Martins alumnus, Gareth Pugh. Having also completed his BA in Fashion Design and Marketing at CSM, the menswear designer is something of a stalwart. “I have grown up at CSM,” Alex says. “Being constantly challenged here has shaped the way I see the world.” He describes the concept behind his collection as “weaponizing satirical British humour to provoke masculine identities into expressing playfulness and absurdity in a time of fear.” His undergraduate collection was similarly preoccupied with masculinity: muscular models sported provocative, abstract designs featuring their own bodies, while masks concealed their faces. “I feel overwhelmed and grateful to be part of the MA show,” he adds. “I am very excited for the future.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Talia Lipkin-Connor

Talia Lipkin-Connor

“Feral, feminine, sincere” – three words Talia Lipkin-Connor chose to describe her MA collection entitled, ‘The Feral Women of the Inishfree.’ Inspired by the ritualistic chaos of the women living on the Irish island and Talia’s own “female based” family hierarchy, the MA student’s collection is a new take on contemporary womanhood. “It’s really about colour and being joyful, but it’s also violent in the use of colour.” Her skirts and twinsets are made of either deadstock or repurposed fabrics, initially inspired by three pleated skirts Talia inherited from her great-grandmother, which also serve as “the structural basis” of her collection. An alumna of BA Womenswear at CSM, she worked at Alexander McQueen for a year before returning to her alma mater for the MA. Her feelings on being in the show? “Really excited. I didn’t expect it. I remember, as a kid, reading in a magazine about this course and the show, and now I am actually in it,” she says. The L’Oréal Professionnel scholarship winner is committed to supporting her hometown’s trade and craft, reflected in her use of fabrics from local mills in Manchester. “I wanted to show something truthful and sincere to me,” she says.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Ding Yun Zhang

Ding Yun Zhang

“My collection is about elevating sartorial experiences through the functional dissolving of material and constructional excess” says Ding Yun Zhang. The menswear designer from Beijing started around the central concept of extreme-condition sports like speed-skiing and sky-surfing. In his collection, Ding Yun strives to evoke the high-octane rush of these activities, while offering streamlined, functional sportswear. The young designer studied BA Menswear at CSM, before moving on to the MA, and has had a working relationship with Adidas Yeezy since 2017 –  theshoes for Ding Yun’s graduate collection have been sponsored by the brand. For the rest of his collection, Ding Yun mostly used a heat-press technique. “I wanted the garments to look interesting, but simplify the unnecessary seams,” he says. “You put this special duvet between the fabrics and it stays still instead of stitches. It’s almost like the garments are glued together.” He also used this method to seal the seams on windbreakers which play an integral role in his line-up. “Every day you wear multiple layers. I wanted to make one jacket that covers everything – you can detach the wind shell and put it back on the same jacket. It’s easier to wear these kinds of garments.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Sarah McCormack

Sarah McCormack

“When I have to deduce it to words, I’m like fuck!” At a push, Scottish womenswear Sarah McCormack might describe her collection as “wonky and screwy but oddly romantic.” It’s understandable that the Sarabande Foundation scholar has a hard time pinning her ideas down. The intentionally existential and expansive question behind her collection is: Would a dystopian social network be the true vision of utopia? Her clothes explore the repressed self, as it emerges “like pustules of an evil king” from society’s heightened sense of morality. Sarah connects with grotqesque images, counting Sarah Moon and Adrian Piper among her references. Her biggest challenge for the MA collection has been time. “I find it difficult being done,” she says. “Everything I do plays into this idea of endlessness and time. The clothes are kind of unfinished, because they are meant to be endless.”

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Gui Rosa

Gui Rosa

“Truckstop lizards in their evening finest stand roadside, indefinitely wondering if a car will ever pick them up,” – the way Gui Rosa describes his MA collection paints a clear picture. For his MA collection, the Portuguese designer aimed for a “cry-baby” look, juxtaposing patched jeans and biker jackets with knitwear. “I want to show a more sensitive masculinity by dressing men in fabrics and textiles that are part of the feminine ethos,” he explains. “Crochet, lace and flowers are all foreign concepts to men.” His brainchild is a special technique, which he developed especially for this collection. “I am using a crochet stitch which creates massive anemone ripples of ruffled fabric, solely by increasing stitches every time and extending the stitch length with a piece of cardboard, all the while working in a circle.” By adding puffy, lightweight mohair pieces of crochet to sturdy, conventionally masculine pieces, Gui adds a layer of “fragility and precariousness” to his designs. Originally from Lisbon, the designer specialised in textiles and has received the L’Wren Scott Scholarship for his MA.

CSM MA Fashion 2020: Paolo Carzana

Paolo Carzana

“This collection is my personal healing journey from darkness and pain into hope and light,” reflects MA designer Paolino. Paolo Carzana considers this latest offering a sequel to his BA collection, which started with a pilgrimage to healing waters in Wales and Italy. An homage to his roots, the designs started life as a selection of oils, which could be combined with homemade natural pigments and healing water to make up each garment. The fabrics are traditional Welsh tapestry, Piñatex pineapple ‘leather’ and cellulose fibres. Listening to the menswear designer recount his process, it’s unsurprising that he was awarded the Kering Scholarship for Sustainability. “I believe we need fashion and we need well-worked and thoughtful pieces created by individuals who believe in their own, personal craft,” he says. This collection is his fight for the future of fashion, an attempt to lift the air of uncertainty currently shrouding it. The BFC and LVMH scholar has a singular focus, and has created his collection in a singular way to boot. Every aspect was made by him, focusing on the role of designer-as-craftsperson.