Representing the creative future

These CSM MA Fashion graduates prove that fashion is political

Explore the process and sketchbooks of 8 designers from this year’s Central Saint Martins’ MA Fashion course

The time when fashion equated frivolity and decoration is long gone. The pandemic is birthing fashion designers that first think, then make, and then think again. This year’s CSM cohort, who showcased their final collections today through a virtual presentation, was determined to get away from graduate-fashion-designer clichés. It seems that the core of their creative process is the relevance of any garment they produce, asking questions like: Is it needed? What does it stand for? What do I care about? This year’s collections are elevating the mundane, digging for the political resonance behind themes such as work, female autonomy, masculinity, environmentalism, and tradition. How is it possible to grasp, digest, and deconstruct the complexities of modern living so well from the limited universe of a bedroom? The class of 2021 leaves us to wonder.

We spoke to 8 of this year’s graduates about their collections, their process, and the purpose of it all. 

 

RU-YENN KWOK, WOMENSWEAR

Witches and work: this is what Melbourne-born Ru-yenn Kwok’s collection is about. The designer started the project by making a uniform for the modern working woman until she realised the problematic nature of equating the image of professionalism with the notion of labour. Looking at how working women were persecuted as Witches by the 16th-century primitive accumulation process, Kwok started thinking about female autonomy in relation to capitalist structures at large. “For me, the Witch symbolises a myriad of female-centric labourers; she is a healer, a whore, a midwife, a nurse, a seer…” Kwok explains. Connecting her craft with the political narratives that surround the history of Witches, and keen on generating a non-Eurocentric reading of it, the designer used universal techniques of manipulating cloth such as wrapping, twisting and knotting, aiming to make the garments intersectional. Kwok’s materials, just like all parts of the process, are not chosen randomly. Everything has a meaning that serves the collection’s objective – soft, casual fabrics are presented as strong and ‘professionally’ appropriate. Her creations live in what Kwok calls ‘an AirBnb for Witches’, placing the symbolism of the Witch in today’s time, implying that women are still struggling with the same predicaments when it comes to professionalism, labour and autonomy within our capitalist society. Fashion is not detached from politics, and Kwok seems like she has grasped the power of the industry, and what a waste of an opportunity would be not to use it. When asked about her post-graduation intentions her answer was fitting with the objectives of her work: “I would love to continue my practice and add to a discourse that aims to dismantle some of the damaging systems and psychologies in the fashion industry.”

Ru-yenn Kwok line-up
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
Ru-yenn Kwok sketchbooks
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
Ru-yenn Kwok development
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK
CSM MA FASHION 2021 RU-YENN KWOK

LUKE DERRICK, MENSWEAR 

‘Locked’ in his Kentish Town bedroom with his also fashion designer girlfriend Camille Liu, Luke Derrick took the making of his collection day by day. What would the urban man wear post-Covid? Living life from a sofa to function, would he want to be comfortable or confident? For Derrick, he doesn’t have to choose: loungewear can be outerwear and tracksuits can be tuxedos. “The art of dressing up and dressing down simultaneously; the art of getting away with it,” this is what the collection is about, in his own words. Romanticising the simplest daily acts and questioning the thin line between laziness and self-optimisation (a dilemma that appears to be the starting point of the modern man’s existential crisis), Derrick’s fashion universe is not set on a runway, but in a room just like yours. With his past work experience spent at Brioni in Rome, Alexander McQueen, and Norton & Sons of Savile Row, Luke wanted to use the MA as a medium to get support towards the clear path that he started taking. In an industry where quiet sometimes equals ignored, the MA at CSM pushed Derrick to keep going and close the circle that he opened at the beginning of his journey in education. Conscious of his passion to work with and react to clients directly, the young designer makes menswear for real-life modern men whose fashion choices are defined by their needs.

Luke Derrick line-up
CSM FASHION MA 2021 LUKE DERRICK
CSM FASHION MA 2021 LUKE DERRICK
CSM FASHION MA 2021 LUKE DERRICK

VIVIEN CANADAS, WOMENSWEAR

The conversation around fleeing the big cities for rural locations is more intense than ever, and Vivien Canadas’ graduate collection is reflecting this exact need to escape the city with the project: ‘A sip of fresh air.’ With no previous academic experience in design and a junior position at Maison Martin Margiela under his belt, Canadas embarked on the ‘human adventure’ of the MA. Working from a London flat, Vivien and two of his classmates, Lucile Guilmard and Ru-yenn Kwok, followed a 15-hour workday, 7 days a week, with military discipline. The designer spent every minute looking at mundane objects and using them as the starting point for his draping process, which took place on his own body. A trumpet became a pair of trousers, a tortellini pasta became a bag, and the collection became a metaphor for looking at things differently – a sip of fresh air into the rigid outlook linked to city living. Canadas’ draping process was based on the ancient pattern cutting technique of focusing on the geometric shape of a circle. Documenting our relationship with the natural elements by subverting traditional Haute Couture methods, the designer captures the movement of a garment caught in a storm and developed ‘trompe l’oeil’ headpieces that resemble wet hair, bridging the tradition of crafts with the modernity of fresh designs.

Vivien Canadas CSM MA 2021
Vivien Canadas CSM MA 2021
Vivien Canadas CSM MA 2021
Vivien Canadas final collection, photography by Su Leica Mueller
Vivien Canadas sketchbooks
Vivien Canadas sketchbooks

LUCILE GUILMARD, WOMENSWEAR

The first lockdown found Lucile in France, at her parents’ house, totally disconnected from any sense of control over her life. Closer to the end of her academic life, Guilmard aimed to spend the second lockdown in London, where any mistakes she made would at least be her own. She and her flatmates, also on the MA, worked throughout the summer and managed to buy industrial sewing machines, turning their house into a studio, in an effort to replace the MA space on the 3rd floor of the 1 Granary square campus, which they were not allowed access to. Deeply influenced by the current events, Guilmard wanted to turn “depression into expression,” by creating a collection that feels self-sufficient, self-inspired, and ultimately, self-existent. Using her body proportions as measuring tape, her books as rulers, and newspapers as pattern paper, the designer found a point in creating something out of nothing, making her process an integral part of the garments. By treating rags like the most expensive silk, and by respecting the materials around her, like woollen blankets, tape, and cling film, Guilmard’s autobiographical making is an ode to purposeful fashion. With intuition being a core element of her line-up, Lucile represents a generation of conscious designers, who are not only bringing their skills to their table, but they come in fashion full of references, opinions, and a thirst for structural change.

Lucille Guilmard Liine-up
Lucile Guilmard development
Lucile Guilmard development

JIMMY HOWE, MENSWEAR

“My collection is about and for the Men Who Care,” Kent-born designer Jimmy Howe shares. Empathy is something that undoubtedly has been taken away from the notion of masculinity in Western culture. In a patriarchal society, brutality and destruction are praised, placing men far away from the sensitive concept of environmentalism. For Howe, making empathy an essential part of masculinity is good for the environment; a stimulating take on the topic of climate change. “I think tackling climate change is something which requires empathy, and that’s something that men have been taught to ignore,” the designer explains. “I would like to bring a more practical-based form of research and development behind creating clothes. I don’t really think the planet can support clothes that don’t work anymore, and fast fashion isn’t the only part of the industry to blame for this,” Jimmy says about creating fashion that responds to social phenomenons. Pursuing the exploration of the link between masculinity and the environment, Howe looked at communities of men that interact physically and emotionally with nature, such as tree climbers and weekend hikers. Hand knitted blankets collected from eBay and fleeces from outdoor brands like Rab became the foundation for a collection that exists between function and consolation.

Jimmy Howe CSM MA 2021
Jimmy Howe CSM MA 2021
Jimmy Howe line-up
Jimmy Howe CSM MA 2021
Jimmy Howe development

CHLOé NARDIN, MENSWEAR

Tired of the ‘Parisian Chic’ clichés, French designer Chloé Nardin wanted to tell the modern history of her home country through her collection: a young, multicultural, and urban France. Lace, embroidery, and smock married sportswear silhouettes, making up a tender kind of masculinity. Referencing the film ‘L’Esquive’ by Abdellatif Kechiche and inspired by vintage nightwear, Nardin wanted to portray the nonchalance of ordinary moments like a boy going to a shop in his slippers. The product-oriented designer works cerebrally, starting with methodical research and drawing, resulting in a detailed and well-calculated piece of clothing ready to be produced and worn. According to Nardin, creative studies start with arrogance and rebellion, but as you go through the stage of a fashion MA one comes to realise that nobody really cares about their ‘vision’ and that all that counts is discipline and self-reflection. Feeling privileged for the gift of education, Nardin wants to start her own brand of ‘cute sportswear’, always driven by the realism that comes hand in hand with creating art that can be used.

CHLOé NARDIN CSM MA FAHSION 2021
Chloé Nardin Line-up
Chloé Nardin development
Chloé Nardin details and development

DANIELA MEICHELBÖCK, WOMENSWEAR

Completing the biggest part of her collection in her North London bedroom, Daniela Meichelböck went home to Germany where her mother assisted her with sewing. Her work is examining the state of waiting, a relevant theme that corresponds to today’s times. Visualising the mundane, each garment of  Meichelböck’s lineup is a different character. The textures and finishings are taken out of an average office wardrobe, but their details are narrating their life stories. “Some of them are hunched while they wait, their jacket-shoulders dropping forwards. Some with hands buried leave their pockets bulged. Others twist and stretch creating sharp pleats,” the designer explains about the shapes and patterns of her garments. The simplicity of the moments we forget, like waiting in a waiting room, might be more intimate than we think. Daniela aims to give value to these points in time, establishing a conceptual way of working with fashion. By using photo sessions as a form of draping, the designer put herself in a state of waiting, documenting the shapes that garments make on her body, leading the viewer to the chicken and egg question: Does the character make the garment or does the garment make the character?

Daniela Meichelböck line-up
Daniela Meichelböck development
Daniela Meichelböck development
Daniela Meichelböck development

HORACE PAGE, MENSWEAR

Second-hand, shrunk knitwear sold on eBay. That was the unorthodox starting point behind Horace Page’s textile development. Exploring the divide between the British countryside and the big capital, Page got exposed to the broad juxtaposition between the traditional and the modern. By recontextualizing materials and symbols that are historically tied with traditions, the designer used them as features of city dress. Older generation fabrics like Donegal tweed got sliced open, distressed, and fused with nylon track jackets, whilst wool suiting fabrics are put in the washing machine and boiled to roughen their formality. Page’s innovative textile experimentations are managing to create a vivid discourse between culture and class, and how both are components of fashion garments.

Horace Page Line-up
Horace Page development
Horace Page development

1 Granary

Magazine Issue 6

With unprecedented honesty and depth, 1 Granary Issue 6 dives into the work and lives of fashion designers today. As a response to the construction of desire and personality cults that govern our industry, the magazine steps away from the conventional profiles and editorials, focussing instead on raw work and anonymous, unfiltered testimonies. For the first time ever, readers are given a truthful insight into the process, dreams, fears, hardships, and struggles of today’s creatives.

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