Representing the creative future

The New MA graduates: Ben Rice

Looking back, CSM MA Fashion Graduate Ben Rice doesn’t recall exactly when he began taking interest in fashion, except a vague but consistent interest in garments – as a young boy, he obsessed over football shirts. He enrolled at the University of Brighton for a BA in Architecture, but quickly felt more attracted to menswear fashion design. “I enjoyed architecture,” he recalls, “but I think that with a subject like that, you have to be totally committed – this goes for fashion as well. I didn’t feel like I was so into it, that I wanted to spend seven years studying it in order to become an architect.” Sure of his decision, he changed course and enjoyed the rest of his BA, so much that he was left hungry for more: “It was really great, particularly my final year, when I was working on my final collection,” he says. “After graduating, I didn’t really want to stop doing my own stuff, so I applied to do an MA at CSM, and managed to get in somehow.”

He describes his time at the CSM’s MA program as “the hardest year and a half of my life” – not an uncommon description of the prestigious and admittedly, nerve-wrecking course. “It was just so intense the whole time — I was pretty stressed out throughout! So I can’t say it was a particularly enjoyable experience, but it was extremely valuable. I learned so much not only about my design and how I design, but also about myself and what I’m truly interested in within the industry as well.” Here, he actively developed  the kind of design he began in his BA – “just doing it better,” he phrases it. Stress was of course an active element of his design, particularly in the two weeks leading up to the show. “Once it was all done, the actual day of the show went quite smoothly.”

“I LEARNED SO MUCH NOT ONLY ABOUT MY DESIGN AND HOW I DESIGN, BUT ALSO ABOUT MYSELF AND WHAT I’M TRULY INTERESTED IN WITHIN THE INDUSTRY.”

As his collection shows, Ben takes a strong interest in vintage menswear. His particular interest is American hunting and fishing garments from the ‘40s and ‘50s, niche pieces that he has tried to collect over the years – eventually becoming the basis for his MA collection. His clothes are curiously reminiscent to Wes Anderson’s neo-romantic art direction of The Royal Tenenbaums, but he quotes the cult classic The Deer Hunter as one of his active references. The British music scene is something he studies too: for his MA, he researched ‘70s British music like Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

“I WILL WEAR PARTS OF MY MA COLLECTION FOR SURE, PARTICULARLY THE OUTERWEAR. THAT’S KIND OF WHAT I WANT TO DESIGN, GARMENTS THAT ME AND MY FRIENDS WOULD WANT TO WEAR.”

Ben’s earthy garments are innovative in their approach to tradition – conceptual, yet very wearable and ready for a larger market. Contrary to many of his colleagues, he designs clothes that he would wear himself – or at least, projects himself into the wearer of the clothes. “I think a lot of it is perhaps a more extreme version of myself, for a version of myself who could actually pull it off! Particularly the outerwear, I would wear. That’s the kind of design I want to do: garments that me and my friends would want to wear.” For him, wearability and ‘commercial’ are not necessarily negatively loaded terms — his designs are carried through their pure function, based on real clothes.

Ben Rice has proven his unique skill to produce avant-garde menswear with a wide appeal, and here, post-grad, he is pursuing a job in the industry. “I’m trying to figure out where I want to go at the moment, as there are a few places that I really admire, ” he says, emphasising a need for authenticity behind the garments. “I’d love to work in a place where there’s a focus on great fabrics and the way it’s finished.” When asked, he does not oppose founding his own label, revealing a personal fantasy of his: “In the future I have this dream of moving back to Bristol and setting up something there, just like a small studio. Not doing fashion shows or anything, just rolling products out.” Whether it’s hunting clothes or avant-garde menswear, we’re excited to see it.

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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