Representing the creative future

CSM MA 2023: These clothes are not for everyone and thank god for that

For this year’s CSM MA class locality was an antidote to convention

From the sketchbooks to the final lineup, the Central Saint Martins 2023 graduates showcased great mastery of skill, with work rooted in locality to provide alternative modes of fashion making – an inspiring vision for the future.

Complex concepts such as sustainability, gender, and post-colonialism are no longer niche interests but have become ways of thinking about and seeing the world. To use them is a given. That is part of the heritage of previous MA cohorts, who have worked hard to translate these frameworks to fashion, and the work continues for the next. Will there ever be a day when we don’t even need to mention it?

Second-hand garments and textiles were a starting point for most graduates, who let clothes lead the process, and not the other way around. Concepts were developed through manual labour and craftsmanship, leading to organic and intuitive design practices.

Part of that authenticity stems from the graduates’ nationality and cultural background, which heavily informed the design processes. In the past, graduate classes were more culturally homogenous, fitting with the Eurocentric history and traditions of the industry. As a consequence, they fought hard to distinguish themselves by perfecting an already existing design language. Who can master the aestetic codes of the past? Who can be the next Helmut Lang or John Galliano? Being for everyone doesn’t work anymore? This generation seems less interested in that vocabulary, choosing to each speak their own language. Unlike previous years, support schemes or awards are rarely mentioned in future plans. It might be a coincidence, but this generation seems to resist the call to coolness.

Authenticity isn’t just a question of diverse cultural reference points, but about a unique ability to elaborate on small discoveries until they’re grand visions of the world. Each designer wielded a different approach to clothing and making. Finding inspiration in their tiny hometowns, forgotten traditional crafts, or personal souvenirs, proved that precise inspiration leads to big ideas. The collections were conceptual, but never abstract or vague, as the starting points were always firmly rooted in a tangible materiality.

This precision doesn’t mean the work was disconnected from the industry. There were plenty of technical and material innovations that could offer solutions to systemic problems. From kombucha leather to hyper-efficient laser-cutting techniques and disability-inclusive working practices, there was potential for scale.

Their relationship with the internet felt equally local. As a young generation of creatives moved online to do their research, finding inspiration in the endless scroll of Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards, skeptics worried it would flatten our aesthetic references. Depth and diversity would be lost as everybody shared the same easy visual languages. The class of 23 proves them wrong and offers a bright alternative to that future. They know how to navigate online tools to deepen their research and re-create niche pockets in the unstructured virtual spheres. In some cases, they make the conscious decision to reject it entirely.

Post-Brexit, both national and international press have been questioning the future of London’s brimming creative scene. This show proves that talent is still here, the industry just doesn’t know what to do with it. Unlike any other city, London isn’t afraid to embrace young talent, but this always carries the risk of hype. The newcomer is asked to adapt to conventional modes of presentation and production, rather than given the opportunity to propose new rules. Hopefully, this generation will be brave enough to resist the mainstream (and our industry patient enough to let them create their own paths.)

Discover the line-ups, sketchbooks, and research of the 2023 graduates that showed during fashion week yesterday below, and keep an eye out for part two, those who didn’t get the opportunity to present yet, as we’re sharing their work soon!



Giorgia Presti is fascinated by disposable single-use objects, such as takeaway packaging and cardboard boxes, “the objects we usually rip open and then throw to the curbside.” For her collection “Debris” she applied their practical design solutions to luxury garments. The garments fold and fit together through laser-cutting techniques and aluminum staple closures, rubber-bonded cotton and hand-stitched vintage sequins. “The process is direct and extremely fast, just thirty seconds to cut once the fabric is on the laser bed, after which the garment is basically finished.” The Stoke-on-Trent native has a knack for the process now, claiming her time post-MA will be dedicated to “turning more boxes into clothes,” as she recognizes the sustainable potential of zero waste packaging ‒ “an already well-engineered efficient process.”

Macinnes Limited

During her MA, Isabel MacInnes turned a physical limitation into a source of inspiration. Due to a disability, she had to take a break every 30 minutes (“I hope most people won’t experience the feeling of looking at the fabric your brain wants to cut out from a chair because you have to stop and rest”) but that only made her hyper-efficient. Using a digitally drafted panel-based system, she could design the patterns sitting down and finalise the garments faster. As the process doesn’t require trial runs, everything she made was final, eliminating waste. Her challenges also inspired the shape of her garments, as she explored the meaning of “distortion” through cut and textile. A paper pattern was drafted from a 4D scan of her distorted body and volumes were added in unconventional places around the silhouette. She will be continuing her new working methods as she plans to apply for every possible competition (“Carry on making, on to the next thing and go, go, go – zoom!”) while also making a stand against unhealthy working practices in the industry (“goblin mode is never necessary in these trying times”).

Max Anthony Brown

Beauty, that what it’s really about for Max Anthony Brown – “Don’t worry about anything else.” During his teens and early twenties, the designer found himself in close contact with drug trafficking and organized crime. Those experiences, and the people he met along the way, are the basis of his work, which defines a new luxury for those who live on the margins of society. “It’s the antithesis of what we see today. Rich kids dressing like they’re poor.” Max looked for nonchalance, effortlessness, and ease – old-school sophistication and rebellious punk. “It’s how we dress and try to present ourselves despite the utter carnage going on around us.” Without formal education, the designer had to fully rely on his intuition to get it right and worked closely with a tailor and pattern cutter in London, “I just put things together like a puzzle, take this lapel or take this sleeve and do it in a mindlessly expensive fabric.” Ultimately, the MA was cathartic, a way to process his past and rebuild his identity.

Hayley Zhenyu Shou

Hayley Zhenyu Shou explored the paradoxicality of feminine power. The starting point for her collection was a trip to Copenhagen, where she visited The Glyptotek. Walking between the depictions of deities, the Chinese designer started thinking about the relationship between Goddesses and ordinary women. Women are usually associated with the domestic and the mundane, so Hayley searched to reclaim everyday household objects, such as tangled clothes, washing bags, and cutlery, and transform them into luxury items. She combined the bias-cutting techniques of Madeleine Vionnet with the dress draping in the sculptures, embedding her garments with a “timeless and enduring beauty, which I interpret as the indication of the particular, inborn tenderness of women.” A celebration of how women transform mundane objects into ordinary ones. The work of Chantal Akerman, Vivienne Maier, Cindy Sherman, Linder Sterling, and Martha Rosler further inspired this defiance of female archetypes.

Jude Hinojosa

“Ghosts of Daughters” is inspired by spiritualist art and seances, where the dead use the living as a form of communication. Jude Hinojosa used second-hand and thrifted garments to access memories of the wearer’s former lives – upcycled materials as a portal into the afterlife. Exploring the process of mystical communication, the Latinx designers developed a particular fascination for Madge Gill, a spiritual artist in Walthamstow. “There’s a drawing she made, ‘Red Woman’, that set the foundation for many of the looks; it’s a wrapping spiral of different pieces of fabric. As I created my textiles, I wanted that presence of separated but together.”

Jude had previously developed an “accordion textile” which stretches and moves with the body, expanding as the wearer breathes. “It represents the living being. I wanted to bring that mystical haunting into a look that represents the pristine body.” A zero-waste technique flowed naturally from this design approach, “it’s not about placing fabric into a cookie cutter but, instead, have the garment tell me what it can and wants to be.”

Alena Nevedrova

“My collection is an expression of how my friends and I feel, trapped in the political system.” Alena Nevedrova was born in Russia and is deeply influenced by her relationship to the totalitarian regime. “I’m from a country where you have to hide your beliefs. Two years ago, I was at a protest in defense of Alexei Navalny. We had been notified that if we went, we could be expelled from the university.” In order to go, Alena and her friends covered their faces, shielding their identity from face recognition cameras. That camouflage defense influenced her MA collection, which incorporates trompe l’oeil prints of everyday garments. Adjustability is equally important, with details that allow garments to be shortened or lengthened. “For me, it is essential, because the most important thing in a protest is the feeling that you can change something.” Fingers or hands are visible throughout the collection, representing the feeling of being captured or trapped. Escape is a running theme throughout each look, with each garment referencing a potential road to freedom: from the wedding dress which holds the promise of a visa, to the fur details which guarantee warmth.

Oscar Ouyang

Beijing-born designer Oscar Ouyang built a collection around the belief that nature can connect different cultures without the need for speech. His knit patterns, for example, were drawn from Southeast Asian plants like Alocasia and Philodendron. The knits combined as many crafts as possible, including crochet, domestic machine knit, Dubied machine knit, and needle felting, “I tried to test all the possibilities of wool as a material, and how different kinds of knitting crafts join together to build a collection.”

Oscar collaborated closely with heritage Italian mills, which allowed him to access dead stock mohair yarns, based on which he developed his knit stitches. He combined this with draping inspired by antique laces sourced from markets, intuitively guiding his design of the silhouettes.


Nomvelo Dlamini explored the Christian colonialists who drew scriptures to deceive Black women into head shaving, as their hair was seen as ungodly, unsightly, and untameable. The Leicester designer juxtaposed this historical research to the work of South African photographer Nontsikelelo Lolo Veleko, who explores black identity and fashion, and paired it with black androgynous music artists in the 90s/2000s. “Their genders were debated, as Black women with androgynous looks still have to prove their femininity.” Nomvelo then used dead-stock cotton-based fabrics from Walthamstow to capture the colours of the uniform she wore during her primary and high school days in Eswatini, Africa.

Chen Si Fan

“About Him” was designed to break gender stereotypes, combining references to menswear archetypes (such as the trench coat, working suit, and shirt) with domestic objects traditionally associated with the feminine (such as ironing boards, curtains, and aprons). To develop this new “fragile and delicate” masculinity, designer Sifan Chen gathered materials from his childhood home and family photo albums. Deepening his cultural roots, the Chinese graduate also worked with an atelier of “Dazi Xiu”, a form of traditional Chinese hand-embroidery, commonly used on the Qipao dress, which is becoming less popular with younger generations. With the goal of revaluing these almost forgotten techniques, Sifan combined them with modern garments, such as jeans and tank tops, signalling that “wearing something old is actually really cool.” The designer hopes to start her own label after graduation, having already gathered three years of experience at The Row, and White and Warren.


Louise Fleischer designs for a woman who is not afraid to be ugly. Exploring what shame, embarrassment, and humiliation mean for a woman, the Hamburg designer creates methods to bypass those uncomfortable emotions, “I enjoy it a lot to share my own embarrassing moments and to have a good laugh about it.”

Movement is key. As a child, it allowed her to accept her stutter, and as a designer, it informed her work process. Upcycling was equally important to the designer. “I use preowned items because it already holds a story and an emotion. For this collection, I used a lot of old garments from my mum who passed away a few years ago. It was an intense and also very uplifting process.”

Louisa prioritised an organic and intuitive design method, working with spontaneous associations. When an upcycled pair of tights was combined with a lace-trimmed bra, the result looked like a fried egg, which then simply became a new theme throughout the collection.


Research for Yaku Stapleton started with sensory design, physical depth, and scale, to include elements of Afro-Futurism over time. The L’Oreal Professionnel Award winner quotes the definition of Ytasha Womack, “Afro Futurism is a way of looking into the future and alternate realities through a black cultural lens,” which allowed him to explore his own identity and blend themes of fantasy and online role-playing games like Runescape. From there, he imagined a role-playing game that involved his own family, incorporating their personalities into character designs. Balancing fashion with costume design, Yaku used these characters as starting point for his collection, which included synthetic fabrics that could be exaggerated and warped through heat treatments, shrinking, and layering, as well as natural fabrics to convey “a sense of honesty”. With this collection, Yaku aims to develop an “open-source” format, emphasising a much-needed transparency in fashion. “By publishing my process, where I prioritize sustainability, I hope to inspire others to do the same when approaching design.”

Chié Kaya

There is something deeply enticing about the ritual of alterations and garment deconstruction. Chie Kaya managed to capture the intimate cosmos of personal styling through a refreshing take on repurposed tailoring and accessorising. During the MA, the Canada Goose Humanature Award For Responsible Design recipient rethought her work through the prism of wearability. That is when she started seeing herself as a designer and not a student. Chié has a lifelong dream of starting her own label, which she aims to follow now that she graduated. Despite feeling scared to face the real world after seven years on the 1 Granary campus, Chie isn’t naive about the industry. “At the end of the day, we need to sell and make money in order to keep going.”

Woojun Jang

Tradition is what inspires Woojun Jang. Exploring “aesthetics of slowness”, the South Korean designer is deeply invested in slow production methods of craftsmanship. “In this era of rapid living with little space for tradition, I pause and look at my work produced by my hands with little help from machines.” It is no surprise then, that fabric and texture play an important role, with patchwork, smocking, and pleating work taking central stage. Patchwork is done using melton wool, as it does not need to be overlocked and can be structured into voluminous shapes. Rugged and hairy fabrics in multiple shades of brown reference the traditional Korean costumes, which were made from hemp and linen.

Woojun defends the value of what he calls “craftsman clothing”, where the time and effort spent on the making of the clothes is proportional to the time spent on wearing and storing the clothes, giving consumers “a new understanding of the values of labor.”


Growing up multicultural in a maximalist city made Pinanki Shah seek the assurance of a halfway point. Somewhere in the juxtapositions between the modern and the traditional, the outlandish and the indigenous, the organic and the structured, Pinanki’s collection was born. “The rise of the living crisis and eye-watering international fees made me realise that I should keep an eye out for free stuff.” Scraps, dead stock fabrics from markets, fashion studios, and bins are skillfully pleated in unapologetically non-eurocentric shapes. Reflecting on her ongoing journey towards balance, Pinanki has a strong sense of the reality outside the studio; “The hardest part is to live with the uncertainty of the future of fashion and the world.” After graduating, the designer aims to find a decent-paying job and learn as much as possible before launching her own brand. She is in “no rush” after all.

Nora Kassim

In “Man Against Mountain”, German-Somali designer Nora Kassim explores her bi-cultural background, confronting Western masculinity to her father’s dress practices – two opposing forms of functionality. Nora’s father often used a square piece of fabric as a skirt or a dress, a tradition which the designer combined with the codes of urban multipurpose wear. Adaptability was key, as all pieces serve a multifunctional purpose and can be worn differently: a hood transforms into a bag and can be worn around the waist or as a backpack. “My collection doesn’t belong to one particular season, it is transitional and adapts to all.”

Now that she graduate, Nora wants to further expand her creative vision, collaborating closely with family and loved ones. “As a woman designing for men, I see masculinity in a different way and want to use that as an advantage. Especially to represent East African culture and the feeling of being in between two worlds, to design clothes for people that share the same feeling of not belonging.”

Francesca Lake

For Francesca Lake, fashion offers a deep exploration of her personal family heritage and cultural roots. The Jamaican designer describes her collection as a “satirical celebration of contradiction and seemingly opposite worlds.” It’s a space full of contradictions, where regality and vulgarity coincide, Church and the Dancehall, morality and badness, Madonna and whore, “noting that their coexistence is what adds to the vibrance and moral groundings of what makes me who I am as proud Jamaican.”

“The best part of this entire process has been being able to represent my country and my culture in this discipline and on this platform, but it was hard to not be fully immersed in that culture that is my inspiration and the foundation of my exploration.” In the future, Francesca hopes to contribute to more opportunities for people from the Caribbean in the industry and help provide a space where Jamaicans can profit from their own culture.

Alessandro Tondolo 

“Cohaeresco”, Latin for “Growing Together”, is the title of Alessandro Tondolo’s collection, highlighting the estranged relationship between humans and nature. After studying agricultural systems and the long-standing exploitation of farmers and their land, the Mexican-Italian designer is confident that progress is a byproduct of our interconnectivity with nature. With the exception of a few waistbands and threads, his clothes are entirely organic. Pushing innovative design, Alessandro worked with Ventile (a waterproof woven material with non-toxic coating) and combined it with upcycled materials, mimicking the behaviour of fungi that reuse organic waste. The Canada Goose Humanature Award For Responsible Design recipient even made his own leather out of kombucha. Alessandro refuses to compromise their values for a job. “I keep hearing from many places that you need to be ruthless and almost somewhat cruel to survive in this industry. But I really believe that you can also achieve something by being caring and compassionate.”