Representing the creative future

CSM MA Fashion 2022: STOP OVERTHINKING, IT KILLS YOUR CREATIVITY

Discover this year’s CSM MA Fashion show, line ups, and sketchbooks

Being amongst the most talented people in the world. A high-pressure position to be in. A privileged position to be in too. By now, we know the drill; being part of the Central Saint Martins Fashion MA cohort is a humbling experience. These students are the hub of fashion creativity. Every February the industry has its eyes on them. Each graduating year births the names we see in the new talent sections at Fashion Weeks, the cool new releases on SSENSE, the next generation of designers in the big luxury houses. With the standards rising year by year, what can we expect from the class of 2022?

Within the context of one of the most competitive fashion programmes in the world, and after last year’s out of the ordinary digital showcase that included the work of all the students, we couldn’t help but expect a good old classic CSM show: A tight selection of clean-cut collections with the right mix of wearable but innovative womenswear, sharply tailored menswear with a twist and just the right amount of artistic showpieces with a sustainable take. We could even guess what the designers would say; well-structured answers about their collections, job-interview-like confidence on their future plans, maybe a self-deprecating joke or two about working hard.

This CSM Fashion MA was nothing like that.

No expectations were met, in the best way possible. These last two years were hard, but somehow, the experiences of isolation, political and emotional turmoil produced the most practically creative graduates ever. “Cautiously daring,” one of the designers shared when asked how she would describe the class of 2022.

Perhaps the general climate of uncertainty had provided space for introspection. Normality doesn’t exist, making plans feels foolish, the notion of the grind seems vain, so what are we working towards?

“Fuck overthinking,” surprisingly more than one designer sighed. Almost unanimously, this year’s class mentioned that their biggest takeaway from the Fashion MA at CSM was “fighting self-doubt” and “letting your instinct lead your work.” One by one, the 32 designers talked about trusting themselves as if it is a newly found skill, something they discovered in shock after a crit or a successful fabric dyeing session. This group of fashion makers was drowning in the anxiety and low confidence that characterises our generation, and something pulled them out. Was it the necessity to let go in order to protect their creativity? Was it their tutors who begged them to “stop overcomplicating things and trust the process”? Or was it the hybrid teaching format this year followed, starting with working from home to then get thrown to the overstimulating environment of the third-floor studios at the King’s Cross campus?

Whatever it was that momentarily cured these designers of their imposter syndrome and gave them the confidence to make without thinking, one element connected all the collections: maturity. Complex topics such as gender theory, diaspora, religion, community, and cultural heritage are deconstructed respectfully making up cerebral narratives around thoughtful line-ups that don’t lack artistic spontaneity. It was a year of fruitful messiness and experimentation and this was demonstrated through the intense presence of innovative textiles; from sun-bleached fabric to knitwear based on an algorithm that turned Covid data into patterns. Deadstock and repurposed materials are a red thread throughout. Bedsheets fresh out of the charity shop, parents’ clothes, or offcuts donated from fashion brands. Historical fashion shapes were ideas up for questioning and untouchable fashion genres such as sportswear and utilitarian clothing gave the vocabulary for a reviewed use of materials.

But again, despite a refreshingly self-governing approach to design, this year remains grounded in reality as if their life depends on it. Words that are considered taboo in the creative industries were breathed out proudly. Stability. Paid holidays. Pension. Clocking off when I leave the building. Locality. No more freelancing. A healthy working environment. Are we getting closer to a time where a creator can demand to be seen as a skilled worker who deserves to find happiness through their work whilst surviving healthily in a society that looks at fashion and art as trivial sources of entertainment? Are we slowly coming out of the bleak hole of self-deprecation and low self-esteem in the name of perseverance?

“I can be anything that I want to be,” one of this year’s MA designers notes randomly.

Maybe we are. We won’t overthink it further.

 

 

Aaron Esh – Menswear

“An integration of object and garment” states Aaron, “My mother was a sculptor and it’s what really began my interest in shape and form.” To the menswear designer and McQueen Scholar, collections begin with the exploration of the shapes, objects, and sculptures that live within the structures of garments themselves. Sponsored by leather manufacturer ECCO, creating his own waterless dyeing techniques and using full-body scanning to produce perfectly fitted pieces on every part of the wearer’s anatomy. Aaron created silhouettes hand-wrapped in leather which in his words propose: “A new vision of chic, romantic clothes,” which are infused with romantic symbolism; Spirals, infinity, circles, ties, and curves. One of the biggest challenges of Aaron’s time as an MA student has been finding his signature as a designer and creator, “The MA is designed to provoke you, push you, and question every part of you and your practice. There is a real expectation to deliver.”

Alec Bizby – Menswear

After running his own sustainable menswear brand from 2015 until Covid hit in 2020 Welsh designer Alec Bizby was drawn to the MA course at Central Saint Martins to build his portfolio and expand on his design practice. “This collection has the desire of conforming but is unable to constrain what’s flowing below.” Alec introduces his collection which is a manifestation of his experience growing up gay and disabled in his rural Welsh hometown, “it’s innocent clothing trapped and constrained; large panels of fabric smocked down to conforming structures, covered in plaster.” Using recycled curtain linings, repurposed calico from old toiles, and found materials Alec’s MA collection is an introspective journey into his past, something which he sees as a way to break free from rigid social moulds, both literally and poetically; coming out of the other side with fresh ideas, dreams and resolve. “After graduation, I want to get a job in the industry.” He continues, laying out his future plans. “I’m looking for a job where I can have more stability, less anxiety, paid holidays, pension, and clocking off when I leave the building. No more freelancing!”

Aleksandra Blinova – Womenswear

With internships at Loewe, Balmain, and Viktor & Rolf Latvian designer Aleksandra Blinova’s final MA collection is a theatrical exploration of insomnia told in 5 chapters. “My MA collection is a handmade poem, the looks are approached as paintings: the shades of blue night sky satin intertwine with bleach black cotton and translucent shades of cerulean organza.” The 5 corresponding looks take the viewer on a journey through a restless night with dramatic flair. Twisted silhouettes highlighted with epoxy dipped apple hearts, spindly strands of pearl inlays, and dreamily draped chiffon panels inspired by her research paintbrush strokes, fragmented crooked shapes of apple cores, and the works of Edvard Munch.  “Working on this collection was like nothing I’ve ever done before.” As Aleksandra was left stranded in Paris last year during the first lockdown she was forced to begin the concept of her MA collection in isolation, an experience which she says left her stricken with anxiety and terrified of reality. “The only way for me was to immerse myself into it, and allow myself to feel those emotions, perhaps my biggest challenge was to allow myself to be fragile, scared, and be alone with my thoughts.” An experience which she describes in the end as being quite freeing, “escaping the void made me feel much stronger, somehow those emotions made me feel more alive. I felt like I was a human being.” Continuing on from her own personal rebirth the MA has also been a means of Aleksandra’s liberation. “The most important lesson I have learned is that I am free. That there are never limits in what we do or think. I am a creator, that makes a collection. A collection that is free from the education system. From success or the notion of self-worth. I am taking an action that has a voice and power, to shape the future.”

Alyssa Groeneveld – Menswear

For her MA collection, entitled Ascend, Dutch designer Alyssa Groeneveld looked to the two things passed down to her from her parents for inspiration. “For my dad, it was football, I used this theme of football culture, especially the kind of people you’d find at a stadium to inform the aesthetics and art direction for this collection. And from my mom, I learned about faith and my relationship with God. I used this as the core of my collection.” Using technical, sporty materials combined with ecclesiastical irreverence, and references to alchemy & mysticism Alyssa’s MA collection was made entirely of pre-existing garments, draped to create new pieces informed by both sportswear and classic couture. “I am literally obsessed with drapery now, it’s intuitive and it’s a way to put my whole body and energy into a garment, I can create crazy shapes around the body.” She also collaborated with Puma and The New Originals, using their football jerseys, and worked with Bakovic studio in Amsterdam to create footwear from old goalie gloves, collaborations which she hopes to continue in the future. “The hardest part of my MA was growth, I had serious growing pains, which was also the best part,” She reflects; “But the most important lesson I learned over the past 2 years was to have ZERO FUCKS.”

Bihan Lin – Womenswear

“As the passing of time is so easy to be misunderstood, I wanted to create uncategorized garments in random layers.” Says Womenswear designer Bihan Lin. Originally from Beijing, Bihan used secondhand clothes from his parents as the basis for his designs, “I enlarged and distorted the patterns, mixing them with off-cuts of deadstock jersey, wool, and tailoring fabric, everything is recognizable yet hard to distinguish, I want to bring the new graphic reality.” Designing with his feelings as opposed to traditional research, Bihan’s process is holistic, starting with a random photograph or sketch, “the accumulation of objects, the reflections – Nothing is on purpose but instead collected by ‘time’,” he explains. “Over the last two years, I’ve learned who I am as a designer and how to refine my design language.” He reflects, “I see myself working more in demi-couture,” he muses on his future, “my garments are wearable but there is a bit of oddness to them. But I will keep on creating and see where my work takes me to.”

Brais Albor – Menswear

“A masculine menswear collection made in the most un-masculine way to create a new identity.” This is how Spanish menswear designer Brais Albor introduces his MA graduate collection, which is based on concepts of toxic masculinity, influenced by the dandies and the behaviour of animals in the wild; all of them mixed to create the uniform of my powerful and revolutionary human being capable of being part of the change.” Working with non-traditional bodies is a big part of Brais’ process. “I see sartorial fashion, in this optic, as a familiar medium through which people can feel powerful, trained, built, as strong as the item they are wearing.” Using deadstock fabrics from other fashion brands and designers and collaborating with a family-run Italian factory for his footwear to add heritage to his pieces, Brais intends to re-invent notions of masculinity as we know it. “A new masculinity is melting, subtracting its sharpness into a place where lovers can gather and become truly a place of collective creation and pleasure. A language for everyone, because the first language is LOVE.”

Brandon Choi – Womenwear

“A conceptual take on occasion-wear and couture,” is how Brandon Choi describes his MA collection. The half-French, half Chinese designer who grew up in Portsmouth finds a lot of inspiration in the human form and traditional couture silhouettes. “A spontaneity is seen in undulating hems and raw edges, contrasted by a deliberate and disciplined handling of details and resolution. The pattern paper is trapped between layers of tulle and exposes a part of the process often left behind once folded back into its envelope. It is a study of paper and its qualities.” After spending a large portion of his first year on the MA course, finally being allowed back into the CSM MA was a refreshing moment for Brandon’s design process. “It felt like the “reset” button had been pushed and I could start fresh. My silhouettes began to grow and volumes became larger.” Already being able to boast internships at Viktor & Rolf and Vivienne Westwood, it’s no surprise that Brandon already feels part of the Haute Couture industry. “The idea of working with clients on custom pieces and commissions is very exciting, as is going into industry and gaining more savoir-faire from people who work in teams with decades of knowledge and skill. Ateliers are a magical place where almost anything is possible.”

Charlie Constantinou – Menswear

For Cypriot designer Charlie Constantinou, extreme weather conditions and the contemporary need for our clothing to be adaptable was his biggest source of inspiration. “I researched a lot into Inuit tribes native to Alaska and Canada, and how they adapted to such harsh conditions of the cold over the past hundreds of years. A lot of these pieces were some of the first examples in the history of ‘technical clothing.” Charlie opted to use modern materials, replacing animal products with sherpa fleece and waterproof nylons. “There were definitely many realisations I had throughout this process, about the volume and layering of my work, which was followed by a lot of sampling and trialing until it was at a place I felt happy with.” Collaborating with KBN Knitwear, Charlie’s MA collection showcases how technical wear doesn’t always have to put function over form, created in neutral tones with moss-like detailing and nature-inspired prints. “My goal is to launch my own label. I think the industry has grown so much since I first started studying fashion, with ‘streetwear’ also entering the realm of ‘luxury’. I do not see myself as one or the other but rather somewhere in between.”

Compton Quashie – Menswear

“My collection is about celebrating my very Black and very Queer identity,” says Chicago native Compton Quashie, whose collection explores their longing to connect across the diaspora through shared material culture – Sound, Dance, Color, Body. “Many painful things have happened to the Black community in the US and continue to. I’ve often felt very isolated and unable to do anything to help as I’m here in the UK; I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to process those feelings was through my art, which honestly is usually the right answer from the beginning.” When designing their collection Compton describes the process as fearful and uncertain, yet exciting, choosing to follow their heart when first embarking on a creative process. “As a Black artist I quite often have to think about my work in the context of a predominantly white audience, which can be emotionally taxing,” they continue, “but throughout this course, I realised I do not need to retraumatize myself by explaining Black subtexts in my work, I can choose to just not explain and let my presence speak.”

Domenic Bartlett-Roylance – Womenswear

Entitled Violent Joy, Domenic’s collection is a hedonistic celebration of life. “I experimented a lot with this collection and embraced spontaneity and expressiveness.” Says the Sydney-born designer, “I created a new way of cutting which I made in collaboration with my friend Julia Rusevica, who is a queer dancer. Essentially, she used the movement of her body to draw free-flowing patterns which I used for my garments.” A recipient of the Carla Zampatti Foundation Design Award, Domenic’s collection was also inspired by the photography of Derek Ridgers and Dave Swindells, and the images of party-goers they famously captured. “I made my dresses incredibly light by using different weights of sports nylons so you can spend all night in them.” Describing his process as erratic, Domenic chooses to design through collaging pieces of cut-out nylon and leatherette onto the mannequin, as opposed to traditional drawing and draping methods, “My final garment is the toile, it embraces rawness and unfinished elements, which actually turned out to be more sustainable as nothing was wasted, from one roll of fabric I had enough to make around 20 dresses.” He reflects, “I loved working on this collection, it taught me to persist and have faith in the process.”

Ed Mendoza – Textiles for Fashion (L’Oreal Professionel Award Winner)

“My collection is about understanding my multicultural identity living in the diaspora and reclaiming, retelling, and recontextualizing influences from my culture’s past by modernising them.” Says textile designer and BFC & LVMH scholar Ed Mendoza, whose past work experiences include placements with Craig Green and Mowalola Ogunlesi. “It was really important to be inclusive with my casting. As a plus-size guy myself, I wanted to have that representation within my work. Something that would have been really powerful for me to see as a child, that body positivity would have helped me accept and love who I was from a much younger age.” As a starting point for his collection, Ed looked to his own heritage, in particular the colonisation of Peru and the Caribbean. “I took inspiration from colonial garments, subverting them with prints inspired by indigenous imagery from Peru and the Caribbean, erotic pre-Colombian sculpture and 16th-century Naval uniforms.” Ed was also inspired by the late 90’s LA rave culture and JNCO jeans, “It doesn’t matter what size someone is, if you’re a good designer you can make anyone look great, sexy, bold, confident and happy with how they look.”

James Walsh – Womenswear

James Walsh formed a collection from collecting. Exploring acquisition and adoration, the MA Womenswear designer presents an eclectic curation of personal artifacts – ballooning surgical gloves that blister at the wrist, a playing card gown, and a Chihuahua-cast doggy bag. It harks back to childhood, igniting the excitement found in an open toybox; each item is a puzzle piece in a preferential jigsaw. “There was never really a clear starting point, I just began playing around with different objects and ideas I liked and started printing them. There is no real connection between each one, aside from the construction and finishing methods,” he says, pointing to model-making as his distinctive approach. Perhaps the most striking of them all is an amethyst-hued, flocked velvet airplane that swallows the wearer whole, minus a circular window for the face to poke through. “The scale of the pieces is always a challenge, they can’t really be hung on a rail and put in my wardrobe, so storing them carefully is always a bit of a problem. I’ve had to get a lot of taxis recently!” says James. Born in Dublin, but raised in Manchester, the designer has spent time at Christian Louboutin previously. He expresses the difficulties in completing a degree whilst juggling two jobs: “It was only in the last few weeks that I realised I actually have to put a collection together. I knew the finish and colours of the pieces would unite them in a way – though this wasn’t the easiest to see or communicate at times.”

Jessan Macatangay – Womenswear (L’Oreal Professionel Award Winner)

“A woman is more than her body,” is the message which Jessan Macatanay amplifies to society through his sculptural, skin-baring ensembles that jeer subtly at conservative prudence. It began in the Philippines where he grew up; seeing ladies sneered at in Roman Catholic churches for baring a shoulder or how noses collectively upturned at a simple, low neckline. “If you wear a skirt that is too short, you are considered provocative. If you show your cleavage, people will raise their eyebrows. My project started with this fear and discomfort of showing skin,” he says. The designer’s research dove into swimwear, a grey area in Filipino editorials. It was one advertisement from the 1990s that birthed Jessan’s entire collection: “It’s for the people who adore sensuality without fearing sexuality; and for the young woman who longs to relax on a beach with her legs and arms sun-kissed, basking in light. She does not want to cover up, she wants to be free of restrictions and imposed judgments,” explains the previous design assistant for Marc Jacobs. Moulded, geometric forms emerge from his use of crepe jersey stretched like a drum skin across wireframing, as a “surrealist manipulation and extension of the body.” This metal skeleton instigates a metaphor for the modern women; steely on the inside, but encased in a soft and lustrous exterior. “The starting point is always my muse. Who she is and everything about her,” Jessan adds. “The project was intense but it definitely helped me become a more mature designer, which I was hoping for. After school, I need to work on setting goals and deadlines for myself to keep going. I guess I was a bit comfortable having a safe place for seven years, being at Central Saint Martins. Now that it is ending, there’s always that fear of the unknown.”

Jiyong Kim – Menswear

For Jiyong Kim, every day starts with sunshine. How its rays dance upon the pleats of a trouser or kiss the creases on an overshirt. “Sun-bleaching is the fabrication technique that I have been working on for a few years. The idea arose from faded colours found in discarded vintage goods. It contains no acidic materials and is all completed by nature,” explains the ex-Louis Vuitton design assistant, whose menswear innovations caught the eye of late Virgil Abloh. His holistic tan-line methods counteract fast fashion’s lightning pace. In a makeshift practice, Jiyong hangs garments to roast in an open field between one and three months, he contorts them with string, marking out deliberate dents and distinctions akin to tie-dye. Weathered by rainfall and wind, they place emphasis on one-of-a-kind individuality which sets the Jiyong Kim brand apart from the cookie-cutter conveyor belt that fashion, as an industry, has become so closely acquainted with. Rather, the designer’s second-hand Japanese silks emulate a rustic charm found only in love-worn antiques. Originally from South Korea, Jiyong is completing his sixth and final year studying at Central Saint Martins: “I had to work abroad, remotely, for a few terms and the time difference was the greatest difficulty. The best day was when I showed my collection to the tutors for the first time in person – they could see everything exactly as I intended, it didn’t require words,” he says, shining with pride. Already stocked at Mr. Porter and SSENSE, it’s clear that Jiyong won’t fade from consciousness any time soon. “I have one collection for my brand launching after the graduate show. I will keep working on opportunities for collaborations in various fields, not only the fashion industry but art too.”

João Machado – Menswear

João Machado found softness among the harsh shards of heartbreak. Arising from the bedroom, his MA Menswear designs trace silky, tactile intimacies associated with love – pastel négligées, duvet-esque drapery, and teddy bears twisted artfully by affection. “This collection comes from a letter I wrote to my previous partner – it revolves around owning the sensibility and vulnerability that you feel after suffering through a break-up. With the loss of the emotional and physical space we shared, it gave much importance to intimate surroundings,” explains the designer, who hails from Coimbra, Portugal. “It is mostly composed of washed-out cotton and nightwear pieces such as upcycled slip dresses found in vintage markets. This work highlights the act of crying into your pillow during the night.” So, too, is it a subversive commentary on undressing; spliced lace stockings caress the legs and question masculinity all at once. João’s creative process came to be a lesson in acceptance, much like the tender trials of a new romance: “Sometimes beauty is in the sudden feeling you get when you develop something; the best part is to be able to look back at your work and notice that you can trust the imperfections you’ve created,” he says. Laying his studies to sleep, the former intern for Craig Green and Bottega Veneta dreams vividly ahead, hoping to work in South Korea. “I have been at Central Saint Martins since 2015, so it is bittersweet to leave such an environment. However, I couldn’t be happier to try and follow a different path.“

Joe Pearson – Menswear

“Gender isn’t real and nothing really matters.” Joe Pearson is his own muse, sitting at an intersection of performativity and self-preservation. “I’m creating a space where hyperbolic, male gaze femininity is celebrated but also appropriated. It’s a delusional romanticism of queer’d couture,” he says, using himself as the primary mannequin for elegant gape-backed dresses cut on the bias, then codpiece corsets and meringue-like drapes that swathe around ankles. Joe’s collection, a caricature of modesty, addresses Victoriana at its most glaringly erotic. For the Dior Men scholar, peephole attire developed organically from historical research and a past collection on the cultural straitjacket of dandyism: “The experience of making my final project was incredibly positive, my process has become very streamlined as a result. The feedback I received pulled work out of me I didn’t know was possible.” Originally from Nottingham, Joe completed work experience stints at Chanel and Alexander McQueen before enrolling on MA Menswear during the pandemic. “The transition to working in a studio surrounded by people took adjustment. One of the best things about the course is interacting with so many like-minded, driven and talented peers. In no other setting are you going through something so professionally and personally intense like this,” he says. Artisan collaborations are next in his plan to master the couture craft: “I would love to learn traditional techniques from skilled hands and eventually work for myself.”

Juntae Kim – Menswear

“True beauty is not tightening the body, but loosening it.” In corseting the male form, Juntae Kim unravels binary constrictions. Spanning whittle-waisted jackets with plump shoulders and buckaroo ranch boots below, his MA Menswear collection, entitled “Romance From Freedom ”, reads like a mish-mash cultural reference book or manifesto on sartorial morality. “I want to find new standards regardless of gender and body type, and further create my own genre by liberating the body from historical costumes designed only for specific classes,” says the South Korean designer, tearing up tradition and turning a new page on fluid fashion. Such progressive values permeate his stance on sustainable design, where Juntae’s material repertoire is composed largely of off-cut suedes and almost 80%-recycled denim. By winning a Levi’s collaboration contest to utilise deadstock jeans, the designer gave “a new meaning to abandoned products by repairing, reimagining and repurposing the old.” This sentiment rings true in Juntae’s wider technical approach; juxtaposing ancient flossing and hand-embroidery with modern laser-washing and hotfix embellishment. Over seven years spent in fashion education, “the hardest part and best part is the same,” says Juntae. “Sometimes, I feel pressured to be with the most talented people in the world but at the same time, I feel so blessed to be with them, interact with them, share everyone’s opinion and encourage each other in one space. This is a part of my life that I will never experience again.” As for the next chapter? “I believe I’m a prepared individual who can adapt to new surroundings. I can be a costume designer, I can work in fashion houses. I can be anything that I want to be!”

Kun Qian – Textiles for Fashion

Frothing soap bubbles, sounds of trickling bath taps, the commotion outside one’s bedroom window: these are elements of Kun Qian’s home fantasy, founded at the apotheosis of lockdown. It draws on banal sensations and familiar comforts, “reimagining an object you see every day to be something wearable,” says the Textiles for Fashion designer. From China but living near apartment-clad Barbican, the location opened Kun’s mind to the interiors of a hotel bathroom. She went forth to conduct material investigations, upcycling found goods like towel robes, sponge scrubbers, tablecloths, and rubber kitchen gloves into frilly, homespun frocks and netted shower caps blown to colossal proportions. Her process is rich in hand-crafted dexterity, utilising crochet and embroidery skills that were enhanced from her time interning at Alexander McQueen and Simone Rocha. “My techniques are all very time-consuming to make, but craftwork is the best option when you’re stuck in the house. It became difficult to organise helpers during the pandemic, and embroidery packages were all delayed,” she says. “I prefer hybrid working. On campus the students emotionally anchor each other but in my own space I enjoy wearing pyjamas!” Above all, Kun wants people to feel at home – both physically in her designs and cognitively in their identity: “The most important thing for me is to find out who I am, I need to really believe in myself when I create something. Luckily, I think I’ve nearly gotten there.“

Leanne Kim – Womenswear

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Leanne Kim’s womenswear collection takes flight as an ode to weightlessness. Its reference points: sky-diving, parachuting, and wingsuiting, are all sports grounded firmly in gravitational physics. By using cocoon-tight, lightweight nylon, and harness fixtures, “sporty silhouettes are turned into feminine ready-to-wear pieces, allowing wearers the freedom to interact and customise interchangeable design,” the designer says, alluding to a fallen angel ideology. Detaching hoods and removable roll-necks support seasonless, sustainable functionality while a vibrant colour story reflects the dynamic skyline. Leanne, who previously studied a BA in Fashion Design at Kingston University, maintains a sunny outlook on the MA course: “It was fast-paced and rewarding! Especially when samples and toiles fell into place and worked seamlessly to create the full story of a collection. Benefiting from the knowledge and experience of the tutors has also been incredibly inspiring,” she shares. During the lockdown, Leanne rented a studio to store her towering stock of aerial fabric and machinery: “Having independent time as well as the atmospheric university studio buzz established the perfect environment for me to focus and progress.” The ex-Givenchy intern, going forward, wishes to elevate her cloud-centric clothing to new, entrepreneurial heights: “I am hoping to work as a womenswear designer, with the future intention of launching my own label.”

Liza Keane – Womenswear

Feral, foreboding, fiercely anatomical, Liza Keane unleashed her “Beast” collection from the MA Womenswear department as a reaction to inner turmoil. The Greenford-born designer introduces “clothes that function as psychological armour,” – thick, sinewy skins required to navigate modern womanhood. It’s as though femininity grew fangs: “My cuts and creations aim to transpose the symbolic qualities of a beast to women: instinctive physicality, predatory authority, nocturnal elusiveness, lithe elegance, and primal erotic sensibility,” she says, of gauzy bodices that tease with voyeuristic allusion.  Forged through natural and artificial tensions, silicone palms cup the wearer’s breasts while leather bralettes are bolstered with faux nipples and prosthetic bones protrude underwear. These sculptural techniques were aided by Liza’s past work experience at the Royal Opera House and Simone Rocha, though her taste is more Frankenstein’s lab than frilled frocks: “The studio transformed into the Beast universe – Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator vibes. My sister would always make jokes about how every time she comes in there are new body parts lying around… she was referring to moulds and casts,” she jests. As Liza’s clothes evolved by way of matriarchal mutation, she also grew: “Designing felt like being in a deadlock with fears that were gnawing at me for years and I became so angry. But I had lots of moments where I surprised myself, also those of total connection with my work that felt cathartic and grounding. Now I’m more excited than scared for the future.”

Mehmet – Womenswear

Mehmet cloaks women in confident severity – veils that fall poetically onto the bust, flowing and flirting with the form. “The collection is inspired by traditional cultural costumes deconstructed and reinforced with tailoring shapes confronting the passive representation of my people in the Orientalist post-card,” describes the Parisian designer. Where radical raw hems and tailoring shoulder-pads regard posture as the ultimate provocation. “Draping is a memory of my childhood, where I would see the women around me covering their bodies, soft fabrics around their neck in an effortless movement. This vision is about growing up in an immigrant family – having a desire to create emotional bridges between west and east,” he says. During the course, Mehmet took on a charitable mantle; merging with climate activists around the Black Sea to design keşan cloth, made from various vegetable fibres. In turn, it could be sold by locals to protect the neighbouring woodland and ensure the survival of its beehives. It mirrors a similar, community essence felt on the MA Womenswear course. Though at times, it was “a nirvana, a never-ending puzzle,” he says. “My peers gave me the courage to be brave.” Having also worked as a designer under Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, Mehmet underlines how the ateliers became inherent to his learning: “The interaction there was very important for me, it was the only place where I found people from my community.” Representation is something he would like to see strictly reevaluated across the whole industry: “There is no real diversity in fashion, it is a fact. As a migrant descendant, I don’t always feel understood in the industry. Working with someone who is from a different background is always an opportunity to enhance your vision.“

Miriam Griffiths – Knitwear

Knitwear designer, Miriam Griffiths, is weaving a relationship between craft and quantitative technology. “I worked with a computational arts student from Goldsmiths University to create an algorithm that began turning pandemic data into patterns. Those outcomes were then turned into jacquard which I knitted and felted,” says the Sheffield native. At the height of Covid-19, protective clothing became central to both society and the designer’s final project. Made from natural, biodegradable resources that prevent micro-plastic marine pollution, her textural designs also conserve the planet. “My focus gradually moved onto military garments and utility wear. Some of the main elements in the collection are made from repurposed kit bags, even deadstock army zips,” she shares. It is translated in the khaki-tinged colour palette and ballooning space suit silhouettes; influences that all subvert the domesticity of yarn. Far from bloodthirsty combat, though, Miriam’s biggest battles have been fought internally: “Studying was an emotional rollercoaster. The first year was tough for me; I had really bad imposter syndrome and little belief in my design skills. It took quite a long time to find my flow. When I started, I was scared that it would be a really competitive environment,” she says. Yet the designer found common threads and a close-knit community in her cohort. “I don’t think I could have made it through the course without the friends I’ve made – especially Thomas. I’m nervous about leaving the tutors and technicians but I’m excited about not being so tired all the time!”

Pauline Dujancourt – Knitwear

Pauline Dujancourt’s MA collection, “Dysfunctional Beauty,” explores the uniform of the East German woman. “Because supplies were running low on the East side of the Berlin wall, East German women used to make their own garments at home,” the Paris-born designer explains. “In order to present well to the rest of the world, the Soviet Union required that they made elegant and long-lasting clothes.” With just a domestic set of tools and a pair of needles, Dujancourt has created a collection which harkens back to the past, where simple sets of clothing – made anywhere, at any time – could be made into beautiful works. Twisted drapes and distressed tailoring are married with hand-knitted and crochet techniques, whilst woollen trousers and oversized jackets are distorted and rearranged, thus rearranging the feminine silhouette of the GDR woman. “Within this collection, I strived to turn an ancestral technique such as hand-knitting or crochet into a contemporary means of expression,” the knitwear designer says. “I really wanted to offer a new vision of craft by trying to bring it somewhere new whilst creating a singular sense of beauty and desire. I wish for the women who will be wearing these clothes to feel special and beautiful, and yet comfortable and sensual.”