Representing the creative future

CSM MA FASHION 2023 PART TWO: Sketchbooks and research

Discover the second part of the 2023 Central Saint Martins Fashion MA graduates!

“I really want to see my work interacting with real people, see who wears it, see who cares – university doesn’t teach you how you will be received.” Graduate Laura Barnes sent us this reply as a casual observation in between detailed accounts of her final collection, but that didn’t make the comment any less insightful. The British designer got right to the heart of what makes the transition from university to industry so scary: design education encourages you to dive deep into your own universe, guided by the (at times, hyper-critical) feedback of tutors – experienced educators who know your intention and process before seeing the final result. As you enter the industry, you’re expected to translate it all to an audience that doesn’t know your backstory. How does that affect your work and the way you communicate it?

Consider this MA overview a little bridge. A deep dive into the sketchbooks, research, and work-in-process of the graduate class, alongside their thoughts, inspirations, and dreams.

For those who missed it, find part one here. 

Samuel Slattery

A confrontation of codes, white collar versus blue collar dressing, was the starting point for Samuel Slattery. Inspired by the differences between his father, who works in IT, and stepdad, who is a carpenter and rides a Harley Davidson, his collection combines male garment archetypes with elements of dressing for a rave. “I take classic examples of masculinity such as the businessman, biker, or military man, and subvert them with elements of kitsch and other subcultures. I then perverted this with a teenager’s braggadocio.”

Technically, fluid pattern cutting helped express this eclectic vision of manhood. “The tailored jackets have bias-cut sleeves that drape and allow for better movement. The bomber jacket has military-inspired armbands that are cut as one and double as a back fastener. A draped lycra vest starts from one shoulder, wraps and ties around the body, then falls to the floor.”

Samuel was relatively new to design, as he had previously done a BA in politics, but already has an LVMH scholarship under his belt. For the future, he plans to: “take a break then see what the best plan of action is. I’d like to do my own thing if I can.”

Aiqiong He

In the words of designer Aiqiong He, “A Proper Madam” is an erotic expression, a celebration of female sexuality. It’s a story about sex, power, and fun. In order to tell that story, Aiqiong started by having many conversations with women in her life – a crucial part of the research: “I admire the discipline and intensity of professional women working in the corporate system and I sympathize with their vulnerability in a capitalist machine. And I have been empowered by the stories of sex workers, who work in the world of sexual subculture within their own autonomy.” Fascinated by this contrast between the office worker who acquires social status through economic capital and the sex worker whose erotic capital leads to social injustice, the Italian-Chinese designer explores new forms of eroticism that are in constant balance between sensuality and the mundanity of daily life.

Aiqiong uses mostly deadstock and upcycled materials, as “the imperfection and blemishes actually enhance the beauty and value of genuine leather.” The material requires an (at times frustratingly) slow work process, but the end result is always worth it, as it’s a manifestation of “unapologetic sexiness.”

Andrew Davis

“There’s a moment that happens when I’m making where the process becomes so involved that the clothes start to embody the reality of where they literally are. When I brought a suitcase full of clothes I had sewn in London to the USA, they began to distress themselves into my own American reality…”

Arianna Ablondi Pedretti

“Ragazze Immagine”, Italian for poster girls, is an exploration of the Italian television, beauty pageants, and popular TV shows that Arianna Ablondi Pedretti grew up watching, while also referencing 60s and 70s Italian and French cinema (the Italian designer’s main obsession). Through her work, Arianna aims to question the hypersexualisation of young girls and women in Italian mainstream media, “TV in Italy is very political and very present in everyone’s life, whether we want to or not. For a long time, I thought it didn’t affect me or concerned me, but it really did.”

Arianna compares “these hypersexualised women that I used to see on TV with the hypersexualised women that I saw every day on the streets, trying to understand what brings them together and what makes one praised and respected and the other demonized.” This led to a collection in continuous play between notions of luxury and mainstream, expensive and cheap.

“I really do believe that my duty and what I feel like I was born to do is to raise feminist issues, in whichever field I am in and fashion definitely has a lot of problematic systems related to womanhood. For a long time, I thought that my feminist ethos and my passion for fashion could not work together, however now I really do believe that I can blend them together and this is what will make both my fashion and my values stronger.”

Chalukya Samarawickrama

The collection of Chalukya Samarawickrama is named after the Italian 1557 fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip” (which took the menswear designer four months to locate in an affordable copy). The book references Serendip, which is the former name of Sri Lanka and the birthplace of Chalukya’s parents – it’s also what Horace Walpole to create the word “serendipity”, meaning when one discovers something by chance or comes across something without anticipation, representative of how Chalukya felt on the MA.

The collection explores the experience of being British Asian, as well as Sri Lankan history, traditional dress, craft, and royalty. The dragons that were prominent figures in ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’ were translated to scale details throughout the collection, and a collaboration with British Asian embroiderer, Thanseela Abdul Kabeer, led to a large black dragon embroidery for an oversized black coat and cream dragon scale embroidery for the top and under collars of a cropped cream version of the coat.

The main inspiration for Chalukya’s work, however, is her own father, an elderly, disabled, Asian man. “He is my muse and who I design for. This collection is designed for the older gentleman giving them a sense of freedom and entitlement through fashion.” Studying her father’s wardrobe, the graduate found inspiration in the traditional tailored trousers, cotton shirts, and chunky knitwear alongside his traditional Sri Lankan sarongs. “I wanted to create a collection that also was about decolonising men of colour from the constraints of Eurocentric dressing.”

Chan Kai Lap Dean

“After work (Nostalgic Reverie)” by CHAN Kai Lap Dean explores memory and nostalgia. “The past is omnipresent, it surrounds and saturates us.” The Hong Kong designer is fascinated by identity and memory. “We are the product of all our experiences since we are the sum of all our memories at any moment. What the past has left to me are merely vague and fragmental pieces of memory. Through taking a closer look into the everyday happenings, the humour becomes the cover-up of the blemishes in life.”

This exploration of the relationship between the individual and the city translates through colours and techniques inspired by photography and painting, a reference to the designer’s visual arts background. “It is very soft and light but at the same time with strong colours to imply the emotional touch. I utiltize the visual impact of 90s Hong Kong in current photos and transformed them into my fabrics. The fabrics can see the tension of conflation and segregation, like fragmented traces of my memories. I wish for the women who will be wearing these clothes to feel special, like caring a story, but also relaxing and comfortable.”

François Boudreaux

“Tesla town” is an interpretation of the American dream. Inspired by iconic American pop-culture moments, François Boudreaux started experimenting with all-denim silhouettes. From Thelma & Louise in Levi Strauss, to Marty McFly in Back to the Future and Sade in the “Sweetest Taboo” music video, denim played a significant role throughout American pop culture. “I grabbed elements from different time frames to create a new approach to the idea of denim in the future of a modern family while paying homage to the material.”

The American designer aimed for a uniformity in aesthetics, shifting the focus to the details through tonal colour blocking, utilitarian design, and full wardrobing. “My fascination with light denim stems from the fact that if you wash denim fabric separately, you can never achieve the exact colour twice. This is a form of luxury to me.” Overall, François aimed to use traditional techniques ‒ such as pleating, cording, pintucks, and quilting ‒ in unconventional ways. ”The approach is to be extreme while also being subtle. I try to provoke the unusual with familiarity.”

Ultimately, the graduate hopes to use fashion to change the way the world views New Orleans. “For fashion week, ‘New York, Paris, London, and Milan’ are places that make headlines and are deemed desirable, I would like New Orleans to sit in that same vein and level.”

Gillian Yeh 

“The unnaturally natural hybrid” depicts a dystopian world where female species are bred by scientists into hybrid animals to meet all men’s needs. Gillian Yeh uses animal metaphors to protest against female stereotypes. In Taiwanese culture, animals are often used to describe women and female traits. Lions, for example, are used to reference strong wives, while elephants are used to describe women with big thighs. “I refuse to live under the male gaze and be objectified as well as sexualized as a woman. I am against body shaming and all expectation of women nowadays.” This observation was combined with a fascination with dystopian fiction like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Nightbreed by David Cronenberg.

As a knitwear designer, Gillian starts her creative process with the development of original knitted textiles. Inspired by the bone structure of mammals, she created cut-out knits, as well as animal-print, knitted jersey that changes colour when stretched. The designer developed her silhouettes by observing different animals and playing with jersey on herself to imitate their movement. “I want to design fashion that enables women to show their body with no fear and to feel comfortable with wearing whatever they want.”

Ifeanyi Okwuadi 

Inspired by Nicolas Lokhoff’s ‘The Pyramid of Capitalist System’, the work of Ifeanyi Okwuadi satirically examines both western and eastern society. The British designer researched Russian and British history through the lens of class, value, and taste. Films like ‘Nicholas & Alexandra’ (1971), ‘Bright Young Things’ (2003), ‘Strike’ (1925), and ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925) informed the colours, materials, techniques and finishes within the collection. The designer used materials such as waxed cotton, wool fleece, and Harris Tweed in unconventional manners, focusing on quality and durability throughout the process. “The most difficult part of the MA experience for me was balancing personal work commitments and utilising the facilities and resources that the MA provides. The best part is the people you meet whilst on the course and the relationships, it’s a beautiful place for that.” In the future, Ifeanyi feels inspired by the thought of “being a part of a community working towards moving the industry forward, positively.”

Jean Flogie

Inspired by the ideas of glamour, drama, and tenderness Slovenian designer Jean Flogie developed their collection “Exquisite Creatures” documenting their own metamorphosis that came with moving from Ljubljana to London. Jean wants the wearer to embrace a fantasy and dress freely through a highly technical set of garments created from old curtains, remnants, and deadstock silk fabrics that are dipped in gold, sequins, and embroideries. The designer is excited to pursue a career in print and textiles but remains realistic about the hardships of starting a career journey in a large metropolis. “The costs of living in London are immense and doing something you love and also getting paid is still a challenge. Hopefully, this is something that can be achieved while also staying true to who you are in the future.”

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Junyi Ye

Junyi Ye became fascinated by coats after realizing that no matter the season, they always preferred wearing a coat. “Personally, I think coats make people feel very strong and secure.” The designer started researching 1950s and early 60s new look garments in vintage Vogue and L’Officiel Magazines. “I found the coats very well constructed and varied slightly in styles, and taking inspiration from there I aimed to develop a more contemporary view by mixing prints and colours.” In addition, the designer researched the Bauhaus movement and architects such as Carmelo Arden Quin or Pel Bury. The biggest challenge in the process was time management, “To develop ideas into 3D in a small amount of time was difficult. I kept changing and developing each fitting, and ended up producing my last two looks within a week!” Looking at the future, Junyi feels mostly excitement: “I’m excited to face the challenge of working with industry people and to be prepared to take responsibility for a design team. It is not anymore about ‘your own designs’ but about a group of people.”

Latifa Neyazi

For her graduate collection, “Evaporation of a Memory”, Latifa Neyazi was inspired by the burqa. The Afghanistan-born and London-raised designer wanted to explore ways in which the burqa could disintegrate and morph into other garment pieces. “The remnants of the garment find sublime expression with the spontaneous marks of the human hand. Reminisce of the garments left or not having ever been in a place culturally.” The focus of the collection was on handwork and material texture, textiles are “dyed with natural dyes, painted with acrylic paint and embroidered.” Looking at the future, Latifa just wants to continue making and exploring.

Laura Barnes

Exploring the relationship between a creator’s intention versus their intuition, Laura Barnes combined seemingly unrelated objects, forming a bricolage that interrogates their socialised purpose. Intuition had been a topic of reflection for the British designer, as the MA was a big learning curve in understanding how to trust it. But ultimately, the course was a positive experience, and Laura will miss daily life in the studio. “Nothing compares to a CSM studio and I don’t know where I’ll get that energy from in my next chapter! I also thoroughly enjoyed the sense of pride I felt going into my final fitting, that was a nice rush.” Laura is hoping to bring that energy into the future, even if she isn’t sure how to do that. “I’m still trying to navigate how I want to exist in this industry, but fortunately the MA has given me space to figure out what I want to do instinctively, which is the first step. After the MA, I’d like to be so selfish it hurts – sewing by myself in my studio and seeing what I naturally make at my own pace. I’m going to be in this industry a while so I’m in no rush – let’s just make some nice clothes that warrant their own existence. I really want to see my work interacting with real people, see who wears it, see who cares – university doesn’t teach you how you will be received. That’s what’s getting us all currently.”

J I N N (Seung Jin Oh)

What happens when you translate emotion into a garment? Struggling with social anxiety and nervousness, Seung Jin Oh started thinking about the concept of tension, and how it plays out in the body and in garments. “When I meet new friends or colleagues, when I have to stand in front of many people, or when I have tutorials with tutors, it is a feeling that appears a lot when I try things I am not familiar with. In other words, when I proceed with new and unfamiliar things, the tension comes to me a lot.”

The South Korean designers started experimenting with ways to make this emotional tension palpable through her designs. Inspired by The Artist is Present by Marina Abramović where the performance artist pulls a bow and arrow on her husband, “it makes me feel tense and dangerous.”

Seung looked for ways to incorporate pulling, stretching, and fixing into her garments. She used wire and millinery nets to suspend clothes and play with gravity, carefully balancing the weight around the body. After experimenting with different techniques, she discovered that the clothes stayed fixed if she placed the point of gravity on the shoulder. Her techniques also allowed her to incorporate heavier materials, playing with expectations. “I felt like the garments were out of the body silhouette and lifting the part of body up.”

Ben Xiquan Peng/ BenPeng

‘Whole person love’ explores queerness and alternative masculine identities. As an Asian gay man, Ben Xiquan Peng faces a lot of stereotyping. “I’m expected to be smooth, slim, submissive as well as have characteristically small Asian eyes. There’s no versatility at all. Instead of treating us as a person equally as with any other race, or just a normal human being. To them, we’re like the same person.” Through his work, Ben aims to open up and shift those rigid modes of thinking, “It’s an attempt to initiate a conversation on interchangeable gaze, oppression, and desires,” while also empowering other Asian men, “so they can release from the self-hatred and self-consciousness this toxic environment produces. They can feel confident free and powerful for their own existence.”

Denim became his material of choice, using heavy, decorative embroidery as “a potent symbol of exaggerated femininity that position denim just about as far as it can be removed from its former masculine work wear identity.” The material also has exceptional adaptability, moulding itself to its wearer, which is why Ben considers it a non-binary fabric, “it helps me challenge the binary stereotype and reinforce the ideas of ‘queering masculinities’.”

Ramon Rivera

To Ramon Rivera, the final collection became a way to reclaim his Dominican identity, roots he lost touch with as grew up in the US. Continuing the research of his pre-collection, “Paradise Rot” was inspired by an escapist dream, one where the designer could “hide away in a fictional coastal hamlet in the Dominican Republic, maybe become a fisherman of sorts.” The final collection imagines a future where the island is swallowed up by the sea due to climate change. “The collection consists of a range of different garment typologies within a man’s wardrobe that have been caught in the middle of a tropical storm. Despite the doom and gloom of the storm, I made sure to keep pops of colour throughout the collection, similar to the vibrance of the D.R.”

Ronan Patrick Flanagan

Ronan Patrick Flanagan’s collection was inspired by photographs of the American West by Richard Avedon, William Eggleston, Kurt Markus, and Walker Evans, as well as Wim Wender’s film ‘The American Friend’. The Scottish designer experimented with freehand cutting to reinterpret tailored pieces, balancing tradition and non-tradition, and perfection with imperfection. Looking back on his MA, he says “the hardest part was adjusting to the quick turnaround of our projects and making a full tailored look in less than a week for my first crit while suffering from the flu, but the best part was being pushed out of my comfort zone and seeing myself growing and improving as a designer exponentially throughout the course.”

Now that the MA is over, Ronan will continue to develop his brand Gould, but has bigger dreams for the future: “One of my ultimate life goals alongside having Gould is to own my own restaurant, but that might come a bit further down the line.” For now, he will focus on fashion, making sure working environments are safe and healthy, “Something I feel very strongly about is how people are treated in the workplace, and I would really like to help push the industry out of exploiting young student interns with ridiculous hours for no pay.”

Therese Raffoul 

“Show me your teeth” or “أرني أسنانك” was created for Arab women, to break conventional notions of female identities and destroy stereotypes, like the enchanting belly-dancing seductresses. Lebanese designer Therese Raffoul became fascinated with images of animals showing their teeth when faced with a dangerous situation and wanted to transpose that sentiment as a metaphor for resistance, against apartheid, occupation, corruption, and oppression. “Usually, in media and literature, the angrier, more menacing side of Arab women is not expressed, it felt like there was no space for it to be put to light as it is accompanied by negative connotations. While I was working on the collection the political unrest in Iran began and it further solidified my personal need to draw attention to these issues.”

Initial research comprised of the early futurist movement, such as Boccioni and Duchamp’s sculptures and paintings, translating these to garments with the aim of giving the silhouettes a stop-motion effect. Other key references were the works of a range of Arab artists, such as Kamel Yahiaoui and Ali Ajali, an Egyptian painter, calligrapher, and philosopher whose use of Arabic calligraphy as structure inspired the construction of some of the collection.

It was important to Therese to have the majority of garments made in Lebanon and to work with artisans and practitioners from the region, especially in the time of economic suffering, “to showcase Lebanon’s talented makers.” She also collaborated on jewelry with Eva Wuyang, who interpreted Arabic calligraphy with organic shapes, “I found it very beautiful to see how a non-Arabic speaker or reader would interpret the alphabet.”

In the future, Therese wants to “continue to carve out the seat at the table that the woman I represent and create for so ferociously deserves, to nurture and protect the language of subversive Arab womanhood. I do want to go back into the industry to learn how to eventually run my own business in a failing economy. I have a vision for my brand but I want it to arrive in the most informed manner when it comes to financial sustainability in a very saturated market. I would really enjoy being a part of a team whose vision is in alignment with mine.”


Seeing the combination of dreams and reality as the epitome of truth and freedom, Zita Tan found an artistic approach to deconstruct complex notions such as freedom and equality. “In the 21st century, where dictators still exist, I want to encourage and support the brave by

designing clothes that are extreme in the everyday.” Through long and deep experimentation with materials and techniques, Zita learned the method of moulding and casting to create 3D illusion prints out of hair and real wigs. The softness of these elements contrast with the stiffness of hard shapes and draped hemlines. The designer has already set up their brand and is excited to pursue its development between London and Shanghai, expanding it beyond fashion; “My goal in life is to start an art brand that contains all kinds of artwork, as well as having my own clothing line.”

Violette Villeneuve 

Exploring the lines between reality and dreaming, Violette Villeneuve put together a collection of repaired, re-attached, and re-assembled elements pushing the wearer to get in touch with the tactility of living. “Shapes are sometimes off like we can be. But we cherish this feeling, a sense of humanity. We lay our eyes on small treasures, objects with no value but so precious.” Destroyed threads, hanging denim, and burned velour protectively wrap a delicate silky and soft inner layer with silver threads and gloves knitted with paper yarns. “Bringing back to life what has been left behind. Feeling rough, sharp, and soft all at once.” Encouraged by London’s independent designer-driven industry, the Paris-born designer freed herself from the big French Maison pressure. “Launching a new brand in Paris seemed way less realistic than it feels in London. I feel that I have my chances here, and being young is not a disadvantage.”

Ran Graber

Lauren Parchett

It was the words  ‘Wibbly Wobbly’ that gave Lauren Parchett the opportunity to explore a different, dorkier aspect of masculinities, whilst drawing personal references from Northern Ireland. “My main fashion inspiration has derived from different uniforms during celebrations in Northern Ireland, mainly the 12th-day parades.” Moving from textiles into fashion, Lauren was challenged; “The best part was figuring it out.” During the MA the designer realised that her goal is to create a stable context of working in order to feed her creativity. “There is an energy about human-crafted knitwear that I feel gets lost in manufacturing processes. I would be really excited to look into finding or creating a space that succeeds in bringing forward energetic, filled with humanity, crafted, and thoughtful knitwear.”