Representing the creative future

Inside the melting pot at CSM: student collaboration ‘Boys Club’

The beauty of cross course collaboration at CSM.

Collaborative projects are at the heart of the creative industries. We’ve all experienced the ups and plentiful downs of group projects and troubling power dynamics but the cross discipline group behind the ‘Boys Club’ project have found the sweet spot. Enlisted in this rag-tag battalion is Antonio Vattev, the designer; Pablo Di Prima; the videographer; stylist Alex Kessler and photographer Ryan Skelton. Spread across a diverse range of courses at CSM, this stylish band of brothers came together for a story centred around Antonio’s second year final collection.

The role of the interviewer became completely redundant nestled in between these two gorgeous and remarkably tall boys on the day when of meeting Antonio and Pablo. Easy going and incredibly friendly, their inner circle was hard to translate but fascinating to peek into. Pablo’s enthusiasm is infectious, everything was “fucking amazing” and he “fucking loved it.” They bounce backwards and forwards off each other and tell me that their group dynamic was just as flowing.

Together with Ryan and Alex, they inverted the 20th century ‘Boys Club’ aesthetic remodelled with punk traits and waifish undertones. The outcome is a celebration of tailoring and raving, a mash-up between smoking jackets and nightclub culture. Antonio combined old school classic tailoring with utilitarian finishes, through hidden pockets, belts, and customisation. He also borrowed a few items from CSM colleague Connor Ives. Tradition and modernity collided not only in design but also in the imagery with club night lights, techno music and hint of old time debauchery.

This buoyant foursome pulled on all of their respective strengths – Antonio also created the music for the video – to bring the piece together. They bounced off each other and their different aesthetics to build their vision. Inspired by vintage group photos or traditional paintings, their editorial creates their own style tribe, gathered around a naked lady in the middle, a romantic vision of bygone eras, nostalgic yet anarchic.

Within the steamy melting pot that is CSM, the group mostly likely met, “outside Waitrose, probably having a cigarette,” Pablo jested. Project planning took a month of exploration and discussion, gauging each other and their ideas. Despite all the preparation, shooting was, “slightly hectic” and not without its mishaps. Through location dismay, electric cut outs and incessant fire alarms, the team pulled through as Alex explained, “Hardship brings the people together.”

Only in their second year of their BA’s, the boys are still getting to grips with their aesthetic. A process that was spurred on by their collaborative projects. Antonio explained, “I don’t talk about competition at all, I talk about inspiration.” With their combined vision and aligned aesthetic of soft, natural light and low key looks, they inspired each other and grew into themselves along the way. Exploring the relationship between designers, image makers and all the pieces in between was integral for the boys. “I realised that it was really important to understand the work of the designer,” Pablo explained, “Not only to see the quality of the clothes and the idea but understanding the mood, asking about research and location.”

The process of the collaboration was more important than the outcome of the shoot. Incredibly grounded, the boys all know that developing professional work ethics is integral to success outside of CSM and is just as important as having a lovely video in their respective portfolios. They attribute this attitude to their seamless working style. They have all  seen the value of knowing how a set operates. “Working outside of school is so important and I’m happy we just realised that early.” Antonio explains, “It takes time to learn, first of all, how to act, it takes time to see and to explore. I think that was easy all working together because we have this experience of working outside”

These passionate boys have all the energy of youth with their eyes set firmly on the future as they head into their placement year. It’s a wide world out there and you’ve got peek out the art school bubble for some much needed grounding. As Antonio, who is already stocking his designs in Japan and Berlin describes, “I cannot see myself waiting to graduate and then go out into the real world. You’re not going to be ready, it takes time.”