Go with the PHVLO
A collaboration between Central Saint Martins students and PHVLO led to a conscious collection. The three keywords: couture, easiness and sustainability.
Paula Conovas del Vas and Ernesto Naranjo have been on it. Both CSM students have earned scholarships (Paula is backed by Stella McCartney and Ernesto by Alexander McQueen) and they also received a travel grant from the Jorn Langberg Foundation. But the crowning glory was a collaboration with life performance brand PHVLO at the end of their first year doing the MA Fashion course. This eventually resulted in a fashion film directed by filmmaker Luke Clayton Thompson. We talked to Paula and Ernesto about their project and studying at CSM.
Tell us about your collaboration with PHVLO.
Paula: So, we designed a collection for them. It was a competition and part of a project in the first year of the MA Fashion. The owner of PHVLO is Johanna Ho, who did the MA a while back under Louise Wilson.
Ernesto: She had her own brand, with many stores in Japan and China. She also had big sponsors who supported her during her career.
Paula: She stopped about six years ago.
Ernesto: And then she came out with this lifestyle-collaboration brand. Her idea is to collaborate with students and creative people all around the world. It is not about her, it is about people doing collections for them.
So this was a project about sustainability?
Paula: The fabric she uses is called MINOTECH™, a Japanese fabric. It is sustainable because it is made from recycled fabrics and very durable. Her idea is that you can create garments to use in a variety of occasions, a garment that you can change. We made a dress that was a parka at the same time, and other designs similar to that.
Ernesto: You can use that garment in 25 hours, so to speak.
What is the concept of your collection?
Ernesto: The collection was about how we can mix two roles, that was couture and ready-to-wear. Johanna did not say anything about that; it was our own point of view. We wanted to bring a sort of easiness to couture shapes and show how couture can become easy for daily life.
Paula: We worked with a lot of vintage pieces and we started to work in 3-D on the dummy. So we had that couture vibe straight away.
Ernesto: There were really cheap evening gowns from the Eighties that gave us the shapes of the designs.
How did the video come together?
Paula: First we did some research, we developed some shapes and proposed a presentation. Once our collection was chosen, part of the prize was to go to Hong Kong. We got to see the collection process. We had a meeting with the people of Lane Crawford, who she is close to.
Ernesto: We saw the space where the collection is going to be sold. We also went to visit the factories where they produced all the garments.
Paula: We thought that was going to be it. But then they took some pictures with a photographer and they felt it was not representative of what our work was. So they proposed we could take care of the visuals. That is when we contacted Luke to do a video.
Ernesto: And Giovanni Corabi, to do the lookbook.
Paula: Luke, with the video, he really liked the idea of paper. He was like, why don’t we create some instruments made out of paper. They look like plain instruments but they really are fake. And he composed the music along that.
Ernesto: We gave him some keywords and ideas and this is what came about. The cardboard colours were the colours we wanted to use. He found a few images for his concept of the video and we just let him free because we did not want to tell him what to do. Because we really like what he does.
What was the best thing about this project?
Paula: For both of us it is actually the first time…
Ernesto: …We got to do something together.
Paula: It doesn’t stop on paper. We could actually see the process of it becoming a product. And that was really interesting.
Ernesto: Yes, to see the reality of fashion in a way. Because when we went to Lane Crawford we met with the buyers. They told us when a sleeve or a length did not work for the Chinese market. Those kinds of points, we did not know anything about that.
Paula: That was really helpful.
Did you collaborate well together?
Paula: Quite easy.
Ernesto: Really easy. We are both Spanish, we have known each other for seven years, we started here at the same course. We have similar points of view, but we do different versions of women. We come from the same country, we have lived in the same way.
Paula: You think that has something to do with it?
Ernesto: I think so.
Paula: I don’t know…
Ernesto: I don’t know why, but when we looked at research we found similar images.
Paula: But other people that come to the MA and come from similar places have different taste. I think we complement each other really well. There are things where I am like, ‘Ugh not that,’ and Ernesto says ‘I’ll do that.’ And the other way around.
Was it hard to combine this project with your MA?
Ernesto: I think it was fine. I think we work really well when we have many things to do, because if we have one thing to do we overthink too much. We prefer to have one week to do one projects. So the deadlines are quite short for us.
Paula: Also, when you work with someone even if it is a bit much, things move so much faster. I think we have a very practical approach to it.
Ernesto: That was really to the point. And we wanted to have fun with it.
Paula: While with your personal project you are like, Oh my god…
Will you continue to work with sustainability?
Ernesto: I would love to. The thing is that I have not that much knowledge about sustainability and I do not want to say I am sustainable when that is not really true.
Paula: I think fashion in itself is not sustainable. But I am careful with the way I design and the materials that I use.