Representing the creative future

Maison Mais Non’s Artist:Artisan

Apart from the obvious existence of fashion shows and art galleries — and the fact that at times the two work together — there has never really been a prominent space entirely dedicated to elevating fashion and presenting it as art. In short: a fashion gallery. Could there be a better place to create one, if not around the corner from where London Fashion Week will be hosted as of September? Enter Maison Mais Non, a new gallery that’s initiated by Micheál Neeson (yes, the son of Liam).

In attempt to radically shake up what’s old and what’s new, the MMN team started a project with Savile Row tailors and Central Saint Martins MA Fashion graduates. Mixing the work of two counterparts in fashion — precise heritage versus free-spirited creativity — seems like an experiment that has the possibility of changing how we view either sides of the design spectrums.

Designer: Masha Reva Tailor: Alistair Nimmo for Kathryn Sargent
Designer: Charles Jeffrey Tailors: Francis Paley and Francesca Smith for Chittleborough & Morgan
Designer: Krystyna Kozhoma Tailors: Harrison Baines-Hilton and Emily Self for Richard Anderson
Designer: Haley Grundmann Tailors: Jennie McWalter, Liberty Clayton and Ashleigh Rose for Anderson & Sheppard

The project started from the realisation that a lot of talent was working in huge companies where they were being sucked dry of their creativity, Topes Calland, a close friend of Michael Neeson and collaborator in Maison Mais Non told us. “We wanted to offer them a platform whereby we could support them so that they could get recognition as designers in their own right. Hopefully we can help to support talent in the formative stages of their careers, when they’ve done all the training and have already got a slight element of recognition. You just need to consolidate all of that and offer physical space wherein people can see what they do and how they do it, and where there is no commercial imperative. It’s not like they have to design based on the person they think will buy it— something that’s slightly conservative and wearable,” he says, and adds: “Without commercial limitations on the designers we worked with, they can create something beautiful with artistic integrity that isn’t based on a generic person with money and bad taste.”

However, this doesn’t imply that they are looking to work with fashion designers who create pieces that are more ‘art’ than ‘ready-to-wear’. As Topes explains, they want designers to create exactly what they want to create without interference. Their main idea is to support British talent, so teaming up two of the most renowned London-based institutions — Central Saint Martins and Savile Row — seemed as much a match as it seemed a clash. “What was interesting about this one, was the process. Creating a concept is interesting to an audience. On the tailoring side, they spent seven years learning how to do very exact things, and on the Central Saint Martins side, they spent seven years learning how to break the rules and do something entirely innovative. How would it come together? It was good to see how the product exemplifies the process, and it was good to see the appreciation and understanding between what each side does.”

So why fashion in a gallery? “Walking through an art gallery immediately makes you change the way you look at things. In a busy retail store you interact with the clothes differently, whereas if you walk through an art gallery your senses are heightened. It’s a multi sensory experience that you go into, it’s about a story. It’s more than clothes that you wear.”

But Maison Mais Non aims to go beyond just being a gallery space, and are looking to create a calendar of discussions and lectures by designers and creatives, as well as extending the support they give to their collaborators, in order to help young talent develop their career in a sustainable manner. “We don’t want the exhibition to be it, we want the relationship to continue.” And, good news for young designers looking for an opportunity to be represented in a gallery space: the initiative claims that they are happy to receive work from students and graduates for consideration, “If the gallery is excited by it, then hopefully it’ll find a way to support them.”

Inside the ateliers of Kathryn Sargent and Richard Anderson

The Artist:Artisan exhibition is at Maison Main Non, 14 Greek Street, London W1D 4DP.