Representing the creative future

New Waves: Sergey Grechka

Earlier this month, Ukrainian designer Sergey Grechka opened the Central Saint Martins BA Fashion Press Show. He presented a heavily introspective graduate collection, the story of which travels back to the designs he created in his second year. “I had a few dark moments,” he reflects on his former melancholic state of mind, coming forth partially from a disconnect with his family, due to war actions that took place in his home country. The accumulation of thoughts and feelings influenced the work he would go on to make during his last year at CSM: the colour choices, the shapes and development methods. “I didn’t struggle finding inspiration for my final project,” Sergey shares, “It is a reflection of my thoughts on sexuality, gender roles, violence, attitude and behavior. These are present in everyday life and drive my curiosity.”

When working with abstract concepts, where do you start your research and gather imagery? How do you make an idea more tangible?

Usually I don’t collect too many images. My research is normally very broad — I select key images to represent the idea and then I move straight to the development stage. I look a lot at materials and their visual effects. I find it hard to surprise an audience with cut or embellishments; I’m not a decorative designer. I put a lot of thought into the project elements and their correspondence with the concept. As part of my research, I visited the V&A archive a few times, where I had the chance to examine six original looks from the 1920s.

Do you get inspired by every brief? If you don’t, how do you approach that “block”? How do you make projects work for you?

When given a brief, I would try to find an element that interests me the most, something that I could relate to. It’s funny, as all the 50 Womenswear students work on the same brief, and sometimes the starting point could be similar, but the final result is never the same. Each of us transforms the project according to personal style and vision. For the tailoring project we were asked to look at cars. I’m not a great fan of automobiles, I don’t drive. Despite the fact that I had no major interest in the theme, I focused on the aerodynamic shape of the object, and tried to interpret a car’s panel seams into garment finishings.

Where do you start your development process? With samples, draping, drawings or collages?

My ideas don’t come with a pencil — I find it hard to draw from my head. Through the years of study at CSM, I developed a way of designing that suits me. I would normally start by manipulating real materials on the dummy, and taking a lot of pictures of the shapes and silhouettes. It helps to immediately see how materials work together; the proportions, the color combinations. I simultaneously develop the fabric samples and finishings; then I move to the analysis stage, and then I’d carry on iterations of the elements.

How does the conversation between 2D and 3D work for you? Design, make and then re-analyse and re-work it again?

My practice is mostly 3D. I’m not a great illustrator but I have other strengths. I understand patterns and construction really well, I’m good in draping and making. I’m a perfectionist. I always manage to make the things I imagine. I’m also quite stubborn and choose things that are challenging. Cy Twombly is a painter who influenced my practice a lot, I love his chaotic paintings. I adopted his style into a spontaneous draping technique, which helps me a lot at the first stage of the project.

What was the starting point of your graduate collection conceptually?

The research for my collection refers to an ancient Greek celebration ritual: Bacchanalia – the worshipping of Bacchus, the god of wine. Its violent and rough notions are present in many cultures and eras. I focused on the 1920s particularly – the flapper girls – not only the silhouettes, but the attitude as well. I looked at the contradictive contrast of a feminine look and masculine behavior, flat chest, exquisite embellishment, lace applique and see-through dresses. I used objects of everyday life such as hair nets, tights, embroidery frames and laundry baskets to develop shapes and silhouettes directly on a dummy. Fascinated by the color qualities of lace, I stretched it on wire screens in order to achieve an extremely light, transparent, but very graphic silhouette. The headpieces were made to represent cannibalism. My goal was to produce fragile pieces that would communicate danger. Using conventional methods is very boring to me, especially with materials that carry a great history and tradition. So I tried to transform the appearance of lace, and not use it just for decoration. I really wanted to show the beauty of it, and the construction of my garments helped me to do that in the best possible way.

Where did you do your placement year, and what was that experience like? What advice would you give for students choosing their placements?  

I went to Paris for three months to intern at Lanvin womenswear, where I worked on tailoring. Then I moved to Louis Vuitton, which was absolutely amazing. I worked with the most expensive leathers, used the most modern materials and worked with the most talented designers.

I still think I developed all my skills here at CSM, through the range of the projects we were given. The environment is crucial too. It’s very inspiring to work alongside creative young people from all over the world; I learned a lot from them too. When choosing an internship, I think you should focus on what you would learn from it. I would recommend to go for one small company where you’ll be involved in every aspect of business and design process, and one big established business.

Graduating is about the scariest thing for an undergraduate student to think of, how was that experience for you?

It does really feel strange. The most awkward moment for me was sending the models down the runway for the degree show. Then suddenly you feel it’s all done, nothing left to sew. It took me a while to recover and have enough sleep. Nevertheless, we still have to work on portfolios, lookbook, the exhibition… It is still very busy and dynamic.

What are your plans for the not so near future?

To go on a little holiday.