We sat down with Roger Tredre, course leader for MA Fashion Journalism to discuss this now legendary project, while showcasing the visual Shadowing project of Gilbert Braun, a student in the FCP pathway who photographed the final work of designer James Theseus Buck.
How did the project come about? When did it start?
I can’t remember the exact year. The Fashion Journalism pathway was originally part of MA Fashion until this year, in fact, so there is a very long closeness between Fashion Journalism and the Fashion Design course. The Fashion Journalism pathway was launched in the early 1990s at Central Saint Martins and I started teaching in 1999. So it was there from the very beginning I believe. One of the most clever things about it from the point of the view of the college — I don’t know how deliberately it was planned like this, perhaps not, but it worked out very effectively for Central Saint Martins — was that these designers were all becoming, in many cases, famous through London Fashion Week, and the journalists knew them already, having studied alongside them and maybe even shadowed them at CSM. So there was a brilliant kind of symbiosis between the designers and the journalists. Both sides were building their careers at the same time and the journalists were kind of playing a promotional role, although journalists might not like to think of it in those terms. So it was a good close link between the journalists and the designers. However, most of the time they didn’t have much to do with each other. So the creation of a project, where right from the start the journalists were shadowing the designers through to the MA Fashion show or the exhibition made that link stronger.
Did the project change quite a bit this term because of the involvement of the FCP students?
This year the Fashion Journalism pathway changed from being part of the MA Fashion course to being a part of the MA Fashion Communication course. My major concern when it was first discussed, was that we would lose the shadowing project and the link with the designers. So I went to Louise Wilson and discussed it with her, and she was very supportive and said “Absolutely, we continue with it!” She was very enthusiastic for it to be continued. There wasn’t any worry so after that I said ‘great, if it sits within Fashion Communication, that is fine. If we are going to involve more people, including the Fashion Communications Pathway students and the Fashion Critical Studies students, then maybe we need to structure it a little more, because up until now it was a very free form kind of project. It wasn’t considered part of the grading for MA. Students were encouraged to do whatever they wanted, really. They could turn it into a scrapbook, a diary. What has happened now is that we have tried to retain that freedom of interpretation of how you shadow the designer, but give a little bit more structure to it in order to make it part of Unit 1.