Representing the creative future

The Shirt Project by 1st year BA Fashion students at Central Saint Martins

The White Show may have been a few months ago, but it seems that our first year design students don’t get much of a rest. At the start of the term, Womenswear, Menswear, Fashion Print and FDM were given ‘The Shirt Project’ and set the task of ‘designing a shirt for a specific market’. With a collar, collar stand, yoke, placket and cuffs; we talk to a few of CSM’s first year students to discuss their work, and to see what’s in store for the future of fashion design from our most reliable sources on the subject: Womenswear students Pauline De Blonay and Liza Keane, Fashion Print student Jamie Challinor, Fashion Design with Marketing student Fidana Novruzova and Menswear student Luke Derrick.

Jamie wearing design by Luke Derrick

Who or what was your biggest inspiration for this piece?

Pauline De Blonay: For this project, I was mostly inspired by the French painter Fernand Léger. My aim was to translate a painting into a garment and to create my own character, which could work in one of his paintings. I worked in a very graphic way, respecting the fact that his work is very heavy and messy for my piece.

Jamie Challinor: My project started with looking at images of youth smoking. I then juxtaposed this with ornate and luxurious images of men in smoking jackets with pipes. I wanted to amalgamate the two and make a modern day smoking jacket/shirt garment for people to wear nowadays when smoking. However, like every single project I do, I strayed from my concept and ended up being more inspired by the sportswear fabrics seen in youth culture. I added a touch of luxury to emulate with the brand I picked to market it for, which was Louis Vuitton.

Liza Keane: My friends and some of the cool club personalities I’ve met since I started at CSM were probably my inspiration. I loosely based the project on Jenkin Van Zyl though, so you could say he’s the biggest inspiration.

Fidana Novruzova: For this project I decided to explore a quite vulnerable subject: the immigration issue in my home country Moldova. The children of immigrants are mostly left all alone at home. The oldest child, often around 11 years old, then has to take care of his or her three younger siblings and attend school. For my final piece I implemented apron elements that represent the concept of motherhood and care, something these children lack. The embroidery was developed from the images of Eastern-European interiors, where icons and other Orthodox Christian symbols could be found around the house.

Luke Derrick: The starting point was the photo series Base Portraits/Barracks by Collier Schorr for Raf Simons, in which Raf’s father’s big military shirts and jackets swamp his slight models, giving this impression of a boy out of place, which I wanted to develop. I also examined Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and the world of post-punk raincoats, as a sort of case study. I guess I ended up wanting to create a shirt for those angsty trench coat kids.

Lucile Guilmard wearing design by Jamie Challinor

Who was your specific market? Is this the market you’d like to be designing for in the future?

Pauline: The designer I have chosen as an inspiration is Jacquemus. I started by choosing the theme of my research; I didn’t want to start with the designer as inspiration in order to have more freedom in my designs. I selected five paintings and then saw how Jacquemus and Léger work together aesthetically, in terms of primary colours, contrasts, a childish atmosphere and simple geometric shapes. I would love to do an internship in Jacquemus’ studios during my work placement year.

Jamie: I designed my shirt for Louis Vuitton, so I was aiming for a luxurious market which was something I had never thought much about before. Through this project, I learnt that I like this market. It’s more about making something wearable and chic. I would like to gravitate towards this more in the future.

Liza: Again, just people similar to my friends and I: art, fashion and drama students. I think the biggest compliments I got for this project were when they all asked me if they could wear it after the crit. Having said that, I’m not sure if it’s a good business strategy to have them as my target market in the future, as most of us are broke and I’d like to sell my pieces at more luxurious prices!

Fidana: For this project, the designer of my choice was Prada. Regarding designing for this market in the future: it’s hard to say this now, since I’m in my first year and I believe it’s too early to tell.

Luke: For the moment, the only thing I think about is ensuring that whatever I make, I would wear myself, which for me gives my work enough of some sense of validity. It is still early days; I am still finding my aesthetic and a character from which everything else can fall into place.

Clem Macleod wearing design by Pauline De Blonay

Would you say your designs reflect your pathway? 

Pauline: The way I work is linked with how I like to dress up myself. I don’t work or dress specifically in a feminine or masculine way, I just try to make colours, textures and shapes work together. For this project, I observed the characters of Léger: in terms of the shape of the body and face, there are no differences. They are both round and large, the only difference are the breasts — two simple circles that we can see on the feminine figures. My garment is fluid, it can be for a boy or a girl, but either way, they’re both going to have big yellow leather breasts!

Jamie: I’m studying Fashion Print, but my shirt doesn’t reflect this at all. I had planned to heat transfer stripes and penguins on the white satin, but I ended up choosing a non-synthetic satin. I think I prefer it plain anyway. It’s definitely a bit removed from what I wanted to achieve in the beginning.

Liza: I design very selfishly and exclusively for myself. When I’m done with it, I just hope others will like it as much as I do! Somehow I always seem to want to style my garments either on myself or on a boy. There isn’t some sort of deep gender-related or political message behind it, I just think it seems to looks better that way.

Fidana: When I applied to CSM, Fashion Design with Marketing was my only choice. I didn’t want to specialize in menswear or womenswear, and this course gives me the total freedom to do either. Overall, I don’t like talking about gender in fashion. I feel like every single way of gender expression is organic and there is no need to pinpoint it by discussing it.

Luke: As of yet, my work seems very much within the realms of menswear. It’s probably due to me always trying to see myself in it, and a nerdy fascination with functional details and pockets, usually with military influences — I very nearly joined the army at one point and have a lot of knowledge about equipment and gear. However, I feel like this project has brought out a more feminine side of me that I haven’t realised before, and maybe a push towards androgyny would be the natural development of things.

Pauline wearing design by Fidana Novruzova

The industry is changing in terms of blurring the lines between menswear and womenswear. To what extent do you think this is true?

Pauline: I feel like people aren’t trying to fit into a particular category today. We see it here at CSM, with a lot of the boys and girls  dressing the same, boys dressed in a feminine way, girls in a masculine way. Some designers don’t even separate their designs for the two genders, they design unisex and it works on most people. I think this could be a direction I take in the future.

Jamie: I think it’s true, but I want to see feminine menswear that’s maybe a little less alienating to a wider male population. I think that would be a big breakthrough, to widen the male wardrobe to include things like dresses, crop tops and blouses, and for it to be embraced on a wide scale.

Liza: I agree! I think it would be really interesting to see people actually wearing more androgynous fashion, or at least experimenting with androgyny through styling, rather than it just being a catwalk look that is totally irrelevant to what real people want to wear.

Fidana: The industry is reflecting the needs of the customers, and genderless fashion feels to me more like some kind of a trend rather than open mindedness.

Luke: I agree. Particularly in London, there are a lot of young designers coming through, who are heralding this new, modern liberality as to where the lines of gender are drawn with regards to clothing – I think the change appears to be much more stark in menswear, with the boundaries looking more and more breakable.