Representing the creative future

New Waves: The floating dresses of Susan Fang

Often when you talk to BA Fashion graduates from Central Saint Martins, they recount the sleepless nights, the risky decision taking, the constant reassessing if they are making the right choices and the many designers that have inspired them to create their own path within the fashion world. Susan Fang, a fresh CSM graduate who is now interning for Celine, explains that it was through meditation that she was able to envision her collection.

“When I visited Granada,” she tells us, “I saw a large number of plane trees, blowing and flipping between the air and the sun, creating beautiful geometric shapes of shadow, light and music.” Susan explains that her collection was inspired by the movement she saw between the leaves, caused by the warm Spanish wind. Her BA Collection, ‘AiR_fLiP’ replicates the relationship that nature has with people; and the way landscapes, plants and the human body have similarities, found in the simplicity of geometric shapes.

Susan uses chiffon to emphasize the movements caused by nature, as the lightweight material drifts down the runway. Acrylic panels dance around the body, suspended on the ends of wires draped with chiffon to attenuate their movement. “The structured garments are light enough to orbit around the body, yet strong enough to hold the linked garment attached to the wire point,” she explains, exhibiting her mastered skill. However, she insists that her CSM tutors have encouraged her to explore different styles and change from one to another instead of settling for a ‘way’. This poses the question: ‘What makes a good designer?’ Is it someone who is talented in all different and unusual stylistic expressions, or one who is recognized for their own style and produces work of a similar nature? Do you need to have a ‘style’ to be recognised?

“Sometimes I find that it is an advantage that I don’t have a style, as I can approach every idea in a fresh way.” Susan is certainly inventive, and demonstrates how themes such as ‘balance’ and sound’ interlock with her designs. For her graduate show, she conducted a mini art project; a series of recordings of people imitating how ‘words of nature’ made them feel. The whistles, giggles and nervous stalling are mixed with sections of songs from Andrew Bird’s album, ‘Echolocation’, and accompanied the models down the runway as the audience reflected on their role in the universe.

“I have admired Alexander Calder’s work for a long time,” she explains. “He bases his themes on concepts similar to my own, such as orbit, nature and geometry.” Similar to Calder, Susan selects a neutral color scheme, perhaps to reinforce Calder’s restricted color palette.  “He felt that color had different weights,” she divulges, including accents of yellows, reds and blue in her lining, hidden underneath laser-cut fabric.

Susan’s statement pieces re-explore the rhythm one encounters with nature. A-line skirts, with a hem that if seen face down, is shaped like a leaf, and ‘Water Splash’ trousers, designed to show off shimmers of sunlight. Creating her collection was a whole body experience, she describes: “Sometimes I would have to use my whole body in action to work on a garment, or grab an extra hand to help me hold and balance what I’m linking next. Often, I have to drape in the air, imagining the movement.” This linking together of fabrics, connected the pieces not only physically but also in color, sound and space.

“The final show was more of an art exhibition than a fashion show,” she shares. “I realized that a fashion show is magic, everything can add to the mood of what we can create, even if it is invisible.” The garments were paraded down the runway, encapsulating futurism and the ambiguity of space and time. Despite show-day nerves, Susan confidently demonstrated her complex thesis. “I was extremely nervous on the day and had a delayed reaction. I only connected to what was happening when I saw my friend’s photos of the show later on, otherwise, I was completely detached.”

Since graduating from CSM, she has successfully landed an internship with Celine. She intends to mature in the balance of beauty and practical-wear; however, there is an enchantment in the minimalism and structure that she brings to her designs, one that I hope remains untouched. When asked how it feels to be a graduate, Susan replied, “It is so interesting, being educated by society about how the real fashion world runs. But mostly, it feels funny, because I don’t have a clear goal or know what I’m going to do next. I think the more experience I gain, the more will be clear.”