“OF COURSE I’M AN ENVIRONMENTALIST, I’M ALL ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, I’M JUST SO TIRED OF FAKE SUSTAINABILITY AND FORCED SUSTAINABILITY.”
There’s another girl whose involvement Austin describes as “imperative” in the making of the collection: Laura Newton, a first year Knitwear designer. “I could just see she’s chill. She reminds me of Amanda,” Snyder explains in discussing why he first wanted to work with Newton after seeing her work in the BA graduate show. Laura, whose very minimal aesthetic seems to be perfectly-suited to Austin’s own, describes how the ribbed knitwear came to find its place within the collection: “We explored a lot, we have so many samples and we picked the most simple. But it’s the best one.” Afterall, the best answer is sometimes the one right in front of you and Snyder would agree: “I’ve definitely learned to keep it simple and not over-complicate it, that’s pretty much the CSM way. Finesse and clarity look so beautiful.”
Tastemakers of this ‘CSM way’ are the late Louise Wilson and the now course director, Fabio Piras. Whilst Snyder attributes Wilson for being one of the reasons he applied to the course, it is Piras who has been there from beginning to end. Thinking back to the application process, Snyder describes sitting in front of his computer for his Skype interview with Wilson: “I heard her voice but she didn’t want to be on camera. It felt weird, like The Wizard of Oz.” And perhaps not seeing her on the screen foreshadowed what was to come. On meeting Piras for the first time, Austin remembers feeling curious because Fabio told him that he had read Louise’s notes and Snyder obviously wanted to know what she had said. But fast-forward two years and it’s Piras’ opinion on the forefront of Snyder’s mind. “I’m really comfortable showing my collection to everybody – maybe that’s because of the added praise from Fabio. He was very nice and said that I had a voice. This was nice because, for a while, I felt that voice had gone, but it feels like it’s back and speaking the language that it’s meant to be speaking.” Wilson may have been one of the reasons that Austin started the course, but Piras is one of the reasons he finished it.
Sitting in his living room, Austin brings out a vintage leather jacket that once belonged to Louise Wilson. “I fished it out from near the bins as the technicians were throwing it away when emptying out her office. They said she was keeping it because it was important to her.” He never wears it because he’s a vegetarian, both in and out of the design studio, but he uses it “as a block for everything,” so we can see elements of it across the collection. From its oversized shape to the military detailing, a little piece of Louise Wilson becomes canonised in his work.
No animal products have been – or will ever be – used in any of his designs: “Say, best case scenario, that the Austin St. Maur Snyder label does happen, it will never use leather. Absolutely not. It will never use fur.” Snyder describes his presentation meeting with Piras, and about how his “ears perked up”, when Austin mentioned the sustainability aspect of his collection. “It was never really a thing for me, I never made it a point or have a mission of animal rights. I never really said anything. It was just second nature,” he points out. Sustainability is such a hot topic in the fashion industry, but to Austin, it’s always been part of his world and his reality. “Of course I’m an environmentalist, I’m all about sustainability, I’m just so tired of fake sustainability and forced sustainability,” he asserts, as if anything else were an alien concept.