Representing the creative future


1 Granary goes behind the scenes and discovers the process behind the 2022 edition of Central Saint Martins’ White Show

On Thursday, December 8th, over 100 young fashion designers in their first year of university sent their looks down the runway, in what was the return of the legendary Central Saint Martins’ White Project after two years of lockdown gloom. For the first year fashion BA students, it is the first time they’ve ever shown their work on such a grand scale, and the talent-launching legacy of white shows’ past is definitely not lost on this new crop of emerging talent.

Photography by Yidan Zhang

Celebrating not only the end of their first ‘real’ design project, but the end of their first term as Batchelors of Art, the White Project challenges fashion students to develop and make a garment entirely out of plain white calico or felt fabric; creating a space to elevate and draw a razor-sharp focus on student’s research whilst pushing them to explore design concepts outside of colour, print and embellishment, showcasing cut, construction and silhouette instead.

Seeing the White Show return bigger and better than ever, held in the Granary building’s street (usually reserved for the MA students) for the first time since the project was founded over 20 years ago was the exact joyous yet slick energy we’ve all been craving after endless months of digital fashion shows. And that joy was palpable in the diverse array of garments, statements and silhouettes which paraded down the runway.

Fostering a cross-pathway collaboration with all five design specialisms and the Fashion Communication and Promotion students who develop the theme, and stage the entire production from hair and makeup to music. Named ‘The Playground’ this year’s show tapped into the audience’s senses. The notion of the playground served as an immersive space which reimagined how we use our eyes: “Experimental, sensory and strange; The elusive state of wondering what is?”

Before the show, we interviewed a selection of BA Fashion Design students across all five pathways to take a closer look at their processes, challenges and techniques.


Tildy Mayhew, Fashion design with Knitwear

I joined a knitting club in primary school and I’ve been obsessed with it since then. Before I started my BA at CSM I was actually doing a History degree at UCL, but just over a year ago I dropped out and did a foundation at AUB, that was where I realised I wanted to study fashion. I’ve always loved London because it’s where I feel comfortable being myself, and CSM is one of the only universities offering a Knitwear focused course so it’s a perfect fit.

My white show look is inspired by the legend of Rasputin! More specifically about his alleged pickled penis. I’ve loved this story since my GCSE’s, I really wanted to look at how people become legends of themselves and how we only remember the sensationalised aspects of their lives especially through media retellings. A lot of my work ended up being about Rasputin’s sexual exploits but I  also added in aspects of Russian Folklore and traditional costume.

As a knitwear student I live and die by colour, so only working in white was initially a horrifying prospect, but embroidery and quilting is something I really enjoy. Over the past five weeks I’ve learnt a lot about how important illustrative design is for me, embroidering the scenes on the dress was the most fun I’ve had, because I was telling a story through fashion. It also taught me how dirty the CSM floors are, the bottom of the 2 meter white bow at the back of my look was brown after every 10 minute crit.

I’ve only been studying fashion for a year, so I’ve never had my work in a show, I was a little terrified to think about it. I designed for spectacle, because the white show is about being as big and wild as possible. But details are super important to me too, I actually was in A&E during this project with heart palpitations, but I was still determined to finish everything to my standards; everything is French seamed! I think it was important for my final look to have that, but that’s just me!

Ceylon Wallace, Fashion design with print

I’m originally from Jamaica but I’ve been living in West Sussex for the past seven years. I knew that for my degree I wanted to be in London, where I could experience living in a diverse community and surround myself with passionate and talented people; that has inspired me and my work whilst helping me through any challenging moments on my degree so far.

For my White project, I was inspired by Black women whilst also shedding a light on the exploitation they face on a daily basis. I researched traditional African textiles and West African jewellery as a way of examining the representation of Black women in mass media. I focused on Adinkra symbols, exploring my personal pieces of jewellery through print and pattern designs. The white project has shown me new ways of realising conceptual research as a physical garment. As a print student colour has always been an integral part of my work, it was definitely challenging only using white but I did enjoy working in an unfamiliar way, it forced me to explore shapes and techniques.

The looming fact that my work was being shown at the end of the project definitely played a part in influencing my design approach. Though it added a lot of stress as I was constantly thinking about how the audience would react to my look, it pushed me to make well-informed decisions. As a young designer, I’m here to challenge the way the fashion industry operates.

I definitely stress about my future. I’m entering the industry at a pivotal moment where real change needs to occur in response to climate crisis, race inequality and labour rights. It’s time for the industry to fully take accountability for the destruction it has caused, and this is going to create some unrecognisable changes to the way we all operate. As scary of a thought this is, I am very excited to be a part of this well overdue change.

Lizandro Acera, Womenswear

I am from the Philippines but I was born and raised in Spain. I decided to come to CSM because of the diverse range of people who are here. I thought the creative freedom and inclusivity offered here is a good space to create work where I can stay true to myself. As someone who didn’t do a foundation, I always felt like I needed to push myself more than others. However, I’m really enjoying my first term.

My white show project is based on Spanish colonisation and the effect it had on Filipino identity through themes of Christianity. I looked at historical insights into the impact of colonial artefacts such as weapons and the religious statues that we see now. During Spanish colonization, the Philippines was introduced to Christianity which had a massive impact on the country as a whole. For instance, I realized that a lot of Filipinos’ approach to life is acceptance and that whatever happens to us is part of God’s will: “Bahala na”. My garment is mostly inspired by my mother’s untimely devotion to Christianity; exploring the obsession around religious and moral matters. Involving individual emotions on how overly concerned their thoughts or actions might be considered sinful or violate moral doctrine.

Working just in white helped me understand the importance of having focal points in my garments like layering and working with dimensions, without being distracted by colours, materials and patterns. CSM feels out of touch with reality sometimes; there’s so much focus on ambitions and future thinking we tend to forget about the ‘now’. The process of the project however made me feel confident in producing a garment which can explore my own personality whilst paying homage to my background. 

Having your work showcased is very exciting, as it’s an opportunity that’s not accessible to everyone. I definitely felt privileged to have access to so many facilities. I factored the final runway show into my design, as I knew I had to create something that wouldn’t restrict the model’s movement and distract from the actual piece; I always prioritise movement in my garment designs. I always try to balance creating a garment that’s both visually impactful and well-constructed; people should pay more attention to details and not just create to be seen on a screen. I try not to stress about the future because I believe thinking ahead restricts my creativity. I always have anxiety about how the future will look so I try to ignore that and enjoy what I’m doing at the moment.

Esme Chancellor, Womenswear

It’s a bit of a cliché but truthfully, I’ve wanted to go to CSM ever since I found out Alexander McQueen studied the MA here. My first term has been intense but still fun! I think CSM pretty much does what it says on the tin, it’s hard work, fast-paced and people expect a lot from you- but that’s what makes it exciting.

My finished look is a dress made of about 15 metres of double-layered, stuffed technical fabric and appliqued with wire ‘tendrils’, a faux suede capelet embroidered with dried French beans and boots to match. I really love to design around a story. I found a second-hand account of The Green Children from 1150 by William of Newburgh in the Faber book of Reportage. It’s a legend which follows two children, completely green in colour who were wandering through a field when they were discovered by local labourers, and they only ate beans . This took place not far from where I’m from in Suffolk, and I thought that it was a really good concept. I began to think about what the children might be wearing and where they might come from. The layering came from the labourers’ sacks, the tendrils from bean stalks, and the cape from shapes of the undergrowth. I also liked the irony of doing the ‘White Project’ on green children was good as well and added a little bit of humour.

I think there is a lot of freedom in having the colour of the garment decided for you, but working with colour is something I really enjoy as I have a background in fine art. So using only white fabric was completely alien to me. I think it really does force you to think in a new way, creating textural contrasts and ultimately focusing on the silhouette. I enjoyed it but I’m looking forward to using colour again! I think the white project has made me manage my time better – all-nighters are not sustainable – as well as more confidence in my judgement as a designer. It has also taught me to not get too attached to initial designs, mine changed quite a bit from toile to garment. I think because of the short time frame of the project, you just had to go for it from the start and not get too caught up in perfecting everything.

I avoided thinking about how much of big a deal the white show is, so I didn’t get overwhelmed, but it was definitely in my mind whilst designing. It’s pretty daunting having the first thing you make at CSM be presented on a runway for an audience to see, but it’s also so exciting. The construction of the garment was really important to me, I wanted each seam to make sense and I also wanted my model to be comfortable. It’s a fashion show at the end of the day so the way the garment moved was crucial.

I think the biggest stress about my fashion career, in the long run, is the Climate Crisis. The world doesn’t really need more clothes and as a fashion student, I find it a bit difficult to not feel like I’m going to become part of the problem. I’m really excited to see how we adapt and change fashion, and what kind of new technologies come into play.  Next year hopefully I’m still at CSM, making something strange and beautiful.

Goran Tosic, Menswear

I’m originally from Bosnia but I came to London from Michigan, I was studying at Parsons last year but decided to transfer to CSM. I was drawn to studying here because of the alumni I also like the more “laissez-faire” approach CSM takes with teaching, which allows each student to explore what interests them. My first term was tough because CSM is filled with so many talented people, it’s easy to feel the pressure of being surrounded by that. It’s also a blessing because it’s very inspiring and makes me push myself more. I’ve learned to trust myself and to learn to be more in my own world when it comes to design.

The initial inspiration for my look came from when I took acid two days in a row about five years ago with a friend who I was making music with at the time. The first night I became the devil, the second, I saw the devil. I could feel the deadly sins of greed, wrath, and gluttony take over my soul the first night. My friend and I wanted to conquer the world and for the wrong reasons. That’s when I realized that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and I became much more conscious of the Hindu concept of Maya. To this day it is a lot harder for me to listen to music like I used to because I’m hyper-aware of how it’s affecting my emotions.

I started by looking at Adam and Eve for my research because that’s where humanity lost its innocence. Coincidentally the first sin is also the birth of our whole industry because the first thing Adam and Eve did was cover themselves, and thus fashion was born. Eventually, my process led me to cut out a lot of paper crosses, and the way the paper scraps were falling onto the paper underneath me was very intriguing, so I put glue onto blank pieces of paper and let gravity do the compositions for me. I then scanned those compositions and collaged them into photoshop to come up with what I wanted to make.

I don’t think that making a garment that’s visually impactful on a runway vs a well-constructed garment should be separated. They should come together because a good designer in my eyes should be able to do both in every piece they make. The base of fashion to me is fit. It’s all about the fit. It’s like what I learned from making music that the rhythm and the drums are the base of a song. Without rhythm, you don’t have a complete song. Without fit, you don’t have fashion. You can have the most basic fabric and design, but if the fit is good, then it will catch the eyes and make the wearer more confident. That’s why I spent so much time on the tailored portions of my look because whoever put it on, looked good in it.

Arthur Berry-Smith, Fashion Design with Print

I came to CSM from Wigan to be surrounded by fabulous people. I also appreciate how the University doesn’t restrict students’ creative freedom, and in fact, we’re encouraged to take risks. I always knew that doing my BA at CSM would be incredibly challenging, but this term I threw myself into the work. My fellow peers had a big impact on how much I pushed myself as everyone is so hard working.

My white show look is a satirical representation of men who overcompensate; the phallic motifs and imagery is a comedic criticism against men who take too much pride in being masculine. The type of men who put other men down for not fitting their hyper-masculine standards: “Dickheads” to put it bluntly. We were initially given three words as starting points, I chose the word “artefact”, which led me to visit the V&A, looking around at all the old artefacts; Ancient Greek male nudes were a big inspiration to my project, with their tiny phalluses. Interestingly, back in those days having a small penis was a symbol of power and manliness. This led me to research further into the history of masculinity.

I think that as a print student, I found the idea of working with plain white fabric quite daunting. Print usually takes priority in my design process. Having to use all-white fabric pushed me out of my comfort zone, which actually paid off as I was able to be more experimental with my pattern cutting. To be honest I was very surprised with myself during this project in terms of my technical abilities, for example, I had never cut a pattern before in my life. This project also taught me to develop a single idea multiple times rather than moving on too quickly.

The prospect of my work being displayed on a runway was very exciting as I’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this before. Coming from a theatrical background, my work is very dramatic which is perfect for a runway show. The main thing was getting the garment and my model to move in a way which was both beautiful, and complemented the design. While the visual impact of a garment is of course very important if it isn’t well made there’s not much point making it. I mean what’s the point in a garment that falls apart as soon as you move in it? Equally, a very well-made garment that’s visually boring isn’t of much interest either. There must be a balance.

I wouldn’t say just stress about one thing, but several: getting a successful job after university, technology taking over the design industry, such as the rising popularity in AI. I feel that technology is a good aid to fashion designers; but when it starts to replace the designer, that’s something I worry about.

Prakarti Agarwal, Womenswear

I wanted to study Fashion at CSM not only due to its international prestige with all the incredible designers that emerge from here but because of the way the tutors teach here; there’s a very fast-paced and practical-focused learning environment. It has been much harder than I expected mostly due to having little past experience making garments, so having the white show as our first project was rather daunting! However, I am proud that I eventually did manage to convert my design into reality.

For my look, I researched the journey of the Kohinoor diamond, one of the largest cut diamonds in the world. It was recently in news due to an ongoing debate about whether or not it should be returned to India as there is a lot of ambiguity in how it was actually received by the British Crown. I came to find out about its complex and layered past spanning through hundreds of years. The top of my garment is inspired by Mughal clothing, and the skirt is inspired by its turbulent past. I created this ruffle technique where I cut out triangles to replicate the geometry of the diamond. The headpiece is a reference to its beginnings; Indian mythology states that it was created by the Sun God, as Kohinoor literally translates to Mountain of Light.

Whilst I was designing, I didn’t really base my project around the garment being white, however coincidentally as it was about the journey of the Kohinoor, and how it ended up with British Royalty, in a way, the fact my garment is white almost emphasizes my point. In terms of my actual design idea I did change aspects of it whilst I was in the making process due to time constraints and things simply not working out the way I expected. One positive outcome of this is that it has emphasized, in my mind, the need to adapt and change the design during the process of making.

I’ve learned to do think more about how I should translate my design concepts into reality, and perhaps be more realistic with the amount of time and knowledge available to me. As it was the first project we did, I think I was a bit ambitious and did not consider how long I needed to spend doing toiles to make sure I got the concept exactly right as I did become apprehensive when using the actual fabric in order to not waste any or have to restart.

I do stress about whether or not I’ll ‘make it’ in terms of success. With this industry having emerging talent all the time there is constant competition and pressure to get your name out there.This time next year, hopefully I will have grown my garment construction knowledge so I can be more confident in my work.

Lulu Boddey, Fashion Design With Marketing

I studied a diagnostic foundation last year at Oxford Brookes, I went into it thinking I would be doing a BA in fine art this year, but I was very open-minded to new things. I’ve always been drawn to making large, impactful pieces and working in with 3D materials, at the time was keen on making sculptures, but I seemed to be always trying to find a way to relate them back to the body or make them ‘wearable’. I think at the time I was slightly scared of accepting that I wanted to do fashion rather than art as it is a much more competitive field, and I thought that the people who went to schools like CSM knew that they wanted to go into fashion for years. But after a lot of independent work and introspection I realised that I wanted to do fashion, and I’m so glad I did.

My first term at CSM has definitely not been easy, but I wasn’t looking for easy. From the beginning I knew that not only getting into CSM would be a challenge but that my course would be equally as challenging, and it is, in the best way possible. I wanted to be at CSM to be questioned and challenged by my tutors and my peers to develop my skills and learn how to critically evaluate my own work in a constructive way. Even just after the few months I’ve been here I already can see my work and skills developing.

I chose the prompt “borderlines” for my project as I was interested in exploring the extremities of two different things, and I began looking at how humans perceive reality versus questioning what ‘reality’ is in a very broad sense. I was very drawn to exploring childhood perception and the stage of life where everything is new, big, distorted, and the curiosity you have during those years. When creating drawings of these things from my imagination I seemed to be drawn to very distorted and exaggerated body shapes and elongated claw like hands and limbs which I then developed and used within my outcome.

For me the show was the most exciting part of the project. The amount of work myself and everyone else has put into their garments over the past few weeks, seeing it all come together and be presented as a collective is very exciting to me! My main focus was definitely how I could create the most visually impactful piece with the white fabric we were given. I find that drawing and just letting my mind run helps me to not over-think the construction of the garment during my initial design process as I don’t want to limit my ideas based on how difficult it is to construct. During the experimentation and making process constantly relating it back to the body and seeing how it moves and works on a person and making sure it is still a well-functioning garment.

I try my best not to stress about the future too much, although it’s very difficult not to, I think I just need to make the most of the stage I’m at the moment to really develop as a designer and have fun with that development process! I’ve proved to myself this year, a lot can happen in a short space of time. By this time next year I would like to have developed a stronger unique aesthetic and to have learnt as much as I possibly can from my tutors and CSM.

Zahra Al-Najjar, Fashion Design With Marketing

Although I am Iraqi Canadian, born in Montreal, I consider London my home; I moved to the UK when I was only 11 years old. It can get a little confusing, but I think it’s great that I relate to so many different cultures. I did my foundation at CSM and I’ve always wanted to design, my secondary school teacher saw me drawing in the library one day and told me all about CSM and decided I was going to study there one day. Doing my BA here has been exactly what I expected but better. I like how much we are pushed as designers but also have the freedom to express ourselves, I have definitely changed a lot as a person since starting my foundation.

This project explores my own world as a Middle Eastern woman, inspired by my Iraqi culture and looking into silhouettes from the Ottoman Empire. As a Muslim who wears a headscarf, I wanted to create my own personal vision of modesty. I created a fantasy of me and what I would look like if I was living in Baghdad during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. All my research is based on what I learned from my Iraqi parents, about their beautiful past and how it was like living there. I wanted to show off this amazing culture through my own eyes, from someone who hasn’t truly experienced it.

Designing all in white wasn’t hard at all, before this I have mostly designed in white and neutral colours. Not sure why, just always happens to go that way. I learnt a lot about myself during this project as the theme was quite personal. I enjoyed discovering how to communicate my own world through design. I pushed myself to try new techniques which I’ll continue using in the future. A lot changed during the toile stage, which sort of happened naturally as the weeks went on, not sure why but I think I was stressed about whether my point of view was visual enough for people to get it. Also because of the catwalk I had to think about the way everything is going to move.

Construction is really important for me as it’s what my brain links to a finished garment. But I do think nothing is impossible to construct well just have to be creative with the construction process, just as much as you are creative with the garment visually. I think the thing I stress most about is being misunderstood, I honestly have no idea where I’ll be next year, but I’ll be making the Middle East Proud.

Alireza Farjam, Fashion Design With Marketing

I crash landed in Iran via hyperspace after all my previous memories were wiped. I love St Martins’  approach to fashion design and creating wearable art to tell a story, I joined CSM for my BA after I studying fashion design and textiles at Nottingham college. My first term here has pushed me to grow in ways I could never have imagined. honestly, although it has been quite a challenge for me I wouldn’t change a thing.

This project came from a personal quest for self-transcendence, connection to spirit and revelation of cosmic truth. My experimentations with visionary plant spirits such as mimosa hostilis, better known as DMT, guided by shamanic cultures – such as the Shipibo conibo tribes of Peru, gave me insight into the infinite beauty and complexity that surrounds us, tapping into this divine essence altered my perception of reality in such a profound way. I wanted to share this beauty with the world though my garment. My garment is a visualisation of the energy fields emanating from our bodies. A toroidal force constantly converting spirit into matter, ideas into artefacts. An act of divine creativity.

Translating the colourful world of psychedelic experiences using white fabric alone presented some challenges. I adapted my ideas to extract meaningful shapes instead of focusing on details like patterns and colours. The white project brought to the surface many parts of myself that I had never seen before. Learning to persevere with confidence in the face of anxiety and stress pushed me to grow immeasurably as a designer. This years theme, The Playground, was exciting; where everybody is unpacking meaningful concepts and playing with these ideas, it’s a great metaphor for what takes place in the CSM studios every day. It’s all play at the end of the day!

Knowing my garment would be in the show and seen by so many brought about a mixture of feelings from excitement and gratitude all the way to pressure and stress. Ultimately, it pushed me to dedicate more of myself to my design so that I could communicate my message to the world in the best way possible. Making a visually exciting garment was key but It was also important to me that the finished and details of the garment were made with care and attention. I believe the intent and energy of the creator is locked in the piece forever.

I love what I do. I love humans and the body and the power we have to shape the body we are given. Fashion is the act of exercising this power. Even though I’m confident in my chosen path, sometimes the stigma of a starving artist creeps in and causes stress of how to fund my art and whether it’s possible to keep going after graduating. The truth is, being able to express myself through creativity is priceless and so I’m willing to give it my all and commit to the path I’ve chosen knowing my art means everything to me.

Peixin Bai, Fashion Design With Marketing

I always knew CSM was the best college to study design at, and I always liked the atmosphere here. I came to study from China, and my first term has been really good, everyone is so passionate about fashion.

My white show look was inspired by the borderline between reality and virtual. I wanted to try to break these boundaries. The installation behind the garment is based on a physical structure named “Tensegrity”, which is a mechanical principle that makes objects appear suspended. Along with this concept I also tried to restore that virtual feeling through realistic means. Because the point of the white project is to work just with white fabric, I needed to focus on the construction and silhouette in order to make it look good, instead of brightly coloured fabric and prints. This was the first time I’ve done something like this so it was a big challenge, but an interesting one.

The white project taught me to think more on my garments, which is a part that I was lacking in my previous projects. It made me start to think more about my silhouette and the way I put my garment together whilst designing clothes, being forced to innovate like this is something I’ve never experienced before.

This was the first time in my life my garment was shown on a runway, and I felt a lot of anticipation and excitement, but that being said I think I can do even better next time. I think having a visually interesting garment and one that’s well made are both equally important, but for me, still bring a student, I think it’s good to focus more on your design process as a way of making a more interesting garment, which also improves your skills; an amazing design is definitely not easy to develop.

I’m always thinking about innovating my silhouette and garments, but I’m more excited about the future than I am stressed about it, for now I’m focused on continuing my studies and working hard to become the best version of myself.