13 Dec 2018

Fashion Educators

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How to

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Fashion Educators

Fleet Bigwood

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Business Insiders

Jenny Meirens

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Graduate Shows

Central Saint Martins MA Fashion 2016

FULL LINE-UPS

The New CSM MA Graduates: Matty Bovan

Interview by Ella Wolf

Opening this year’s Central Saint Martins MA graduate show at London Fashion Week, Matty Bovan’s 12-piece strong collection was a daringly personal dip into the fantastical – featuring exuberant knit pieces, deconstructed dresses and an overall sense of fun-infused otherworldliness.

Exploring craftsmanship, colour and textured materiality comes naturally to the York-born designer who started knitting at age 11. In order to challenge the gendered, commodified paradigms of fashion design, Bovan believes that you need to push your own unique way of expression. While he celebrates the internet for its democratising effect on high fashion elitism, the 24 year-old is simultaneously critical of the accelerated circulation of images and styles through the hyperreal world of social media.

Where are you from and what was your route into Central Saint Martins?

I’m from York where I did National Diploma in Fashion, and I applied for Saint Martins after doing a Foundation in Leeds. I’ve been knitting since I was 11 and Saint Martins was the only place I wanted to go to. I loved the creative freedom during the BA.

How does the MA differ from your experience on the BA?

They are different levels, and you are also a different person: four years on in your life. The MA really teaches you to believe in your work and to find your voice. It is less about a certain style than about nurturing confidence. The tutors really look at who you are, it’s all very much about you as a person, which is kind of a weird thing to say!

“The way I put colours and textures together is a natural extension of who I am and what I wear myself.”

You showed your MA collection at London Fashion Week this year, which is the goal every fashion student at CSM works up to. The last months before the show must have been insane.

Yes, it was crazy stressful. You only get one chance, so it is a big deal. Opening the show was such an amazing honour. I was surprised how emotional it was — it kind of hit me!

The day of the show, you and Beth Postle were awarded the L’Oréal Professional Creative Award. Congratulations!

Usually the students know it a bit earlier, but we literally found out about the award one minute before the show. My memory of it all is kind of a blur now — it was such a surreal experience!

Exploring craftsmanship, colour and textured materiality comes naturally to the York-born designer who started knitting at age 11. In order to challenge the gendered, commodified paradigms of fashion design, Bovan believes that you need to push your own unique way of expression. While he celebrates the internet for its democratising effect on high fashion elitism, the 24 year-old is simultaneously critical of the accelerated circulation of images and styles through the hyperreal world of social media.

What has been happening since then?

We had an internal exhibition at Saint Martins for the industry and we still get marked by our tutors. The show is over, but you know there is still a lot going on! I’m working on my portfolio; people are requesting pieces for shoots – it is a new situation again.

Can you talk us through the process of finalising your MA collection? What is its core theme?

It was a very personal and organic process. I looked at yarns, nail varnishes, spray paint… I get really excited by colours, I literally cannot resist. I just love to make things and the way I put colours and textures together is a natural extension of who I am and what I wear myself.

Everyone is talking about new technologies and innovation in textiles. Where do you see the future of fashion?

I think now more than ever there is so much pressure on young designers to do everything, you know? From interesting shapes and great accessories to silhouettes and processes. With the internet, everyone has seen so much that there is a constant hunger for newness. It is scary but also exciting. You need to keep pushing things. There are still many formulas in design that are very traditional because they are targeted to sell. Those are obviously not the most innovative things.

In comparison to other creative industries looking for new, experimental forms, the fashion world seems to stick to rather conventional paradigms of the designer-as-genius, the collection, the show… Do you agree?

That’s true. The formulas of the seasons and the shows are very rigid and the money involved is insane. This is really the problem with setting up your own label: you need the money to keep up with the system.

How do you feel about working in a big fashion house as opposed to founding your own label?

I have always wanted to do my own label, but financially it is a big step. I enjoy doing consulting and freelancing as well because you have to apply yourself to different people’s ideas. But I will always work on my own things.

“My pieces look very different in flesh than in a photo because there are so many textures and layers to them. I see and touch them, but of course most people will only see my designs online.”

The death of Louise Wilson, the V&A celebrating Alexander McQueen, Li Edelkoort forecasting the end of fashion as we know it… There seems to be a sense that an era in fashion has come to an end.

I think the internet is changing everything, really. More is happening online each season, and things become more accessible. I think it is a good thing, it is democratising the system. Fashion shouldn’t be niche or pretentious.

What do you think about showcasing and communicating your work through new media? In the digital age, is an Instagram account more important than a fashion show?

Instagram has a huge impact, whether you like it or not. For example, my pieces look very different in flesh than in a photo because there are so many textures and layers to them. I see and touch them, but of course most people will only see my designs online.

How a piece looks in an image has become so important that it is changing the way designers work. 

Definitely! It is about reaching audiences and advertising. But how many people will actually engage with an image? That is what’s nice about the show we are setting up at Saint Martins this week. It will be open to the public so that people can actually look at the pieces in real life. I don’t think something like this has ever happened with the MA.

Over the last years, and especially with the move to King’s Cross, Saint Martins has introduced classes in business and management to the curriculum, adapting to the demands of the industry. How important is the commercial aspect in fashion education? Should it be taught at art school?

I definitely think that art school should be a 100% free and creative space. But in reality, things are changing and the school is adapting to the economic reality. Costs of living and producing are rising… There is a lot of pressure on very young designers to be incredibly focused in order to keep up. But, I believe that there needs to be space to fail, to make to mistakes and to learn from that. The King’s Cross building does feel very corporate and now there are a lot of students from wealthy backgrounds. It is not as black and white as to say that rich kids are not as talented, but in order to attract the most creative minds it is essential that nobody is put off by the costs of studying.

“For years, people have been saying that East London is dying. I don’t think it is dead yet, I just think there is more money now.”

How do you feel about living and working in London? Are you inspired by the youth culture, if there is any?

Exactly, is there any left? It’s this thing about my generation that everybody is so nostalgic about the past. The 90s thing still seems to be going on, but what’s next? The 00s? What’s great about London, is that you can do what you want and be who you want, but the costs of living are so immense that it is hard to be creative. For years, people have been saying that East London is dying. I don’t think it is dead yet, I just think there is more money now. It’s hard to predict what is going to happen.

What kind of women inspire you?

I have always loved women like Björk, Grimes and PJ Harvey. They dress for their own reasons and don’t accord to conventional formulas of beauty or glamour. It’s all about being confident in what you really like.

What is your advice for young creatives starting out in the fashion industry?

Do what you love and push yourself!

All images courtesy of Matty Bovan