The Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion show is la crème de la crème of undergraduate shows. They are the lion cubs of the fashion industry with hopes to become the next big thing. And, many of them have the potential to change the way the industry is operating. 41 design students were selected to present their collections on Wednesday 31st of May 2017 in front of journalists, editors, and buyers as a reward for their efforts, ingenuity, and inventiveness. We’ve spoken to 7 students whose collections were to the highest standards expected from Central Saint Martins.
Sheryn Akiki, 2nd runner up of the L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award, delivered a collection that speaks volumes. There was nothing pavlovian about the clothes she put together for her show – in other words, no one was ready. It is a designer’s purpose to ignite emotions and interrogations that transcend aesthetics, and Akiki made it her mission, with much success. The designer’s soundtrack, an extract from Lydia Lunch’s Conspiracy of Women (a 1989 performance staged in Berlin) remixed and reissued by Nicolas Jaar set the powerful tone for the clothes that were to follow. Akiki had been listening to the track every day since 2015. “Sometimes, I listen to it 7 times a day, and it never ceases to trigger me – for me Lydia embodies the soul of this collection. I knew the music for the show before I knew the garments, and I think it subconsciously fed into every aspect of this project from the way it was stitched, printed, twisted, presented”. The young woman feels that her role as a fashion designer is to react to her surroundings, “or else we are not working in the present,” she explained, adding that being political is also about creating a dystopian fantasy, a fairy-tale that is not necessarily representative of the reality we live in. The designer spent time at the border between Lebanon and Palestine, and she describes it as “the blue line”, a place that both fascinates and frightens her. The idea of reacting while urging to a safe place fed her creativity therefore Akiki’s collection is a loud response to current worldwide geopolitics. “I never thought of it as being political [but] I found it almost impossible to focus on anything else. I constantly feel in a state of emergency and urgency now. I didn’t know how to let it out, so I guess my research naturally caved that way. Maybe it’s also out of feeling scared or unsure and not wanting to feel that way.” Indeed, Akiki’s army of so-called angry girls in linen outfits implied they could have been escaping a warzone, twisting their oversized trousers and skirts to allow movement therefore freedom. Bullet belts were a highpoint of her collection, with cigarettes (from 4 and a half packs smuggled in from Beirut) replacing the airgun’s missiles. Overall, they are clothes constructed with meaning, with such grit and authenticity that it was difficult to remain emotionless. Some of her clothes featured openings that often revealed a little bit of flesh, but sexiness wasn’t the purpose. Akiki’s dresses were screen-printed and handwoven, and featured an array of textures. Everyday clothes for everyday life but with a sense of readiness if a situation arises.
Sheryn Akiki is planning on applying to the MA Fashion Course at Central Saint Martins.
Richard Oxley’s collection was brilliant in the way he spat, stepped on, and played with rules Beau Brumell wrote two hundred years ago. Forget every assumption you had on tailoring and men’s style. There was a sense of sophisticated brutality in the way he painted his suits. It wasn’t entirely about a revolution but more about a logical sartorial evolution. Oxley’s tailoring appreciation was challenged during his placement year, when he spent 5 months at a Savile Row tailor. “I was desperate to learn how to measure and cut patterns, but was instead made to mark stitch endlessly and wasn’t treated all that well. So, I think my collection stemmed from boredom and frustration”. Though he was going against the formulaic process of Savile Row, Oxley still managed to produce great tailoring. “There is not much room for creativity on Savile Row, it’s all very traditional and by-the-book so I really wanted to fuck with that. For someone like me, from this generation, it was important to bring a bolder, more exciting approach to tailoring and make it more accessible for the youth. I wanted to make tailoring sexy again, and make men sexy again as I think that menswear is lacking some of that old school peacocking now”. Oxley’s suits have indeed a sort of rebellious, nonconformist identity. They were generally oversized, but remained well cut, and of course, they required excessive labour. “I had decided to sew all the garments first, and hand-paint them afterwards, so there was no room for mistakes. It was fucking tense! It took about 5 days to do 1 jacket!” The menswear graduate also spent a lot of time thinking about how he wanted his clothes to look. “Styling is very important for me. How high or low your trousers are sitting? How many buttons are undone on your shirt? Is your sweater swinging half over your shoulder? It’s a great chance to show your vision of the type of man you are designing for. You can portray a lot of character and attitude through it.” And yes, those clothes have a lot of attitude. It was power-dressing for men who want to boost their confidence.
Richard Oxley wants to keep on doing his thing, “bigger and better”.
Kevin Germanier’s proposition was one of the most beautiful – in the true sense of the word – collections of the 2017 promotion. It was a fashion that was as glamorous as haute-couture, if not more. The Swiss designer started off his design process having in mind the idea of transfiguration (called Henshin) inspired by fantasy character Lillian in the Lady Jewelpet anime (2004) and by Isabelle Adjani’s transformation sequence in the movie Possession directed by Andrzej Żuławski in 1981. Blending the extravagant universe of a character from a Sailor Moon type of anime with the disturbing aspects of a demonic possession made Germanier’s collection captivating. “All my garments melt together to create unique and modern silhouettes. The concept of explosion is not only present in the shapes, but also in the fabrics,” said Germanier, describing his work. “The sustainable shinny knit made of plastic bottles in Korea translates the playfulness, the humour, and the magical energy found in the Henshin, while the explosive patterns made of up-cycled beads, found in Hong Kong, on tulle symbolise Isabelle’s violent inner explosion”. Indeed, his models walked down the catwalk in figure-hugging, sexy dresses trimmed with feathers and beads. It was a collection for the fashion-forward party girls of the world. The Swiss designer taught us a thing or two about sustainability along the way. “What I want to show is that you can create a sustainable collection without having to print “ECO” on a linen shirt and being vegan.” The majesty of his collection stands in the fact that it looks nothing but what people have in mind when they think about sustainable clothes. In that sense, Germanier really deserves respect for his hard work. “I would be lying if I was saying it was easy to source all the beads and the fabrics to do my collection, but that is also the beauty of it. You fight for what you believe! I really wanted to create a sustainable collection that does not look like a sustainable collection”. There was something mystical about Kevin Germanier’s work, as if everyone in the audience would, all of the sudden, morph too.
Kevin Germanier has been offered a job at LVMH in Paris.
If one had the difficult task of summarising Tolu Cocker’s collection in one word, it would most likely be swagger. Indeed, her collection had that kind of 1990s cool, hip-hop vibes, with a hint of 1960s Black Panther spirit, but relevant for 2017. There was a strong sense of identity and diversity to her work which is something that comes naturally to Cocker. “I was born and raised in London within British society but my parents came from very different cultures and so it affected my upbringing and consequently the way in which I identify. I attended boarding school and grew up with such a diverse variety of people from different backgrounds.” Cocker’s collection reflected her multicultural cultural environment, especially the influence of the people she had met while living in Paris. “This reoccurring theme was even more evident during my time living in Paris last year as I witnessed and experienced the vast differences as well as many similarities between the Black communities there and those here in London”. Replica, the name of the collection, was thought as an experience rather than a concept. Cocker wanted to materialised people’s feelings and identity struggles through her clothes. “Your identity is not only skin deep. It has so much more to do with culture, lived experiences. My collection explores people’s identities as a replication of their lived experiences, surroundings, struggles, accomplishments. But it’s also concurrently commenting on the culture of stereotypes, assimilation and appropriation.” To achieve these stunning painted leather jackets and trousers, and the big ‘faux-fur’ coats made of denim, Cocker surpassed herself, experimenting with materials, to her great credit. “I used denim and leather as core fabrics in the collection as they are worn by people in all walks of life – rich, poor, old, young, local, foreign, homeless or privileged. I have denim which appears like fur, printed and patchwork denim, laser cut and combined leathers. Through different processes and manipulations, the fabrics can appear completely different.” And, in that sense, Cocker delivered the most exciting mix of fabrics not to mention that Cocker excelled in both menswear and womenswear, though she doesn’t believe in this segmentation. “You have women buying things in the men’s department and vice versa, so I’d like to continue designing clothes that anyone can wear regardless of gender, age, race or any other social classification.” Cocker, who took home the Nina Stewart Award and the Sophie Hallette Award, is to keep an eye on.
Tolu Cocker will start working on a sequel collection, but is open to job opportunities.
Thomas Sehne proved that the devil is indeed the details. His menswear offering was grown-up, precise, and minimal. His collection didn’t look like a student’s as it was pragmatic and realistic – ready to be hang on a Selfridge’s rack. Bicolour suit jackets in wool and nylon worn with super short shorts with drawstrings at the hems, something that would please the contemporary fashion aficionado. Sehne also presented beautifully crafted backless sweaters and cardigans in earthy tones for men looking for clothes that stand out. “I definitely think that I am serving a bit of a niche within today’s menswear spectrum. I was rethinking classical menswear in a more contemporary context, with a focus on craftmanship and detailing. I think that my work could be of interest to anyone appreciating these qualities in garments.” The young British designer was the only menswear student who really focused on adding a je-ne-sais-quoi to his clothes, something not obvious but with a strong sense of style. But above all, Sehne’s goal was to transmit values he cherishes. “Through my work, I am not trying to send out a specific message,” he confessed, before explaining that what matters is that his design excites whoever wears it for more than just a season.
Thomas Sehne is keeping his options open, but would love to launch his own line.
Goom Heo, from South Korea, is L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award recipient. The young woman’s collection was her first attempt to menswear, and she hit the bull’s eye. “I had never done menswear before so this was my first men’s collection. I did it because I was already quite bored about final year, even before it started. So, I knew that doing menswear for my final collection would be something new to me. I knew that it would be exciting to explore it for the first time.” There was nothing to complain about, nothing to fuss about. Heo perfectly combined elements from traditional tailoring with more sporty garments like tracksuit bottoms, and it worked perfectly. “At first, I wanted to make traditional tailoring patterns and focus on the finishing details. I wanted to produce a ‘proper’ menswear collection, but then I realised that I also wanted to put some fun into it. I thought ‘Why not?’ and that’s why it became the name of my collection.” The designer’s collection seemed to have been conceived while having fun indeed, and the bright colours demonstrate it. Heo wanted to bring together the style and attitude of Asian men and a sense of Britishness seen through her own eye. “I got inspired by Asian people walking in the streets in Korea, and the way they dress and behave in their clothes.” The opening look featured red high-waisted hot-pants kind of shorts over a Prince-of-Wales oversized suit jacket with lapels for days. Amongst the particularly striking pieces were a top made of layers and layers of Vintage colourful t-shirts, and a brown-yellow stripped long coat with exaggerated shoulders. As a first foray into the increasingly demanding men’s fashion sector, Goom Heo’s collection was a total master stroke.
Goom Heo is planning on applying to the MA Fashion Course at Central Saint Martins, but that’s not confirmed. Her summer holidays, however, are.
Daniel John Sansom
Amid the philosophical collections, the conceptual garments made with tree branches or bread – this is typical CSM for you – and the complexity of some graduates, stood Daniel John Sansom, a young British man with a silhouette a la Betty Catroux. His Tory Punk collection is no doubts the most iconic moment in Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion Press Show history. From the second Theresa May’s authoritative voice clamoured the infamous “He can lead a protest, I’m leading a country!”, all bets were off! Daniel Sansom himself opened his show in the most scandalous ensemble possible: a tweed coat with a 5-meter train and appliqués reading “A BETTER BRITAIN FOR EVERYONE LOVE TERRI MAY X <3 X <3” on the back over a satin bra-top and mini-skirt – a belt, really. The crowd went wild. Sansom worked with a team of talented creatives including his partner-in-crime, the fabulous Lily Bling as well as Anthon Raimund Hartel and Hatti Rees who helped him bring to life the show he masterminded. Their watchwords are “excess, glamour, slaggy, vulgar, luxury” and, well, “fingering”. Considering the political climate in Britain post-Brexit, Sansom’s collection was the boldest move coming from a student at an art school. It was Camilla Parker Bowles Duchess of Cornwall, high on ecstasy. The outrageous nails and the Margaret Thatcher coiffure adorned with feathers styled as Iroquois were some of the many elements completing the looks. Of course, it wasn’t necessarily about being politically incorrect. It was first and foremost about having fun! “We’re just having a laugh!” is something I’ve heard the walking-spectacle Daniel Sansom say in the past. Every single outfit was provocative: a mint green satin suit had bags of cocaine sewn to it, and it was ironic and somehow comical to see members of the audience react negatively or pretending to be estranged to illicit substances. His clothes and accessories had slogans such as “Cut Benefits” and “Austerity” and Sansom really created looks that went against fashion’s intellectual current. Sansom and his friends put all the letters in the word show, out-staging the designers who followed. Another memorable moment was the last look, worn by a lady sitting on a throne carried by body-building hunks in leather thongs. Controversy aside, the collection wasn’t about pushing a political agenda – though the Tory Punk team invited Prime Minister Theresa May for a cocktail, which, if you ask me, she should attend.
Daniel John Sansom and his TORY PUNK team are looking forward to “more sniffing, boozing, bumming, but more importantly, more hard-work!”
Words by Pierre M’pelé