What’s Going On At Central Saint Martins?
Yes, I’m still here, you can’t get rid of me that easily; my temporary hiatus from blogging has been an unfortunate side effect of the last couple of months of my degree, in which essays and exams took over my life. However, a hundred cups of coffee, twenty packets of biscuits and one or two mental breakdowns later, I’ve finally finished! The books are back on the shelf and I returned to a backlog of Vogues like a woman on a detox returns to cake.
However, it appears that I’ve not been the only one suffering from student woes. Whilst I was desperately hunched over my dissertation at three o’clock in the morning, another set of students somewhere in London were probably equally stressed in the preparation of their own fashion collections. For earlier this week, it was the Central Saint Martins BA fashion show, in which graduating students revealed their new collections to the world, and competed for funding from L’Oréal Professionel.
Central Saint Martins is famous throughout the world for discovering and cultivating talent such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, John Galliano and Stella McCartney, among others. Its annual showcase of its BA Fashion students’ collections, then, is not only a high-quality show in itself, but a good indication of fashion future. There was something of a sombre overtone to this years show, which was dedicated to Louise Wilson, director of the MA course at Saint Martins, who died just a few weeks ago. However, as if in honour of the woman who encouraged (and sometimes terrified) young designers such as Jonathan Saunders, Mary Kantrantzou and Simone Rocha, the show was of the impeccable quality that we have come to expect.
As always, the collections were diverse and original, full of the energy and creative innovation of young designers. Ashley Kang, Kiko Kostadinov an Quoi Alexaner presented collections torn somewhere between space-age futurism and folkloric tradition; imagine a stylish goatherd on the space station, and you’ve pretty much got it.
Meanwhile, Tracey Lewis gave us bearded men wearing blazers with what looks like something one might wear crossing the desert, whilst Frances Knee combined flowing robes and heavy knits with abstract sculptures sprouting from woolly hat.
Traditional or ancient dress made modern also seemed to be the theme for Angel Chen; the statement shoes which clomp along the catwalk remind me of an exaggerated version of the traditional okobo worn by Japanese geishas, for example. Her use of gunny sacks is also reminiscent of Dolce and Gabbana’s S/S 2013 collection, which also transformed this same material into a dress fit for a catwalk queen.
Harry Evans bought Elizabethan portraiture to life with a collection which was all about structure, silhouette and of course a crown jewel or two.
Other designers gave us collections which, it is fair to say, might be more suitable for daily wear; Eleanor McDonald’s blue and green palette infused urban classics with a new lease of life, whilst Chu Xuan’s designs somehow managed to be both slouchy and smart, understated and stand-out.
I particularly loved the space-age sophistication of Lisandro Olmos’ collection, which put a decidedly modern twist onto classic wardrobe staples.
It was Gracie Wales-Bonner’s seventies-inspired menswear collection, however, which earned her the biggest accolade of the night; the L’Oréal Professionel Talent Award. Wales-Bonner has described her collection ans “a hybrid of Nigerian street culture and European style,” telling Time Out London: “I was looking at Lagos in the ‘70s and the idea of a turning point in black expression where the camera was turned on the black person not through a Western lens – basically, black people taking ownership of their representation. Through music, through blaxploitation films, through art.”
The seventies influence shines through every flare, every high-waisted, jewel-encrusted silhouette; indeed, the trend towards androgyny during the seventies and eighties also shows its face in Wales-Bonner’s designs. Although a menswear collection, the Chanel-esque bouclé jackets and touches of sparkle softly meld with leather and denim manliness to create an aesthetic which hangs somewhere between the traditional feminine and masculine silhouettes. This refusal of a menswear collection to commit as a menswear collection not only gives Wales-Bonner’s collection a fresh, infinitely cool feel, but allows it to be just as sought after by women as by men.
Joining her in post-show celebrations were Asai Andrew Ta and Fiona O’Neill, who were both runners-up for the prize with their wildly diverse womenswear collections.Ta presented us with effortlessly cool attitude in the form of ripped and ragged t-shirts, jackets and trousers; Peter Pan’s lost boys meet haute couture. I love the way that the elements of the different outfits move together, tangles of material streaming gracefully along the catwalk like a Futurist sculpture.
Meanwhile, Fiona O’Neill transformed her models into heavily-outlined, cartoonish portraits which juxtapose blocks of black with abstractly-patterned neon pastels. The effect is a series of striking silhouettes, which capture your eyes and don’t let them go until you have looked twice at her handiwork.
So, whilst the standard of the collections was as high as usual, it seemed that diversity was the defining characteristic of this year’s show. I look forward to seeing what these designers come up with next! This weekend also marks the beginning of graduate fashion week, so look out for more from upcoming designers; and look out for more from me!