For his final year collection, London College of Fashion graduate Michal Leszuk took inspiration from American sculptor Alexander Calder’s floating forms mixed with World War II’s militaristic silhouettes and 1940s womenswear. The result: formal monochrome get-up edified by the occasional dash of electric blue.
Having cut his teeth working at luxury heritage brand Pringle of Scotland, Leszuk found himself equipped with a set of transferrable skills – namely the fact commerciality and creativity aren’t mutually exclusive. A self-confessed Craig Green lover, consistency and wearability are values that Leszuk holds dear for his future in the industry. Keep your eyes peeled for compelling garments with a unique soul of their own.
Violet Conroy: Why did you decide to study menswear at LCF, and what kind of future do you envision for your brand?
Michal Leszuk: To be honest, LCF was my second choice of university. I wasn’t offered a place at Central Saint Martins so I decided to go for the latter. Three years of studying there was a roller coaster with ups and downs, but I guess it’s meant to be like that. London College of Fashion gave me a range of possibilities to become a designer and let me develop my creative and technical skills which are vital to succeed in design.
I believe that the best way to predict your future is to create it. I know that I want my brand to stay small and grow in that kind of sector. I want to give the wearer a certain mood through my garments, yet leave them the possibility to interpret it. I’m curious to see how my pieces could be worn by different personalities.
Violet: Your SS18 collection took inspiration from Alexander Calder’s floating forms and WW2 uniforms paired with elements of 40s womenswear. How did you translate these aspects of history into your pieces and what about them fascinated you in the first place?
Michal: I have been obsessed with Calder’s work for few years, so I knew I was going to use him as a reference for my final collection. I was fascinated by his majestic forms floating in space and the scale of moving sculptures hung on thin wire. The collection explores the organic part of his work by creating detachable elements in the construction of the garment. Exploring Calder’s most influential period of sculpture pushed me to take further inspirations from the 1940s. I took inspiration from World War II and 40s womenswear, which was a perfect fracture for my research. World War II is obviously a clichéd reference since it has been used in many collections previously, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could create something new. Whilst researching 40s fashion archives I came across old US Vogue editorials which were quite sexual and I incorporated this into my concept. I believe this broke down the formal feeling of the collection.
“I want to give the wearer a certain mood through my garments, yet leave them the possibility to interpret it. I’m curious to see how my pieces could be worn by different personalities.”
Violet: Why did you name the collection Sculpture of Remains?
Michal: The name of the collection came quite organically which is rare since I’m very pedantic and tend to overthink things. It represents a range of feeling and emotion, and a passion for people and things around me closed in one body. Due to this, the garments represent the remains of my journey.
Violet: What did you learn from your time working at Pringle of Scotland?
Michal: The period that I spent working at Pringle of Scotland was a dream for me. I found absolutely everything that I was looking for from the company. I realised the importance of working with people who are passionate about the same thing and who respect each other. In the end, my colleagues became a small family for me and in all honesty I never thought that kind of vibe could exist in fashion. Aside from that, I also learnt that even if you work for a big brand whose main focus is commerciality you can still be super creative. The big lesson for me was considering the commercial side of design in order to create clothes that people will want to wear.
Violet: Who do you look up to in fashion as having had a profound impact on you and why?
Michal: There are certain people who I respect and adore for different things, however Craig Green is definitely my favourite. I can’t get enough of the intelligent way in which he manages his brand and how successful he became in such a short period of time. He proves to other designers that it is possible to be minimalistic instead of desperately looking for attention to achieve things in the industry. He works his arse off and is consistent in everything he does, whether it is his own collection or a collaboration. I’d say that he’s had a profound impact not only on me but also on other designers who are starting out.
Violet: Your lookbook for Sculpture of Remains holds a likeness to Jil Sander’s iconic ad campaigns shot by Craig McDean in the 90s. Could you explain the process of coming up with ideas for the lookbook and also shooting it?
Michal: Firstly, thank you for such a compliment! I’m delighted to hear that, especially since my tutor initially told me that I needed to reshoot the lookbook. I have had previous styling experience which allowed me execute the ideas in my head smoothly. Whilst researching for a collection I obtain certain moods, textures and colours that I use for the shoot. Again, it’s a very organic process. There is always a symbiosis between creating garments and a vision to realise it. When I fall asleep at night, I have images in my head that I either draw or write down in the morning. For my SS18 collection I collaborated with photographer Stephen Maycock and I couldn’t be more thankful that my friend recommended him. From our first consultation we were on exactly the same page.
Violet: What’s up next for you?
Michal: I’d love to create my first saleable collection although at this point I’m not able to achieve it without financial support. That is the goal in my head and I’ll need to find a way to realise it. Designing is difficult but I’d rather work things out instead of complaining!
Find more information on Michal Leszuk here.