Front-page grabbing body sculptures have been Craig Green’s trademark since graduating from the infamous Central St Martins Fashion MA in February 2012. But a more discerning eye can see beyond this, his work is much more than flash in the pan spectacle. The designer’s most recent runway outing for SS14, his second as part of Fashion East and Topman’s MAN initiative, is his most successfully received collection to date, both critically and commercially. Green has not only gained all three of the much coveted Dover Street Market stores as stockists, but has also been nominated in the category Emerging Talent Award Menswear at The British Fashion Awards, set to take place in December.
It’s true his aesthetic has a distinct streak of showmanship, culminating this season in a band of blindfolded models, sporting body-dwarfing piles of psychedelic rubble on their shoulders. But the strength of Green’s collections is that they’re predominantly composed of carefully considered new takes on utilitarian wardrobe staples. As Craig himself explains, “I’m not interested in creating theatrical clothing, but creating something theatrical from reality.”
Vincent Levy: How do you find interviews?
Craig Green: I tend to give too much away if it’s with someone personable, and it ends up like a counselling session. It’s tricky because you want to give the right answers, but you don’t want to seem too considered.
VL: You’re likely to be interviewed more in the lead up to the British Fashion Awards. Do any heroes of yours feature in the nominations?
CG: Well I’m not sure I should say publicly, just because it seems more is read into those you haven’t mentioned, and I think everyone’s compared enough anyway. I’m all for everyone supporting one another, and as well as those I look up to, I’ve a great respect for people who are just starting out like me.
VL: Does that mean you find it hard when publications ask you to do things like pick your favourite pieces for the season?
CG: Yes, honestly I hate being asked to do things like choose five pairs of ‘fabulous’ shoes from another set of brands because I just feel who am I to pass opinion on these kind of things?
VL: It reminds me of that question they ask you when you apply for the BA at Central Saint Martins – ‘are you a consumer or a creator?’
CG: People tend to assume designers are dying to buy things, and maybe some are and there’s nothing wrong with that, but with me there might just be one thing a year I really, really want to buy. I’m not desperate to go shopping all the time.
VL: You seem to almost wear a uniform, actually…
CG: If I had enough of it, I really would wear the same thing everyday. I’m usually in Jeans, t-shirts and polo shirts, in black or sometimes navy. I also have this thing where I turn my T-shirts inside out, because I’m always covered in paint or something or other by the end of the day.
VL: But your business is based on convincing people to change things up every six months.
CG: Yes, but I’m not designing for me. It’s not about ‘this is me’. There’s obviously something of myself in there, as I like to be comfortable, and I think that could be the part that’s hopefully making things feel modern. But it’s not for me to dress up and be the person. I’m not saying ‘Hello! I’m my brand! Let’s go to a party dressed up as it!’
VL: Being a designer has long meant fame, at least within a certain set. But with so much social media, hasn’t the whole thing sort of exploded? Isn’t there actually rather a lot of the ‘me’ part for certain designers?
CG: I guess so, but personally I find it the stickiest part of the job, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens with all of that in the next few years. Will we keep wanting to go at this pace? There’s almost a presumption now that you’ll want to give away everything you’re thinking about, even beyond fashion – even what you eat. I’m so happy to talk to people about my work because I know about it best. But do I want to sell it through some kind of persona? No.
VL: Do more people try and friend you on Facebook than they used to?
CG: Yes, because there’s is that feeling that everyone, not just designers, are so accessible these days, and if they’ve heard about you they do try and access you.
VL: It’s funny because when I was a kid fashion was interesting because it seemed so distant, such a dream.
CG: It’s true, and I do struggle with things like people wanting to see a designers work in progress, because the show is so important to me, and obviously everything will be so much better when it’s actually ready. You want people to be excited to see what you’ve been working towards and giving it to them in dribs and drabs surely isn’t the same?
VL: Would you almost be happy to be faceless within the brand?
CG: I’d be happy because I’d still be doing the bit I love the most, but it would seem a bit ridiculous wouldn’t it? I’d never want to create some silly gimmick.
VL: The characters in your shows are quite often faceless. What first attracted you to this?
CG: Well It’s about creating a certain atmosphere really. Something unnerving. Perhaps it’s easier to create without the reality of the person. It just seems the right way to do things at this moment anyway.
VL: Does it bother you that we stripped things back much closer to reality in our shoot? We deliberately didn’t shoot your sculptures, or the face coverings…
CG: No, I think it’s great because actually I’m not interested in creating theatrical clothing, but creating something theatrical from reality. I want to put on a show, but I’d like people to be able to take away a piece of the overall feeling. Something that’s wearable, and well considered.
VL: Are you surprised by some of the reactions to masking the models? What about ‘Gandy-gate’?
CG: [Laughs]. You mean when David Gandy said some negative things about it on the Alan Carr show? Well I was surprised because I didn’t think it was that extreme a thing to do, given all the things that people must have seen [in fashion shows].
VL: There’s a tendency with menswear that in order to be ‘different’ things become dandified and a little bit daft, but you manage to avoid that.
CG: At the moment men seem to mostly be offered sportswear or suiting. Sportswear especially seems to be the only way to be macho, and the suiting can be a bit fruity. I want to offer something else. That’s the challenge.
VL: What was the challenge with SS14?
CG: Well I always start by asking myself what do I want to feel when I see the collection? What’s going to move me? We wanted to create a weird, dark sort of euphoria. We wanted the happiness of the summer where the idea of all that freedom becomes chaos – something a bit dangerous. We wanted this sense of melancholy too. We wanted a feeling of England, but maybe more the English in Ibiza or something. It’s sort of that feeling of a comedown really. We listened to the Cyril Hahn song Say My Name over and over whilst working on it all, and we wanted it to feel the same way. It’s both uplifting, and mournful. Like a happy memory, that’s somehow a little painful too.
VL: To me you’re describing September when you’re young. The last chance to party before it’s back to reality.
CG: Well it sounds ridiculous but when we were trying to find the show music we said that it somehow needs to sound like a movie about friends that have gone travelling or on some kind of trip, and on that trip something terrible has happened [laughs]. Maybe they’re looking out the plane window. [Laughs] Maybe like The Beach, when he’s reflecting on everything and suddenly all the terrible stuff somehow makes sense.
VL: People tend to read ‘rave’ with certain parts of the collection – the trippy prints, the bucket hats. What was your own experience of club culture when you were younger?
CG: Well actually it was close to that feeling of chaos I was describing, because obviously when you’re younger you’re dying to find out what’s going on with everything. Where you can go, what you can do, who you can fall in love with, and the next day is nothing but more of the same.
VL: There don’t seem to be such distinguishable tribes in London anymore…
CG: I don’t think there’s the same club culture as when I was growing up here. These days it seems so mushed together. It’s because these days people turn up to the pub on a penny farthing, and are drinking cocktails out of jars and eating edamame beans! [Laughs]. Everything’s trying to be very sophisticated. I don’t think there will be the same distinct subcultures ever again to be honest, and it’s because of the internet. Everything is so globalised there’s no sense of ‘let’s stay together, we’ve finally all found each other’. There’s no cult, and that’s what I’m interested in.
VL: In each of your collections you seem to invent some kind of painstaking process, that’s especially hard to do in large quantities. Are you a bit of a masochist?
CG: I think that’s the whole point. It’s a deliberate reaction to how everything has become so digital and cold in terms of the process. I think design should be a celebration of physical skills. Also there’s the fact that when you’re working with hand crafted materials things can never be exactly reproduced. People can’t do it exactly as you did it. Even if one person makes a mark on a piece of paper, and the next person makes a mark in the exact same way it’ll never be the same.
VL: ‘DIY’ is a phrase you’ve used a lot to describe your aesthetic, are you always going to want to do-it-yourself? To have a definite physical hand in things?
CG: Yes of course. That’s why I’m doing this. My favourite TV show is How it’s Made [Laughs].
VL: But what about if you were one day offered some kind of creative direction role? Would you be able to relinquish something then?
CG: Well it must be about having the right people around you that you trust to have that same ‘feeling’ I was talking about. Which I already do have on a small scale. Helen Price who I collaborate with on textiles, Helen Lawrence on knit and David Curtis-Ring who I work with on the sculptures.
VL: Your own little cult to belong to?
CG: Yeah, maybe [Laughs].
Hair and make-up Kota Suizu