Top image: Niccolò Pasqualetti MA collection
Another year and another batch of exciting up-and-coming fashion talent to keep an eye on courtesy of Central Saint Martins’ annual MA show. Shown during LFW, this newest crop of CSM graduates – studying courses from menswear and womenswear to digital print and knitwear – took over the prestigious school’s entrance hall to present a range of MA collections that delved into ideas of gender, identity and community.
Drawing from a melting pot of ideas and inspirations – through 90s hip hop, Amazonian bodyguards and Henry Moore’s abstract sculptures – here we speak to six stand-out designers and get the lowdown on their collections.
One of the two L’Oreal Professional winners, Beirut-born Sheryn Akiki has maintained a steady ethos throughout her studies: to design clothes that feel as good as they look. For her graduate collection – a subversive take on femininity, which combined deconstructed, revealing eveningwear with knitwear and tailored jerseys – Akiki celebrated the idea of glam gone wrong, “a wardrobe that can switch up from day to night, bed to office, lunch to gala.”
The way Lebanese women carry themselves, and their way of enjoying life as it comes, day-by-day, was one of the many influences behind the earth-toned colour palette and most of the looks: “Imagine a mise-en-scène of Bausch’s women gargling water and trying to apply mascara during rush hour, a broken mirror, Dalida impersonating Gaddafi’s Amazonian bodyguards, Petra Von Kant of Les Larmes Amères lounging in her pearls, Beirut’s golden age, fog, and a secretary gone mad with a comb stuck in her hair,” she said. Being from the Middle East Akiki had to work without European funding, inspiring her to create what she called the “non-scholarship heels” – which involved strapping a heel to the model’s foot. Ingenious.
Gallery: Sheryn Akiki MA
Describing his collection as “dodgy suburbia”, CSM graduate Gerrit Jacob was inspired by his childhood memories, and how, with time, they became intertwined with concepts of class and youth. “Last April I started going to funfairs to document the airbrush motifs on all the rides. I didn’t realise at the time but all of those pieces carried a strong nostalgic value for me – having gone on those same rides since I was a little child,” he explained. “The experience of those visits then inspired more thorough research on notions of class and youth.”
And Jacob’s show stood out in more ways than one. The first ever mixed reality catwalk, ten attendees watched the show wearing Magic Leap’s One headsets, enabling them to see Jacob’s design inspirations come to life through augmented reality, including lightning bolts, smiling tigers and animated laughing skulls that rose from a pair of trousers worn by Lennon Gallagher. In terms of the clothing, we got clip-on ties, teddy shoes, wide-leg printed trousers and one particularly striking full denim look made of upcycled fabrics. References to everyday life featured throughout, from market and charity shops finds, to teddy bears and to hockey uniforms.
London-based designer Kitty Garratt drew inspiration from women wearing trousers for the first time to ride horses in the 20s. “I had four main images which informed the silhouettes and feeling. Almost all of my fabrics are from Woolcrest, which meant that I worked a lot with what I had,” she explained. “I find these restrictions really liberating, it allows you to be more creative with what you have.” While the equestrian theme runs throughout her collection – with panelled, knitted riding jackets and skirts, quilted balloon-shaped breeches and ‘snake’ dresses with snap fasteners – the colour palette of greys and blues, but also warmer shades like green, yellow and orange, was inspired by abstract paintings that Garratt created herself.
Gallery: Kitty Garratt MA collection / photography by Chris Lensz
Also a winner of the L’Oreal Professional award, South Korean designer Goom Heo’s collection riffed on her interpretation of weirdness: “I wanted to explore my personal feeling towards what ‘crazy’ or ‘weird’ means to me, specifically defining and showing it through a menswear collection,” she explained. “I think of people who would wear my clothes and still to be treated or considered normal, not odd or funny. It’s about striking the balance between what people define as crazy and what is considered to be the norm.”
Stripping away social and cultural rules, and standards of dress, her looks combined masculine and feminine codes, where houndstooth embroideries rub up to tulle overlays, jet black codpieces toy with masculinity and athletics tops are sliced and spliced into patchwork garments. The collection boasted boxy, futuristic ankle boots in collaboration with London-based, South Korean shoe brand DOY.
For his graduate collection, menswear designer Marvin Desroc explored gender, race and cultural diversity in his native Paris. “The main starting point was my childhood and the terms oreo or coconut – a slang that I’ve been called all my life growing up in Paris,” he said. “People felt that I was only black on the outside and white inside. I wanted to express this feeling through synthesizing 50s Parisian couture and mixing it with 90s Hip-Hop.”
Drawing together such disparate worlds and references, 90s icons like Tupac and Little Richard met 50s lingerie, bows and Renaissance paintings to create bold interpretations that unpicked cliche ideas of black masculinity in order to present a contemporary interpretation via Desroc’s own experiences. We got structured tailoring, crisp white tailoring (à la Bianca Jagger’s wedding suit), oversized trousers with petal-like hips and crochet tops that looked like fishnet stockings pulled tight over models’ torsos.
Italian designer Niccolò Pasqualetti’s sculptural collection challenged the constraints of gender via deconstructed shirting and tailoring, skirt-trousers, patchwork knits and netted overlays – all in a colour palette of white and various shades of beige. While some silhouettes were designed for men and women alike using with free-hand pattern cutting, other pieces were realised by combining traditionally masculine and feminine patterns.
The inspiration behind the collection stemmed from abstract art and sculpture: “I am drawn to simplicity and abstraction, so I love the sculpture of Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Camille Henrot. When I think of a genderless future, I imagine their primordial forms,” he said. “The Arte Povera movement revealed the dignity of commonplace things and inspired my use of found objects. Scrap metals, wooden pottery ribs, and old sweaters are given new meaning as part of the structure of the garments.”
Central Saint Martins MA Fashion class of 2019 is now on show at Central Saint Martins until Friday, 15th March.