Super structure

Craig Green unravels his fascinating tapestry: Sylvanian Families, scout scarves, oxygen tubes, milk cartons, medical uniforms and flat-pack garments
By Simon Chilvers | Fashion | 25 August 2021
Stylist Steve Morriss
Photographer Fabien Kruszelnicki.

All clothing and accessories by Craig Green SS21; shoes by Adidas Originals x Craig Green

468 looks by British designer Craig Green have walked the runway since January 2013, building a compelling narrative around one of the most exciting voices in menswear to emerge during the past decade. Green has presented fifteen shows – they’re grouped as triptychs; three seasons follow on from each other – not including his most recent exercise for SS21 which, due to the pandemic, he didn’t present physically.

If there is a certain thrill in watching these stories crafted from clothing unfold on a stage, then so too is that fascinating moment afterwards, where he downloads his brain in an attempt to explain the season’s design rationale. In the past these thoughts have included, in no particular order: Sylvanian Families, scout scarves, oxygen tubes, milk cartons, medical uniforms and garments created as flat-packs. One memorable quote post-show FW18 when talking about a latex sculpture: “It was like you’d taken your mum’s old curtains and tried to make them into a jet ski.”

Let’s take a whistle-stop tour through the archive. Sculptures created from planks of wood worn over models’ faces. Explosions of tie-dye. Robes of tapestry. Monastic layers of black chic-ness. Bare feet. Garments featuring multiple ties and strings. Skin- tight tops with cut-out peepholes. Knits with a circular hole punched through just above the sternum. Quilted workwear jackets. Quilted wide-cut trousers. Joyous bursts of primary colour. Fabric pouring out of tops at the nipples. Giant contrast stitching. Hoods. Padding. Skinny crocheted sweaters. Tent-like constructions. Utility parkas. Eyelets. Rope. Plastic ensembles curiously cut in a Quality Street wrapper palette. Naked bodies printed onto jackets, trousers, coats. Gigantic flowers. Layered constructions featuring Venetian blinds.

If this all reads a little like a lot of chaos, then that is to do Green and his team a disservice. Despite the number of ideas on display, there is such a clarity of vision in the work that you’re never in doubt these clothes have come from the hand of any other designer. In that way, Green is comparable to Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake. Though it is Walter Van Beirendonck that the designer says “really opened my mind and made me think differently about what fashion can be and be about.” Beirendonck says of Craig: “It was a pleasure to have Craig Green interning in my studio after his bachelor studies. I was impressed by his prints, colour use and techniques. After his internship, Craig kept on working for a while on prints for my collections. When Craig launched his own collection, I loved and enjoyed his personal and original fashion approach and designs. Friends forever!”

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21

To say Green is an overachiever is an understatement. His designs have found themselves part of the permanent collections of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He’s designed costumes for Hollywood: Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant [2017] – ideal for a horror film fanatic. His clothes have appeared in a Wayne McGregor dance performance. He created bathrobes and uniforms for The Standard hotel in London. He’s won the British Menswear Designer award three times and has been nominated for a CFDA. He has ongoing collaborations with Moncler and Adidas, an incoming one with Valentino, and his first advertising campaign for FW15 was shot by Nick Knight. Oh, and his clothes are worn by the likes of Drake, Billie Eilish, Robert Pattinson, Jay Z, Glenda Jackson, Justin Bieber and Rihanna.

If that is a roll-call of famous people not to be sniffed at, for Green it is, however, missing one crucial name: Kate Bush. He tells me that Kate is the one person he has consistently bothered his PR team about. “When they ask me what celebrities I’d like at the show, I always say Kate Bush, I’d love to do anything for her. Make something, do her artwork for an album.” He traces this fascination back to the age of eight when he thinks it was on Stars in Their Eyes [a TV show featuring famous musical impersonations by members of the public] that he heard Wuthering Heights, though he says it was Babooshka that first stuck with him.

He says that when he looks back at the brand’s campaigns, he always makes connections to Bush’s work. You can see it in the cover of Wuthering Heights where Bush is hanging from a pole, or in the video for Breathing where a group of people emerge from water in white outfits that definitely have something of the CG’s about them. It’s also evident in the way Bush can, at one minute, be singing about washing machines, the next having sex with a snowman or referencing Emily Brontë. Her character- driven imaginative approach chimes with Green’s own.

Case in point: In a Bush documentary [The Kate Bush Story, BBC, 2014] a commentator notes that on The Dreaming album there is a chorus of sheep, a didgeridoo and the sound of helicopter rotor blades. This sounds like Green talking backstage after a show. There is also a childlike innocence about both artists. Green will pepper many of his conversations with references to things you’d make as a child. He said about FW18: “It’s like when you’re a kid, and you imagine a tent can fly.” This could easily be a Bush video concept or lyric.

“My god! Have you been to one of his shows?” This is the response from Janty Yates, the costume designer who admits she stalked Green to get him to work with her on Alien: Covenant, when I ask her why she thinks he’s such a special talent. “They are just the most extraordinary of any men’s fashion show I’ve ever seen. His invention knows no bounds. My jaw is on my chest. They really are gobsmacking,” she enthuses on the phone from Rome. “I’m so happy we had such a comfortable collaboration. It was so easy. He was so professional, and unbelievably kind. He’s just wonderful.”

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21

Nick Knight, one of fashion’s most original and innovative photographers says that Green stood out for him early on. “Really good designers with a new aesthetic stick out. Ones that are really setting their own path are quite rare but easy to spot. That was certainly the case with Craig,” he says. Their collaboration came about when Knight just called him up and said, “If you want to do some pictures let me know.” “There’s a real profound humanity to what Craig does,” says Knight. “It’s something that touches people in an emotional way. It isn’t just about “Oh I’d like to look good in that.” His clothes are just so full of vision. There are so many things in the collections: sculpture, references to Russian art, male sexuality, physicality but somehow it comes out as gentle, very humanistic and deeply beautiful.”

Green was born in Hendon. He studied at Central Saint Martins in London under Louise Wilson, arguably the most influential tutor of them all. He initially thought he’d be an artist, but after graduating in 2012 – his MA collection was inspired by The Wicker Man [1973] and Village of the Damned [1995] – he set up his own label and started showing at Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East MAN in 2013. “The obsession with uniforms, workwear and cults was there even in that very first collection,” Green says of his MA. “I think generally the collection was about the similarities between religious wear and workwear – how they are both meant to serve functions but in very different ways, and a lot of the time with similarities in the approach to construction and shape.”

These themes have continued, evolved, become signatures. His first MAN [a former talent incubator realised by Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East initiative and Topman] collection for FW13 featuring wooden sculptures over the models’ faces caught the attention of British newspaper the Daily Mail who ran a feature where a writer actually made himself a Green-a-like face sculpture and spent the day in London wearing it. He was refused entry to Harrods. Harrods now sell Green’s clothing.

At the end of January, Green agrees to Zoom despite his loathing of being on camera. He is in his studio, wearing a check shirt with a plain navy sweater sitting against a backdrop of books and various artworks by friends. He talks about the trials of the past year and is fairly adamant that “there is a magic to fashion shows I just don’t think something else can replace.” Though he confesses that when he started to work on the SS21 collection during the initial lockdown “I did think ‘I don’t want to see anything. I don’t want anyone to show anything. I don’t care. What could you show right now that would be good enough? Or not grotesque? And not out of touch?’ Over that summer I was quite happy we weren’t showing anything.” Thankfully, this particular position didn’t last.

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21

Simon Chilvers: Craig! How are you? How have coped during the never- ending lockdowns?
Craig Green: I like the time. I have enjoyed it in some weird way [lockdown]. I’m so bored of it that I want to go back to normal and I want the speed. But every time it feels like it’s going to go back, I have this feeling of dread. I don’t know if it’s because we’re just used to it. I can’t make my mind up. I like the feeling at the weekend, you know nobody is doing anything, so you don’t feel guilty that you’re missing out, or that you’re so boring, I haven’t got drunk, I haven’t seen anything… There’s no FOMO I guess.

SC: Do you think it’s helped in some ways to re-set things?
CG: If I think back to the year before, the speed at which things were happening… I think everyone had that feeling we were on a fast-moving train without knowing where the destination was. Keep doing it! Keep up! More! More!

SC: So you and the team made it back to the office?
CG: You have to be in the same room as stuff – fabric, models, people sewing things. You can’t really do that over Zoom or on a piece of paper. On the third lockdown, people have been being tested then coming into the office at different points in the week, spreading it out. For design you kind of have to be here. But you also have to be responsible for humankind, keeping people safe, paying them while keeping things going.

SC: Did you have to re-think how you were being inspired? What kept you motivated?
CG: It was hard. I didn’t have the feeling to do anything creative at the beginning [of lockdown] or at least what I would normally consider creative. Or anything extreme. But I’m not the kind of person that can sit around too much, reading books. I’m not that kind of character, really. So even in the first lockdown, even when it was a bit softer, I would come to the studio on my own every day. I was just making patterns and sewing clothes again, like I was back at college, which was strange. I wasn’t even sure what the use of them was because, in theory, they weren’t for the new collection. But I thought it was a good opportunity to correct all our fits and really look at the garments. It was a lot of late nights. I was alone, it was quite nice.

“I would come to the studio on my own every day. I was just making patterns and sewing clothes again, like I was back at college, which was strange.”

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21

SC: An unusual chance to consider and evaluate? To think?
CG: Yes, we spent a lot of time re-assessing things from how we work with our factories, how the team is structured, how we work, what is useful and what is not, where do we want to be? We were running so fast doing four collections a year, Adidas, Moncler, all our own campaigns with a team of about twelve which includes accounts, production… It was a time to set what we want to do for the future. Where do we want to be? Not making things for the sake of it. Not pushing things out just for external pressures. It was an internal audit and I think for the better. I painted the doors in the studios! [whizzes laptop around to show the door frames]. With every project, we have so many things, books, research, garments but they weren’t arranged or organised…

SC: When you were making things. Did it flood you with loads of memories?
CG: Yes! Less and less you’re making it yourself and you lose touch with what is happening. For years I’ve been saying, “I wish we were brave enough to just do a collection about one garment or one fabric.” But every season I never have the guts and there is so much pressure to perform and be within the race, be relevant, tick all the boxes, [like] these are going to be museum pieces, these are for sales, these are for the show, these are the core [pieces]. At the beginning, at the MAN shows, there wasn’t this pressure. We didn’t have any stockists. We didn’t have a history. We didn’t have any money, so we didn’t have options.

We’d have one roll of fabric, and [we knew] this is what our factory can do… so we worked within this restraint. You make what you can out of what you have. The first collection was calico and paint I think. It was what we were doing to it that gave it value: washing it, painting all the seams, the process of making it special for what it is. In some ways I miss that limitation. Now we just have more choice. The team go to Premier Vision [fabric fair in Paris]. Thousands of sample cards of fabric arrive, so we can do anything. But sometimes it’s better to have one thing. I think that’s maybe true creativity, what can you do with one thing? Problem solving, I think that’s nice.

“For years I’ve been saying, “I wish we were brave enough to just do a collection about one garment or one fabric.””

SC: How did you start working on a new collection?
CG: It always starts with a fantasy or storytelling. But I just kept wanting to make a shirt pattern which is maybe not that creative [laughs]. Then I realised that maybe reality was the fantasy that I was fantasising about. It kind of started to make sense. Even if it didn’t really make sense for months. It’s just a shirt! [laughs]. What are we going to do, just show these three shirts?

SC: It would have been a statement.
CG: I miss those kinds of statements. Maybe that’s what the future holds for us. I miss that kind of directness. But yes, in terms of SS21, I think it made sense for us that the fantasy was some form of reality.

SC: There are a lot of layers in this collection. I have at least six separate notes of details I want to ask you about. But let’s start at the top. I’m obsessed by the head décor…
CG: In the past we’ve done a lot of things that are anonymous or covering the face. It felt like the most interesting thing to do [at that moment] would be to see someone’s face. So, it was focused around framing the face. Someone laughed and said they looked a bit like Inspector Gadget which I thought was funny even though they’re not meant to be funny. Someone else said they looked like those head massagers in shopping centres used to soothe you. Conceptually, I liked the idea of them looking a bit like a mobile in a baby’s crib, but also they’re a bit like a solar system you’d make at school.

When you look at them they appear kind of calming and innocent but when you’re wearing it, the balls in front of your eyes are almost like giant planets. I liked that the mirror balls on the eyes meant that the model can only see themselves and you can only see yourself in their eyes. It sounds very conceptual, but… [pauses, laughs]. I liked the way it also made the models look a bit dead behind the eyes. You know when you boil a fish, and their eyes go white? Partly futuristic, but partly kind of dead-looking. But I think if you were more innocent, you can also see them as bright-eyed, with possibilities in their eyes. But yes, I liked that we were using the face again.

SC: At the other end of the body, I’m fascinated by this kind of bandage, plaster-cast looking shoe situation…
CG: [laughs] When they arrived in the office everyone was laughing saying they looked like Katie Price’s plaster cast or something. I was like “oh no”. I loved that they were so medieval-looking. Or that they looked a bit like you’d made them out of cardboard as a kid. They’re so kind of basic in a way. They also have that medical feeling where you can’t really move. When you wear them, I like that you can feel the ground beneath your feet. With your hands you touch things all the time, but you never really touch much with your feet.

SC: I want to try them on!
CG: When I’m working from home I always have to put my shoes on. I don’t know why. I can’t sit at my laptop in slippers or bare feet. I have to feel like “I’m going to work now, I’m putting on my shoes and socks.” I feel prepared for work. Otherwise, I want to lay down a bit. That ceremony of getting dressed – I was thinking about that a lot. I guess the idea of reality also links to how we’re thinking about clothes at the moment. We’re not dressing for anyone anymore because we’re not seeing anyone. So we’re just dressing in what is comfortable for us. It’s a more intimate relationship with clothes than perhaps we’ve had before.

“When I’m working from home I always have to put my shoes on…That ceremony of getting dressed – I was thinking about that a lot.”

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21

SC: I want to rewind to the last show you did in Paris for FW20. It was such a great moment for you and the brand. What are your memories of it?
CG: It feels like it happened a million years ago doesn’t it? That was all about packaging yourself for other people. I think that was why I was making patterns again. I wanted it [SS21] to be enjoyable to wear, not just enjoyable to see. That the details were perfect. I was spending a lot more time looking at clothes, at details that weren’t just for a show. You can’t really see it in the photos but there is a lot more detail and functionality to the clothing that when you wear it you see… There are pockets that can be accessed from both sides, small details that you wouldn’t think were important in a catwalk show.

SC: But even so, the silhouettes are very complex when you look more closely at the images of SS21. There are lots of accessories, even ties!
CG: A tie is so not us. We were doing a fitting and one of the fabric belts had fallen off a jacket, so I picked it up and tied it around the model’s neck and I was like, “now it feels finished.” But then I thought… “That’s weird. Why does it now feel finished? Why do I always think ‘oh not a tie?’” It feels like dressing up, for power. It’s like a different type of uniform than what we’ve done, it’s more about status. But it doesn’t have to be that. It could be a school uniform tie. And also, it’s just a piece of fabric! The symbolism of a tie I found interesting, even if it wasn’t a real tie. It’s a ribbon, a sash really.

SC: What music were you listening to when you were making the SS21 collection?
CG: Covers of Radiohead songs on a piano by Christopher O’Riley. Kate Bush. That’s always my go-to music. If everything is annoying me, I just put Kate Bush on. I think her music relates most to what the work is about. She always kind of explains what the brand is about. [Pauses, breaks a big smile]. The brand isn’t about Kate Bush! We’re not a Kate Bush-themed brand but… [laughs]. The way that she explores and looks at things. She can go between being very serious and very analytical about something or being really innocent about something, but somehow both are equally conceptual. She sees possibilities in everything. She has a curious approach to everything, and I think that is always what we try to do. I like the storytelling aspect of her work.

“If everything is annoying me, I just put Kate Bush on. I think her music relates most to what the work is about.”

SC: I can really see the Kate connection, it’s there in so many of the shows. Have you found it hard or freeing to not have the runway presentations?
CG: I do love a show. That was the reason I got into fashion. I love the ceremony of it. I like inviting people to come and see something. I like the storytelling. I like the energy in the build-up to it. I like working as a team towards it. I think it’s something that you can’t replace. You can do a digital show but… I miss shows. It’s an important part of how we work. But I’ve realised with a show that sometimes you can disregard things that are important or could be good… when you’re seeing a colourful blind look, then do you want to see a white shirt and black trouser? You want people to have a strong reaction. Not that you can’t get that with simpler things. It is good timing though, which is quite a dark thing to say, but the Paris show [AW20] was the end of that three – we always see the collections in threes.

SC: What do you think showing the collections as triptychs is about? Did it happen organically or was it a concept you thought about as a way to frame the work?
CG: It happened organically. I’m always trying to look back and find reasons for things, to help us move forwards. We’ve got boards of all the collections and we lay them out and talk about “what happened here, what don’t we like, did that work with that?” I guess it’s a strange way of working because fashion isn’t really about looking backwards. You’re meant to propel to the future. I think it was around the sixth or seventh show, when I looked back we started to see similarities, but they were in threes. I think maybe it was because of the MAN shows – the three MAN shows were all about light and dark. Every single look from the first to the third [MAN] show always had a look in black or a darker colour behind them, like a shadow.

This started with Fence Face [FW13] to the tie-dye [SS14] to the hand-painted [FW14] collection. They all had a kind of crafty art feeling. Then SS15, our first standalone show, was the start of something new. We didn’t cover the face, we had the boys with the bare feet, it was the first time we did the strings and deconstruction in that way. FW15 was the hole jumper and SS16 was the end of that series. This carries forward to now really. Though SS21 is maybe an anomaly. We’ll see what comes afterwards.

SC: It’s an interesting process. What do you think you’ve most learned from working like this?
CG: I tried to categorise them even more. I thought maybe they were like past, present, future. An X-Men-style concept [laughs]. So SS15, I thought was the past – Zen, judo, a historical feeling. FW15 with the hole jumper was the present. SS16 with all the neon colours, quite garish, was the future. Then you could kind of see them all in that way. The Pitti show [SS19], for example, is the future one. Within the three, if you look, there’re always similarities to the textile process and the approach to the outfits. And then they start anew, hopefully. I always think they start anew and everyone always thinks they look the same [laughs]. “There’s always strings!” [laughs again]

“Fashion isn’t really about looking backwards. You’re meant to propel to the future.”

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21; shoes by ADIDAS ORIGINALS X CRAIG GREEN

SC: Well, there is always something different to look at in your work even though there are obviously threads that run through it. From the beginning there was a lot of reactions, whether from the Daily Mail with the face sculptures to people crying at SS15. There always seems to be a lot of emotion within the work. How do you keep that in the clothes?
CG: Weirdly, the ones that you’re talking about are the ones where something quite big happens within the brand. The first show with Fashion East [as part of MAN] we had the Daily Mail ‘Face Fence’ scandal. Our first New Gen show was SS15 when we weren’t in a group show anymore. The first show when we left New Gen and had our own space was SS18 – the denim with the hole, the jersey rope sculptures, paradise ponchos, that felt like an important show for us. And then Paris was another change again. I think maybe those four shows – I hate to say milestones, because it makes them sound important – but they were important for the brand. They were shows where things changed for us and how we were presenting. Emotional. I don’t know why it’s always emotional. The way we work on a show is always emotional. Nothing else matters but the show. Everything can get destroyed and made again, anything can happen in a night, all the energy, everything is pushed into that moment because it defines the whole six months past and the whole year ahead, so every show is important. There’s the aspect that we really care about it a lot and it’s not a planned formulaic thing, pushing product. It’s meant to be the purest explanation of the seasonal idea. In our heads, anyway.

SC: How does a collection begin? Is it a bit of a constant process?
CG: The way that we work on the concept and the clothes is: what does it feel like? When it’s walking around in the studio, do you really want to see that? Even if we put a piece of fabric around someone and we’re like, “Oh that feels good. Why does it feel good? Let’s make something like this.” Some things you can’t plan. You have to make something horrible and then cut it up and make something else. We work in that chaotic arty, art studio kind of way which lockdown doesn’t really help with, for the emotional part.

SC: Do you think what men want to wear has changed permanently?
CG: I’ve never been a big shopper for myself. I find things I like and just buy loads of them. And that thing will change to something else and then I’ll buy loads of them. But during this time, all I cared about was quality. I just wanted quality. I cared what the buttons were made of, how the cuff was stitched, how they felt on the body. I can only really speak for myself but there is perhaps a feeling that people are less frivolous, maybe frivolous is the wrong word. But maybe it’s in the energy of people… they don’t feel as extravagant in their demands for life and maybe in the way that they dress. Perhaps people are more understanding about the realism of things. I don’t really know how to describe it. I think people see through things more, which is probably a good thing. Perhaps people aren’t so clouded by things that aren’t true. People showing off about their lives and what they have really feels out of touch right now. Maybe it won’t in the future.

“The way we work on a show is always emotional. Nothing else matters but the show.”

SC: How did your Moncler partnership come about and how do you approach it differently from Craig Green?
CG: We did Capsule C before Genius [both Moncler collaborations]. We did that for two seasons and then we discussed doing Genius. Now we’ve been working with them for about five years. I just love working with them, for lots of reasons. I’ve always had a big respect for brands that own an iconic garment, like they do with the down jacket or how Burberry owns the trench. I think it’s so impressive. They’re the kinds of things that are often forgotten in fashion with all the newness and shows. They own a wardrobe staple for a man, and I think that’s kind of incredible for a brand.

SC: What do you specifically like about working with them?
CG: I love the fact that brands like Moncler have a set structure when you go in. It’s like, “OK what are you going to do with a down jacket?” It’s not like you can just do whatever you want and then end up going round and round in circles. There are many possibilities with a down jacket and so many stories you can tell, and you can push it in so many different ways. I love that idea of restriction. It works well for me in that way. They have a show but it’s not a catwalk which is a new way of working for us, creating installations and immersive environments. They give us a lot of freedom and are very open about what we do. It’s within a structure, it has a history, it has a technology. It’s a collaboration I really enjoy doing.

SC: It’s interesting to hear you talk about brands that have a garment that they own. Some people would argue that your workwear jacket is one of those kinds of pieces.
CG: It’s something we aim to have in the future. It should be the aim of any brand I think. I love the quilted one and the cotton one [signature workwear jackets], it’s the construction that makes it interesting. It’s hard to do something new with construction because in modern times everything has been done to death. It was just the jacket that everyone in the team and in the office would wear, girls and boys, all ages, all sizes. And it wasn’t really a plan. It has structure but it’s soft so it fits different shoulder shapes, body types, it has the belt so you can pull it into the body. It’s simple but it’s complicated. It looks very basic if you don’t look at the construction. But it’s very fussy with the factories, for example it took years to get the binding on the collar right.

“I’ve always had a big respect for brands that own an iconic garment, like [Moncler] do with the down jacket or how Burberry owns the trench.”

Simon: There are a lot of people in London with that jacket. Does it still seem strange to you to see people wearing something that came out of your brain?
Craig: It’s always unusual. It’s rare that I just see people in the street but that’s more because I don’t go out. And that was before lockdown! I was just working a lot. But it does happen and it’s exciting isn’t it? I don’t think I’ll ever lose that excitement of, “Oh look there’s our jacket or our hat.” People have made a choice to go to a shop and get it. Strange.

SC: Your work has, how shall I put this, inspired other designers. How do you feel when you see that?
CG: I think it’s important to focus on what I’m doing most of the time. I don’t think it’s the greatest thing in the world… But the reason you put things out in the world is to inspire people, to make people think. The duty of a designer is to push for newness and push to make people feel and think things. To inspire other people. When I was at college, I wanted to be in a book because I used to spend a lot of time in the library and I would think how it would be amazing if my work was in a book and a student used it in their research. But to inspire them to do their own thing.

SC: Did you think about clothes when you were growing up?
CG: Not really. I think I was one of the classic art students at school, always trying to pointlessly rebel by dying their hair and shaving it off, drawing on my clothes or my bag. Luckily, by the time I got to [Central] Saint Martins, I’d got it all out of my system and was the plainest looking, bog-standard dressed person there. In my family nobody really cared about clothes. The music you listened to defined what you wore, which I don’t think exists so much anymore according to my nieces and other younger people. Everything feels very merged now. Everything seems to be one kind of taste stream.

SC: What about how your family react to your work? They are often at the shows. I’ve definitely walked backstage behind your mum!
CG: I’m thankful in a way… The way that I was brought up was probably the way I would like to bring up somebody if I had kids. It was the right amount of encouragement but without the pressure. My mum and my family are proud of certain things that I am doing but they’re not overly involved in it or giving opinions, “Oh I didn’t like that one as much,” or, “Why don’t you do something like this?” or “That was my favourite.” It’s not really that kind of discussion. I think they’ve always just wanted me and my sister to do what we wanted and to be happy. They were proud that I went to university, but they didn’t push me to. Sometimes, I think they don’t understand it [fashion] but that’s alright, it’s not their job. But they’re impressed that there are so many people at the show who have come to see what we’ve made.

“In my family nobody really cared about clothes. The music you listened to defined what you wore, which I don’t think exists so much anymore according to my nieces.”

SC: So where do you think the fashion spark originates from?
CG: There was always creativity in the house. My mum is quite crafty. She was a Brownies and Scouts leader, so they were always doing arts and crafts. There were creatives in the family, but it wasn’t their job. My godfather does medieval re-enactments and makes snow globes and weird tools and fake weapons, but that’s a hobby. I was surrounded by people who make things, so I think it comes from there rather than a loving of dressing [laughs].

SC: Right. We didn’t finish talking about the Paris show.
CG: It was such a big thing for us to pull off. The newness of the approach, the timeline, everyone being in Paris, prepping before we left, then being in Paris prepping for a show. Chaotic I would say, but we are lucky to have support networks. It all started by looking at packaging. I was always interested in the way other people always described someone as “the perfect package.” It was all kind of linked to packaging ourselves, and how the packaging is sometimes more interesting than what is inside. The models at the beginning [of the show] we called the ‘Hoover Bag Men’ – they were wearing padded Tyvek, and some [pieces] were made from coated leather Tyvek, so one was disposable and the other was, in theory, more luxurious, though in the end the leather was cheaper to make.

The hats were like milk carton constructions, but you could wear them in different ways. The flowers were huge-scale. Someone said they looked like the kind of symbols you’d have for a local council. I liked how big they were and dwarfed the person, and they also looked like what you might see on the side of a box that a flower might arrive in, you know like when you buy a single rose or something. Someone weirdly said to me that flowers are like empty gestures, which I thought was such a dark way to look at flowers.

There were long cashmere dresses that were constructed with blinds and they were lined in nylon, so against your skin it was synthetic but when you touched them on the outside they were cashmere, which I thought was interesting. The blinds, I like those, because it looked a bit like the models were looking out of a window and you were seeing the reflection of what they were looking at on the glass. There was also a kind of emotional thing linked to it all, I don’t know. There were the rubber tops that were kind of like fruit packaging but actually made from tourniquets and we dyed them into mesh, and I liked they were medical and maybe they stopped the blood, or the feeling in your hand. There were lots of ideas in that collection.

SC: You’ve often talked about the influence of films, particularly horror films. Are they still a big influence?
CG: There’re not really any good films at the moment. The last good thing I saw was Us [2019], the horror film. That really stuck with me and influenced the show before Paris with the mirrored floor [SS20].

SC: Do you re-visit things?
CG: I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the original of The Wicker Man. Horror films I can watch over and over. I like anything that can hold my attention for a really long time. With rom-coms I find myself playing with my phone. I’ve really missed going to the cinema, I like that a lot, I think it’s like therapy.

all clothing and accessories by CRAIG GREEN SS21; shoes by ADIDAS ORIGINALS X CRAIG GREEN

SC: You worked on costumes for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant. How did that come about?
CG: Janty Yates [costume designer] turned up at my Hackney studio randomly one day and the receptionist called up and said, “There is a woman down here who needs to speak to you and she’s called Janty Yates.” I didn’t know who she was at the time, that she was an Oscar-winner. She had been trying to email me, and she was there with her dog barking in the car. I gave her my email and we met, she had seen the FW15 collection in Selfridges, the hole jumper, and said, “It’s exactly what me and Ridley have been talking about for the direction.” I’d watched all the Alien films at my friend’s house when I was younger, and it was amazing to think I could be involved in something like that. Films last forever. What is even weirder is that when we were doing that hole jumper, we were saying in the studio that it’s like the hole where the alien pops out. Strange!

SC: I love that! What was it like watching the film?
CG: Most of the time it was like, “Oh that was us!” All the jersey long john things when they wake up [at the start of the film], we had to hand sew them onto the body, you can’t plan the bunching, so we had to find loads of people of different body shapes to do over a 100 of them. Seeing them in the film, it was like, “We made those in the studio.”

SC: You obviously collaborate with various brands, as well as Moncler, there is Adidas, you’ve done robes for the Standard hotel in London, costumes for Wayne McGregor. Could you imagine doing something like Mrs Prada and Raf Simons?
CG: I love working with other brands. I think it’s always really interesting looking at something’s history and working out what we can do that is new. Sometimes, I just want a really weird project to come along just to push us. So, the answer is yes. But mainly because I love the idea of working with something that already exists. With the Standard, it was something we’ve never done. Like Alien. First it started with the robe and then it went into uniform. It was exciting to work with a brand that is not so fashion. You have to think in a different way. I’m always conscious of not putting us too much into a box. If you’re someone who can design you should be able to design anything.

“If you’re someone who can design you should be able to design anything.”

SC: In your conversation with Dries Van Noten for HERO 21 in 2019, you talked about fragrance. I’m curious, what would a CG perfume smell like?
CG: My instant thought is that it would smell like hard work, or something like that, but probably in reality it would smell similar to what I wear. It doesn’t smell like hard work at all! So maybe more like a cross between sweat and oud.

SC: There are a surprising number of couples in fashion and you work with your partner Angelos. I know you’re not mad about talking about your private life but what is that like? Is it intense?
CG: It is intense. You live together, you work together, you go on holiday together, you socialise together, there’s not really much you do alone, so you really have to like each other! With Angelos we met through work, so I think we’re at our best when we’re working on something together. That’s kind of how we fell for each other – I hate that term – working on a project. He didn’t start working with me at the beginning. That came much later. The conversation [we had] was quite true, more from his side, saying “I don’t imagine it working for a long time, because you’re getting busier, and I can see that things are progressing, and I don’t think you’re going to have time for somebody that does something else, if we don’t share in the stress and timeframe together then I don’t imagine it working.” And I kind of agreed. I don’t think in this kind of job you can date someone in a different industry.

SC: What has changed in fashion since the Louise Wilson years?
CG: There’s definitely a different importance or focus these days in fashion… and what fashion really is. I think that is a bit up for grabs at the moment. I wanted to be in fashion for a different reason. Or what I thought fashion was is maybe different to what it is now. Or what it could be becoming. That’s quite an intense answer isn’t it? [laughs] I thought it was about ideas, storytelling, craft, design. I think it still is about that. I don’t mean to sound negative. There are a lot of things, that are constantly in consideration that I didn’t think about at college, within the industry.

SC: Do you mean like social media, and all the fashion hype?
CG: The media part of it feels different to ten years ago. What opinions count, how things are judged, whether they should be judged. It’s all up for grabs – why it exists, why people are showing collections. I think change is good, things have to move on, and you just have to adapt. It’s not like I feel negative, it’s just new.

SC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a fashion designer?
CG: When people ask, “What would you say to your younger self?” I always say “Nothing.” I wouldn’t have got to this stage in life by knowing what I know now, it’s better to make your own mistakes. My biggest piece of advice is: don’t decide your future too soon. I didn’t want to be in fashion, when I went to Saint Martins I thought I wanted to be an artist or a ceramicist or a sculptor… Now we have really extreme tuition fees so people are having to make life plans, they’re going to have this job and go there… but I don’t think that’s healthy for creativity or finding your own route. Be open to anything. Say yes; try everything.

Originally published in HERO 25. 

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