No one could have foreseen the circumstances in which Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion students would be presenting their graduate collections, least of all the students themselves. Today, three months since the UK Goverment imposed a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, restrictions are starting to lift: people are venturing out of their homes, non-essential shops are opening and some semblance of ‘normality’ is beginning to return. Mass gatherings though, which of course include fashion shows, still remain a long way off and, in lieu of the traditional celebratory BA Fashion show, this year’s graduates are showcasing their final collections via a digital presentation. And, while the innovation is certainly something to be praised, it’s hard not to feel a sense of sadness for the students who would otherwise be debuting their collections to the whoops and cheers of their friends, families and fashion industry figures. Here, on the day of the show, eight BA Fashion students – selected by course leader Sarah Grest on the strength of their collections – open up about their collections (showcased here in video form), what it feels like to be graduating in these circumstances, and the hopes they have for longterm, meaningful change in a moment the fashion industry is calling a ‘reset’.
James Walsh, Womenswear
“My intention as a BA Womenswear student was to create static sculptures in the form of wearable clothing. My interest started from seeing a wealth of statues in the streets and museums, and I was incredibly drawn to frozen garments and the timelessness these figures held. As I was researching ways of linking sculpture and garments, I understood I would need to approach construction in a more experimental manner, which led me to CLO, a software allowing 2D fashion patterns to be digitally sewn together and draped without the traditional toiling process. The garments I have created for my BA collection are entirely zero waste and the material I use to print is completely recycled and biodegradable.
“I often find myself on long walks around the cities I live in, and have taken a lot of inspiration from the statues I would see in London and Paris, as well as various objects and toys in shop windows. I am greatly influenced by Jeff Koons’ process; the way he recreates simple objects in completely different materials without the viewer being able to tell the difference. I love the statues Michael Jackson created for his HIStory tour, the thought of a 30-foot statue sailing down the River Thames really excites me. While my inspiration comes from manmade objects including the static clothing on statues, plastic toys (notably Polly Pocket), and porcelain dolls, these objects are something that take an incredible amount of time and skill to achieve. Whether they be sculpted by hand, or mass produced in a factory. These techniques were not readily available to me. This is when I realised the significance of 3D printing to allow complex and technical processes, easily accessible.
“[Post-coronavirus pandemic] it would be great to see more equal treatment across all areas. Fashion has a strong voice in spreading awareness surrounding diversity, and this is something that should be encouraged greatly. This should cover all areas of the industry – not just those who are seen at the forefront of a brand. I think the idea of ‘celebrity’ is slightly unnecessary, particularly when it comes to creative directors. It would also be an absolute dream to no longer see Love Island ‘stars’ and other ‘influencers’ launching collections with boohoo.com and Pretty Little Things.”
Jiyong Kim, Menswear
“I started the collection with vintage garments that I have been collecting for a long time. I found a lot of interesting things about these aged garments. Focusing on sun-faded garments, which people regard as not valuable, I aimed to reproduce them into valuable clothes. This idea led to printing onto garments by only using sun, without using any chemical sources and acid which contributes to emission of waste products that pollute the environment.
“This pandemic made me really recognise the power of collaboration with other young artists. To let the collection be shown in a more professional way, I was eager to work on photo and film shooting, asking help from others or collaboration. However, as being put under the lockdown, there was no way to proceed the plans without having myself [working on] everything, which turned out into homemade photoshoot and film using my phone.
“The whole pandemic experience allowed me to think about timeless clothings and the sustainability in the fashion industry even more. I hope that designers and artists would have more interest and motivations in sustainability in fashion and this pandemic could be regarded as a transition to step forward into more sustainable fashion, which is friendly to nature and well-made that could not be discarded easily by the customers.”
Margaux Lavevre, Fashion Print
“This whole project takes inspiration from a ten-day trip to the European Space Agency (ESA) in the Netherlands within the Advanced Concept team. On the back of this experience we created the Hios Collective with my brother Thibault Lavevre, who is a musician, and my friend Benjamin Cabrit, who is a filmmaker. This became the foundation of my final project.
“The residency gave us the space to work on a 12-track electronic music album and various film and photography experiments where we captured the movement of light straight onto photosensitive paper. The album is created as a loop, with no end and no beginning, where each song has the same duration. It questions our perception of time and movement, it became the starting point – through deep ambient sound, sun sonification, recordings at the ESA and mechanical noise – from which my collection was born and where each garment is informed by the music. The Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was a key reference, as well as the French writer Alain Damasio’s book Les Furtifs, Stephen Hawking’s work, Carlo Rovelli and Christophe Galfard.
“Nothing would have happened without the support of everyone: my family, friends, the British Fashion Council, classmates, the ‘5pm power off’, tutors but also designers such as Parnell Mooney who organised amazing support by pairing us with a designer. I had the amazing opportunity to have a one-to-one tutorial with Richard Malone, talking about the project and future projects after graduation. It’s not exactly the collection I envisioned but I am proud to have managed to carry on considering the situation; the process was more important than the final result. We all managed to create something meaningful and got through this strange time.”
Jisoo Jang, Fashion Design with Knitwear
“A lot of products come out these days, but I want people to think about this continuous consumption and whether they can make the future on the Earth happy. I tested a lot of new materials to develop sustainable techniques in this collection, such as zero-waste pattern with laser-cutting on washable paper which can be any size, as well as bioplastics with cornstarch and jesmonite.
“One of the main references [for my collection] was the [depiction of the] body in the works of the artist Caroline Broadhead. I was inspired by the large volumes and the way the objects interact with the body.
“It’s really sad that I didn’t have enough time to enjoy and congratulate our final collection with my friends. I’ve dreamed of my final show at Central Saint Martins since I started fashion. Online showcases can be a good way to present fashion post-Covid-19, but as a person who ‘gets the flutters’ from fashion shows I can’t say it can replace the real thing.”
Salome Kappelin, Womenswear
“At the beginning of the year I was reading a book on fashion in the 19th Century by Cecil Willett Cunnington and this line really stuck with me: ‘The only shape that was forbidden was that of a woman.’
“Focusing on the 19th-century woman and the way undergarments helped achieve the ideal body of the time, I wanted to create a collection that questions why fitting the female body into boxes is so important for us. Now, as well as then. My main garment references came from researching archives of undergarments from this period.
“What should be the norm in fashion is to see every human being as equal; to care for the world that [allows us] to create; to understand cultures and the beauty of long-lived techniques and what they mean for their communities (ForWeavers is a great example of this). For too long, these values have been set aside for the sake of capitalism.”
Will Saaba, Menswear
“My project is called A.Vagabond and it is inspired by knife crime in the UK. I constructed my story around a person in a gang who wants a way out, but it’s not easy. So what does he do? Runs away! Where? Ghana! To seek some sort of freedom and protection. I have created an artwork to accompany the story, inspired by the Asafo war flags of the Fante tribe in Ghana.
“As well as knife crime, the collection was inspired by voodoo initiations, traditional symbolism and sashiko. I initially wanted to treat my fabric by resist-dyeing using Adinkra, but due to Covid-19 I had to compromise that process, so I block-printed and beaded instead. If it wasn’t for involuntary self-isolation I wouldn't even have thought about beading. I guess it allowed for a calm, boxed-in environment for me to achieve that.
“I think it’s a great idea to have a digital launch given the current situation. I know Central Saint Martins will do everything in its power to make it great, not to mention the editors and website designers it has onboard. The students have full creative freedom, we get to choose how we want our work to be seen and everyone gets seen. The only thing that bugs me out about the whole dilemma is the final year catwalk show. To be honest it always is the highlight of all the three to four years we spend in fashion school and since that’s not happening, it’s a huge disappointment. I do feel good that I’m graduating, but I’m not happy as there is no ceremony and it feels like the world is coming to an end with all that’s recently been going on.”
Shanti Bell, Fashion Print
“My collection is entitled The Weight of Masculinity and it explores the burdens and pressures young men experience, in terms of ideas of masculinity. My collection visualises these ideas by displaying this weight – those burdens and pressures – that young men have to carry.
“The collection draws inspiration from chair and bag design. For example, I explored how different cultures carry weight; from African women who strap babies, food and water to their bodies, to Southeast Asian men who fix straps on their heads to carry bricks and other materials around construction sites.
“Graduating in the current climate brings up a range of emotions. I am anxious about what the future holds in terms of employment and what the fashion industry will look like after this, but I am also excited. A new normal will emerge. Or maybe there won’t be a need for a ‘normal’ anymore. During lockdown, we saw the different ways fashion can be expressed and experienced. A shift is inevitable.”
Jessan Macatangay, Fashion Design with Marketing
“My collection is about finding beauty and power in struggle. I wanted this final project to be very personal, so I started by exploring my own struggles. I am fascinated by human beings’ resilience to face every hardship in life and adapt.
“I was mainly inspired by Melanie Bonajo’s photography. I used a chair to represent struggle in this project, looking at Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures, where he deconstructed chairs to fit onto a person. I used Madame Grès’ beautiful draping for my technique and looked at Ben Cabrera’s paintings for my prints. The collection begins with a big sculpture on a body and then it becomes smaller on the next models. This signifies how, when you face a struggle, it becomes smaller and smaller, eventually becoming part of you, making you stronger and more powerful.
“When this situation is over, I hope that there will be long-term change in the industry. It should make us think about the status of our industry, especially in terms of overproduction. Wouldn’t it be great to have more handmade, custom pieces that get handed down from generation to generation instead of just discarded?”