A Designer Who Subverts Suburban American Style

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Self-portrait by Connor Ives
Self-portrait by Connor Ives

Conner Ives is a recent Central Saint Martins graduate whose work takes inspiration from the once mundane, now inspiring aesthetics of his youth

Introducing New Beginnings, a new series of mini Q&As spotlighting emerging designers, in the wake of Craig McDean and Katie Shillingford’s shoot for AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2020.

AnOther Magazine: What are your hopes for the future?

Conner Ives: I have a lot [of hopes for the future], but the biggest one is for America to return to some form of imperfect justice. Instead of what it is now ... It has been so hard to watch this all unfold from here – I feel a lost sense of my American identity. It has never been a perfect country, but I really want it to be. I hope it to be.

AM: What is the thinking behind your work?

CI: My work is an exploration of American identity through poignant memories of growing up there. I only gained my appreciation for American culture after coming to London. Here, I became homesick and the culture that I was so desperate to escape became my strongest inspiration. I thought back to what my friends wore in high school, what their mothers wore, the ‘status symbol’ items of that time in my life: Patagonia fleeces, yoga pants, Livestrong bracelets ... My work is about looking at these items, subverting them and creating something new in the process.

AM: What three words would you use to describe your approach to fashion?

CI: Sexy, sustainable and silly.

AM: What does community mean to you?

CI: I consider community to mean a group of like-minded individuals, but maybe communities don’t have to be like-minded. Perhaps they can share things other than their interests and still be considered a community, like proximity ... People who live close to each other may not be like-minded, but they are still a community.

AM: What community did you grow up around? How did that shape you?

CI: I grew up in Bedford, New York. It’s upstate New York, about an hour outside of the city. I’ve always described it as the picturesque suburban American upbringing, almost strangely movie-like. When I first got to London people would always ask me if the red solo cups littered in house parties in movies were real, if we actually drank out of them. I had thought the world had red solo cups everywhere. I started to realise the people and scenes I grew up around, which often felt so mundane to me, were [actually] quite unique and inspiring. I’m inspired by the trends I remember from high school. I think at the time I hated them because it was so repetitive – there wasn’t much individuality – but now those pack-chosen trends are burned into my subconscious and feel novel in my new context of community, working here in London.

Follow Connor Ives on Instagram here

This interview has been edited and condensed.