Page Folds and Gold Stars

Page Folds and Gold Stars

I've returned from Barcelona/Madrid and have headed straight into a back to back funeral and wedding combo, which has resulted in a mini absence on the blog.  I'm breaking up this little Richard Curtis passage of faux drama in my life with a mammoth blog post, one that is long overdue seeing as I should have crowed earlier, about how CHUFFED I was to be featured on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour during London Fashion Week.  I was followed by some friendly BBC people for the duration of the Central Saint Martins MA show on the first day of LFW, where they gently probed me about the blog, young designers and the like, and so I have thus ticked off one of life's ambitions.  Once I've been on Desert Island Discs, I'll know I've done good.  Sorry if all of this BBC Radio 4 chat is going over your head.  Seeing as BBC radio is open to the whole world though, I highly recommend an afternoon or two spent pottering around the house with Radio 4 in the background.  The world will feel right again after about twenty minutes or so.

Back to the main subject at hand, which is this year's crop of  Central Saint Martins MA grads.  A season isn't complete really without a stellar quote from the MA course director, the part-feared, wholly-loved-and-respected Louise Wilson, and this one comes courtesy of last week's Observer.  When asked about how fashion works, she busted out with the big guns.  "There aren't 10 easy fucking rules, OK?  You wouldn't ask Freud: 'Can you show me how to make a painting?', would you? You wouldn't dream of asking an F1 driver to show you quickly how to build a car.  How does it work? How do you lick a cock!  Listen, it's a life experience.  It's about skills, education. Sorry, mate, not everyone can be in the club."  Loaded questions yield loaded answers, you might say. 

You get a vaguely more positive quote from Wilson when asked about this year's graduates: "We took them on a journey. Some didn‚Äôt know where they were going, some did, but they got there in the end.  Some drove past the destination.‚Äù

If going past the destination means producing a memorable group of twenty designers, whose work is full of verve and original thought, then I'd say that's a well-travelled journey.  Central Saint Martins obviously has a bastion of reputation to uphold and its status as being the sole show to be reviewed on makes it all to easy to bring it down a peg and scoff a little.  Even with the shrewdest of eyes, it was difficult not to be enamoured with this year's class of graduates. 

The fact that I was furiously folding down pages of the catalogue and making mental gold stars next to people's names during the show was testament to what a fruitful show it was.  At any student show, if you take away one or two names to remember, that's the mark of some success.  Here, I've picked out eight.  Though it could easily have been fifteen.  A post containing nearly hundred pictures is just plain indulgent.  Therefore I'll leave you with a smattering of names whose journey in fashion has just begun – some will go into houses into design teams, some may strike out on their own, some may end up on paths that don't lead to fashion design.  Wilson's declaration that "Not everyone can be in the club" has never rung so true when making it as a jobbing/earning fashion designer is so difficult in the current financial climate.  


Luke Brooks – If ever there was an intelligent spin on Zoolander's "Derelict" collection, Luke Brooks' MA collection would be it.  Brooks pushed his knitwear degree title to the edge with a collection that made comment on waste in today's society and on the maligned beauty of the decrepit.  It's easy to make a passing derisive comment on a smock encrusted with paint smears but I promise you that in person, the close-up view of these pieces really shows you what a craft-based feat this collection is.  Craft underlined a lot of the CSM MA collections but it was never expressed in any cliched or well-trodden aesthetics and Brooks definitely didn't play any safe cards.  He pushed the knitwear medium's boundaries, playing with texture and using techniques to express his take on trash-to-treasure.  It was no surprise therefore that Brooks was one of the joint winners of the L'Oreal Award.












Charlotte Helyar – Collision of the traditional and the unexpected continued in textiles designer Charlotte Helyar's collection where blown up dots from CMYK printing is used to depict fragments of 18th century florid portraits.  Glimpses of extravagant mantua dresses can be vaguely made out on the clinical white cotton tunics and are punctuated by the familiar printer codes of cyan, magenta, yellow and black squares just to remind you that modern day printed imagery comes to us through four colours of inks as opposed to tubes of oil paint or dainty watercolours.  Helyar's use of imagery and print positioning was thoroughly effective and felt like they could make an immediate transition to a real produceable collection.  Not that, that is the end ultimate end goal of an MA collection but it doesn't hurt in this instance. 








Erna Einarsdottir – Knitwear of the slightly more conventional sort could be found in Erna Einarsdottir' muted but impactful collection.  Judging by the number of samples and swatches that she had produced, Einarsdottir had carefully perfected her technique of running wool stitches into panels on silver leather, which contrasted beautifully with the grey knit sweaters that bristled at the shoulders in contrasting shades of grey.  Again, this is all the sort of stuff that can be easily imagined on bodies straight away, and the pool sandals with those knit stitches conveniently fall in line with S/S 12's ornate take on the pool sandal. 











Helen Lawrence – Making craftsmanship look naive and almost like childsplay was what Helen Lawrence seemed to be going for.  Abstract scribbles as well as protective uniforms like hospital scrubs came together to inform this textural combustion of black thread, wool felt and clear PVC.  The jagged edge stitches and deliberately haphazard colour blocked formations all evoked a child going over the edges in his or her colouring in book.  Lawrence avoided neat edges and it paid off, especially when you saw the glint of PVC showing through the gaps in between the swatches of felt. 










Hellen van Rees – "Chanel meets Tetris" was the first thought that popped into my mind when I saw Hellen van Rees' collection.  That may not have been the intention seeing as the collection is actually called "Square One: The Miracle of the Space Age" but the use of the yarn-rich tweed to cover cubes that fell gracefully on jackets and past-the-knee dresses seemed to me like a forward push on classic codes of Chanel.  Imagine if someone had the balls at Chanel to come up with something like this, eh?  Looking at van Rees' inspiration image, it was actually road obstructions, yellow marked pavements and bleak 70s architecture that inspired the texture and shapes.  The rectangular blocks could have looked cumbersome but it was down to van Rees experimenting properly with the fabric covered plastic cuboids, that made this collection work.  











Estefania Cortes-Harker – Looking through Estefania Cortes-Harker's inspiration imagery gave one indication as to the full-on weirdness that comes as a result from surfing the internet, stumbling from one odd Tumblr page to another.  Not that Cortes-Harker is an exception as many design students now trawl the internet for inspiration.  It just struck me that fifteen years ago, a student in London might not have so easily stumbled upon creepy images of American child beauty pageants, the source of Cortes-Harker's sparkle-filled riot of a collection.  From the veneer of sequins, kitsch and glitz, Cortes-Harker cleverly constructed glitter covered dresses that jutted out at times with graphic shapes (some removable) and contrasted with the unexpected lining of Liberty print florals.  It's testament to how much visual impact Cortes-Harker has created with her collection as most of it was on loan to press, when I went to see the CSM exhibition.  Beyond being editorial-friendly though, Cortes-Harker's collection gets me excited to see what she'll end up doing in the future. 












Mei-Lim Cooper – If paint smears, glitter and tweed covered blocks aren't your thing, then the pared-back knitwear of Mei-Lim Cooper might be just the thing.  Her collection was a technical feat of patterncutting where a series of flat form knits, transform instantly once on the body.  The placement of arm holes and slots as well as flashes of colour are calculated with precision.  Cooper's knitwear is deceptive and instantly covetable from the point of view of wanting to "slip" into a garment.  It's difficult to define what these "tops" are.  Capes?  Sweaters?  Cardigans?  Tabards?  Tunics?  She's almost trying to create a new category that belongs exclusively to her knits.  Cooper has a collaboration with Bally coming up.  Here's hoping it will yield something that goes straight to the rail. 












Kenji Kawasumi – Finally, we have another knitwear-boundary pusher.  Kenji Kawasumi painstakingly carved into foam and painted flecks of colour on to create these pieces, giving the illusion of a cable knit in some cases.  Kawasumi wanted to replicate the feel of a curved wooden doll, hence why the shapes look like they stand away from the body in a cartoonish manner.  The pastel palette and paint texture evoke Impressionist paintings as well as echoing the recycled nature of foam.  The intricacy of the carving is yet another ode to highly skilled craft.  Louise Wilson scorned the "neck-to-knee decorated lady-dress" and talked about wanting to push her students to do something that "doesn't come out of a computer."  She should be proud of Kawasumi and his deft demonstration of skilled handiwork. 



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Leave a comment
  1. Serdane

    2012-03-23 at 4:23 PM

    Crazy crazy ! I find everything crazy here about the shows !!

  2. Elisa Eymery

    2012-03-23 at 4:35 PM

    I like your mammoth posts, they feel very generous. And I love the Louise Wilson quote, though it does sound a bit pompous and pretentious in some way.
    Wandering Minds

  3. Top Moumoute

    2012-03-23 at 4:41 PM

    I love the cracked paint effect of the photo.

  4. alice

    2012-03-23 at 5:00 PM

    looking for unique measurements, colors, cut… Well add a touch and create your custom jeans

  5. Sabine

    2012-03-23 at 5:48 PM

    So cool! The painted sweater is my favorite!

  6. Minette

    2012-03-23 at 6:14 PM

    I don’t know, but it almost looks that each of these young designers is trying to hard to create something artistic and different, something that hasn’t been done before. They forgot to create something that looks good in anyway. I understand the differnce between ready-to-wear and a more artistic aproch, but not only do I not want to wear any of this, I also don’t want to look at it. Everything just seems to be overdone to the point of being boring. I’d like to see more like Charlotte La Roche’s sheer animal layers and Laura Mackness’s eyelashes and hands.

  7. bonnie, clyde and marni

    2012-03-23 at 7:41 PM

    amazing photos!!!!!

  8. Huliganjetta

    2012-03-23 at 8:22 PM

    It is so beautiful. Fantastic!

  9. Joana Gomes

    2012-03-23 at 9:01 PM

    I LOVE Mei-Lim Cooper. Just love.

  10. Sabine

    2012-03-23 at 11:57 PM

    Gee Louise, say it how it is! Not everything can be summarised into nicely digestible bullet points… Loved your contribution to Radio 4 – even though when they discuss ‘fashion’ it always sounds a bit odd. I’m sure one day it’s gonna be Desert Island Discs with Susie Bubble!

  11. january

    2012-03-24 at 12:16 AM

    haha i read that article the other day. i love how blunt she is about it. it’s just the way it is!
    it’s so hard to decide my favourites from the CSM show but i think it will have to go to hellen van rees. loved it.
    january, x

  12. Suzi

    2012-03-24 at 2:00 AM

    WOW! Never in my life have I seen such creativity and unrestraint! Fabulous post yet again!
    Suzi x
    For the Love of Audrey

  13. Nathan

    2012-03-24 at 2:56 AM

    i love that u finally did a “dig-in” post on the CSM MA show that i recall seeing u sitting across from me, well i was in the third row, but u snapped the same ones i did (the ones worth snapping i guess). it’s interesting to see their thought process because i guess just like u we were both wondering (esp on those glitterati pics and odd knitwear) where those inspirations came from. Urs truly is a CSM fashion student and even i think that u’d agree that this year’s CSM MA show was not exactly the MOST noise making/ground-breaking collection.
    here’s my post on it too a month ago:

  14. jenny (penniless zen)

    2012-03-24 at 6:25 AM

    so much amazingness in one post. I’d already seen the collection(s), but the close-up shots really make it. thanks again sus.

  15. Thea vintage

    2012-03-24 at 1:46 PM

    Beautiful! Love the glittery gold.

  16. Stef

    2012-03-24 at 6:56 PM

    Wow, that is a mammoth post! I love all the different textures.
    I religiously listen to Radio4 and always assume it is mainly middle-aged, southerners who do that – most of my friends certainly think it’s pretty lame. Desert Island Discs, Bottom Line & Co are class though and i love some of the panel shows which have sired mainstream tv shows such as Have I Got News for You.
    Anyway, nice to see that the cutting edge youth of this country deems it a good listen. 😉
    Always inspired by you!

  17. george

    2012-03-24 at 7:05 PM

  18. george

    2012-03-24 at 10:36 PM

  19. Cristián Pavez Díaz

    2012-03-25 at 5:31 AM

    Loved Luke Brooks’s work! So edgy and wearable!
    Greetings from Santiago, Chile.
    @cristianpavezd on Twitter.

  20. Nike Free Run 2012

    2012-03-25 at 8:44 AM

  21. george

    2012-03-25 at 12:39 PM

    fantastic show..!!
    here is a new street style blog..hope for support!! 🙂

  22. PopLove

    2012-03-25 at 2:49 PM

    I don’t know how you do it, these designers are all fantastic. I’m particularly loving Luke Brooks, Helen Lawrence, and Kenji Kawasumi – but that’s probably because something about their combination of craft, unusual materials and techniques reminds me a little of our designs.
    Glad to see you’re back!

  23. Asics Corrido Sneaker

    2012-03-26 at 5:36 AM

    amazing!!!! love that hair :)!!!!!!!


    2012-03-26 at 12:06 PM

    i love this post…it’s wonderful!!!
    all fabrics and all fabrics and their finishing!!!

  25. deadlyinlove

    2012-03-26 at 4:23 PM

    omg, I just love Luke Brooks dyed fabrics! so inspiring!

  26. Maria B.

    2012-04-07 at 11:00 PM

    The illusion of painted texture is WOW WOW WOW… I’m Inspired!

  27. shahril

    2012-04-21 at 11:23 AM

    love the chanel meet tetris!

  28. fashioncircle

    2012-05-23 at 3:55 AM

    I’m in love with your style!

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