Central Saint Martins end-of-year graduate show is one of the most hotly anticipated of the season. Here is one of the greatest birthplaces of British creativity, where students are encouraged to be individualistic, extravagant, unfettered by traditional expectations; simultaneously masters of and innovators in their craft. The proof lies in its alumni: over half the designers at London Fashion Week have made their ways through its halls; past students include Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney and Sarah Burton.
Last week, forty were chosen to display their work last week; they did not disappoint. “They will always be interested in technique and craft, but it’s less crafty than it was last year,” departing Head of BA Fashion Willie Walters told Business of Fashion. ‘For about the past five years it’s been about huge embellishments, really lavish, lots of stitching. [This year] it’s more about the concept — like a silent protest.’ And so the students looked out at the world,
The work of CSM students defies inspiration came from across the globe, reflecting perhaps students’ preoccupations with cultural identity and the state of the world, both politically and environmentally. Protest underpinned many collections, from Jaeeun Shin’s gowns, crafted from Waitrose bags and Carmen Chan’s sassy celebration of real girls to Edwin Mohney’s ‘duct tape family of freaks’ (1 Granary). Here are my favourites:
About Soyoung Park, winner of the L’Oreal Young Talent Award: ‘Dishevelled fur coats were teamed with paper-thin cocktail dresses and jewel encrusted slips, while accessories came as crochet berets and uneven platform sandals.’ (Evening Standard)
About Yuhan Wang, L’Oréal Award runner-up: ‘A collection which took loungewear to new heights with sheer pyjama suiting and satin lingerie detailing.’ (Evening Standard)
About Adnan Salman Jalal, L’Oréal Award runner-up: ‘Gowns festooned with fur pom-pom trims, mesh crochet and glitter lurex fringing.’ (Evening Standard)
About Philip Ellis: ‘Ellis is not afraid to get political. “I based my final collection on a narrative about dystopian Britain,” he says, indicating his own outfit, a large shirt made out of stripes from football jerseys that he designed himself. His collection includes a slip dress also made from sport jerseys, a two-piece made from a sleeping bag and deconstructed-cut sweatshirts.’ (Business of Fashion)
About Liam Johnson: ‘The anxieties attached to coming of age, felt by most at CSM, were embedded in the work of Liam Johnson, whose larger-than-life pieces focused on “feeling super restricted, or restrained, or overwhelmed, or crushed or stuck.”’ (1 Granary)
About Dohan Jung: ‘Ripped and shredded fabric, with its feathery effects, gives a third dimension to the surface of streamlined outfits.’ (Suzy Menkes, vogue.co.uk)
About Sergiy Grechyshkin: ‘Grechyshkin’s collection uses … polyester mesh, wire, paper and vinyl, as well as lace sponsored by family-run craftwork company, La Maison du Sophie Hallette. “I wanted to juxtapose opposite elements, like masculine and feminine, transparent and non-transparent,” he says.’ (Business of Fashion)
About Max Luo: ‘Fashion Print student Max Luo’s vision of a futuristic dystopia was one of the show’s most striking aesthetics. Models stormed the runway to a wonky sci-fi soundtrack dressed in elaborate chain-mail gowns worn over shimmering sequinned high necks and finished off with metallic facial masks. ’ (Dazed Digital)
About Benjamin Waters: ‘Fur, florals and giant sheets of painted acetate were amongst the textiles used in Waters’ collection. The resulting aesthetic juxtaposed tradition and modernity in a new, innovative way – perfectly-tailored trench coats were muffled underneath the weight of oversized transparent sheets, accessorised with see-through heels and colourful socks.’ (Dazed Digital)
About Kota Gushiken: ‘American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of Gushiken’s references. “His art is often considered as a visualisation of polyrhythm and jazz. When I was researching Basquiat’s paintings and images, appropriation is one of his methods. He drew the Mona Lisa in a really funny and childish way. It’s like making fun of Leonardo da Vinci, and I wanted to do that kind of thing in fashion,” Gushiken says.’ (Business of Fashion)
About Derek Cheng: There was something irresistably romantic about the flowing silhouettes and mish mash of textures – luxurious shapes in distressed fabrics – worn by Cheng’s models.
About Grace Lant: The sun may be shining outside but Lant’s enormous knits, flecked with textured, paired with knee high socks and joggings pants, made me yearn for colder weather.
About Irene Martinucci: Sinous, elegant lines in a mash-up of earthy colours and check-against-check highlighted a tight tailoring technique, with feminine details including hip belts, long tassled falls and double breasted shirts.
About Ruihong Harry Xu: Tender and tough blended in Xu’s models, bruised, depressed models, hobbled by ill-fitting flip flops, as if they were prisoners in a Russian institution that just happened to allow inmates to pair floral printed sheer tops with overalls and jumpsuits.