The world would be a dreary place without professor Louise Wilson and the prestigious Central Saint Martins’ MA fashion course she steers. This year, graduates of the school showcased their fall 2008 collections during London Fashion Week and in a static exhibition that just wrapped. Dean Mayo Davies caught up with three talents looking to join the ranks of fashion stars and fellow alumni Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Kim Jones, Richard Nicoll, Todd Lynn and Marios Schwab...
“My work is like a three-dimensional version of a painting,” says Sachio Kawasaki of his graphic capsule collection. Yet beneath the fluid, mod-like surfaces lie intense references. “[Composer] Steve Reich is a huge inspiration, especially Music for 18 Musicians. I heard the piece live at London’s Barbican two years ago and right then I was convinced this was what I’d been searching for.”
Other spiritual forces—J.S. Bach, Notre Dame—also integrate themselves into the collection in an emotive, but never literal way. “My MA collection is titled Wave of Light," says Kawasaki, who now lives and works in Tokyo. "During my studies, I visited cathedrals in Paris, Milan and Barcelona and I got inspired from the kind of light coming from the outside. The feeling harked back to my childhood, when I played in the river near my house. I wanted to put those memories, moods and emotions into my collection.”
Jacquard knits are the sole offering, albeit in seemingly endless permutations. What explains the uncompromising vision? An internship at Balenciaga three years ago might have something to do with it. “Everything I saw there was so fresh and exciting,” Kawasaki enthuses. “I was in charge of making the rough samples based on Nicolas' drawings. Most of the time we were working on couture pieces, so I had the great fortune of watching and learning couture techniques, as well as seeing the amazing embroideries by Lesage.”
“I have a strange obsession with kids' clothes,” says Dutch-born Sander Lak. “I don’t think I could design children’s wear, but I love the details of boy's clothes. Of course, they’re basically smaller versions of what an adult would wear, but I love the differences in detailing, be they elastic waistbands on the back of trousers, velcro fastenings or thick plastic zippers." Thus, the former Marc Jacobs intern created a shirt in a fabric more commonly associated with a baby’s bib, while jeans are constructed from strong, light denim made for children.
Lak's graduate collection also references his own youth spent ”traveling around the world because my father worked for Shell. We’d live in compounds in the middle of the African jungle and my mother could only return to Holland once a year and buy myself and my two brothers clothes." The color palette is predominantly blue, as it helped the Lak boys stand out against the green lushness of the surroundings.
“Power knitwear!” That's how Simone Shailes describes her glamorously alien knits, which exist somewhere between organic and armored. "Hand-knitting techniques are my true recurring influence—admittedly time-consuming, but you just can't beat the real thing,” she says.
“For my graduate collection, I wanted to create a range of knitwear that had the look and feel of fur coats, but using a technique of twisting and folding knitted panels to make something quite sculptural and contemporary. I always stock up on vintage pieces when I start a new collection, but I often end up wearing the clothes I buy for inspiration myself!"
Shailes worked with Kim Jones on the knitwear for his spring 2008 collection, his last before taking the role as creative director of Dunhill. “It was good to do some menswear and Kim was really great to work with,” she says. And, for the moment, she’s staying put in London. “I grew up in London and love living here, so I’m absolutely happy. But if the right opportunity came up elsewhere, I certainly wouldn’t rule out a move.”
—Dean Mayo Davies