Central Saint Martins’ graduating students consider love, life, and artistry

A handful of personalities from the school’s fashion cohort discuss ‘Shiny Shiny,’ the exhibition showcasing their MA design collections

Central Saint Martins’ fashion program has once again proved itself to be an active machine—a reliable source in discovering the designers of the future, who generously offer pieces of their own lives for us to contemplate. In collaboration with students from the school’s M ARCH: Architecture program, the graduating fashion MA students present Shiny Shiny, an exhibition showcasing 55 collections from their own cohort. Among the 32 designers featured in the catwalk show, a few have presented their collections to Document Journal, and offered up some insight on their inspirations and creative practices.

Shakila Thebe

Kayla Herrera-Daya: Your collection is really built on using what you have to make something new. Is there something you carry with you—a memory or trinket from your past—that informed this collection?

Shakila Thebe: I would say my research and concept are very experiential-based, but have nothing to do with physical stuff from the past necessarily.

Kayla: What is your current favorite piece of personal clothing?

Shakila: I have a green jumper from a kilo sale in Whitechapel, and a metallic green bomber jacket from Martine Rose, which I was gifted by the designer herself as I had worked with her. I find them so comfortable and I can wear them every day; they’ve become staples in my wardrobe.

Kayla: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Shakila: ‘Use what you have and try not to be someone who you are not,’ was the best piece of advice I got from Jawara Alleyne. This advice relates to the idea that you should work with the resources you already have, and stay true to your own personal vision as opposed to going broke pretending to be something you’re not.

James Walsh

Kayla: Your collection is so eye-catching, subversive, and yet so playful. Is there a character from a childhood story that you think might have inspired you?

James Walsh: I’ve always been drawn to cartoons and childhood toys. Perhaps the exaggerated shapes and attitude of Jessica Rabbit, as well as the Oh My God music video from Mark Ronson and Lily Allen. I’m equally drawn to the characters and costumes at Disney World. I think there’s something so pleasing about them.

Kayla: Your collection is built around everyday objects. What are three things that you can’t live without?

James: I think I’d find it challenging to live without shoes, my shower, and my phone case with a neck strap.

Kayla: What is one thing you’re excited about right now?

James: I’m very excited for the upcoming show on Sunday—to finally see the full collection together, on some incredible women. I’d also like to go on holiday soon. Somewhere sunny.

Yoav Hadari

Kayla: What’s something you’ve learned about yourself while working on your MA collection?

Yoav Hadari: The biggest thing I learned was to stick to my vision and trust the process and my intuition. Sometimes it can get overwhelming when you show your work to multiple people and get different opinions on a regular basis. You slowly realize that there are endless points of view and opinions, and they’re all linked to the personal experience of the person who is giving you the critique. It’s easy to get lost like that if you aren’t careful. Finally, I learned that critique is necessary for you to reflect, but in the end, you take to heart what resonates with what is inside of you and where you want to go.

Kayla: If you could describe your collection in three words, what would they be?

Yoav: Mysterious, angelic, cerebral.

Kayla: Your collection brings up ideas of transformation and distilling oneself. What is one of your favorite celebrity looks, past or present, that you think totally defines that person?

Yoav: Grimes, Met Gala 2021, by Iris van Herpen. Grimes is one of my favorite artists. Her work is ethereal and feels like it’s from another world; I always feel at home when I listen to her music. To me, that look totally defines who she is right now, because Grimes is about digital faerie worlds and AI supremacy. She’s inspired by a lot by anime, fantasy, and steampunk narratives. Going with a sword to the Met Gala just feels like the right move to me. I love when fashion transcends reality, and when the person wearing it becomes someone from another world.

Juntae Kim

Kayla: Your collection incorporates utility fabrics, put together with an impeccable sense of fine detail. It seems to harken back to different eras. If you could dress one person, dead or alive, who would be your dream client?

Juntae Kim: If I had to choose one person, it would be Vivienne Westwood. She’s an icon to me. I admire her early collections, from between 1981 and 1990. I believe she’s the first person who tried to use historical references in juxtaposition with modern garments. She created the ‘new romantic’ look. Someday, I want to see her in person and show her my collection. I want to create something together.

Kayla: Is there a movie, book, or piece of art that you revisit for inspiration?

Juntae: I recently watched the movie Amadeus again. It’s my favorite movie, which has visuals such as old costumes, paintings, ornaments, architectures. It always inspires me, whenever I watch it.

I visited the National Gallery to appreciate François Boucher’s paintings in person. When I look at the artworks I have seen before, and then see them again, I get a new type of inspiration.

Kayla: Your pieces remind me of cowboys adventuring in the Old West. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Juntae: I really loved the process of combining the silhouette of historical women’s costumes with the shape and details of modern men’s clothing. [I’d like to] introduce a new gender-fluid type of clothing. I also enjoy the process of bringing out a perfect juxtaposition between traditional crafts techniques and details such as flossing, hand embroidery, cutout, and hand slashes, with modern techniques like laser engraving and cutting, laser washing, hotfix, and seam sealing finishing.

Alec Bizby

Kayla: Your work is ultra-informed by your identity and experience. Is there an artist that you look to for inspiration?

Alec Bizby: While designing my final looks I essentially had Anohni’s song ‘Violent Men’ playing on a loop, to a point where it almost became a meditative chant. I find her and her music incredibly inspirational. Submerging yourself in your feelings and trauma, for me, is creatively liberating.

Kayla: Your work uses super distinct silhouettes. What is your favorite era of dressing?

Alec: My favorite era would be sometime between McQueen’s Horn of Plenty and the English Civil War, with a detour through the eisteddfods in Wales. Got to love a druid.

Kayla: Your collection is so personal and beautifully representative. What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the making process?

Alec: Whether it’s how I draw, how I cut a pattern, or my creative direction, I’ve finally realized that—to bastardize a Toni Morrison quote—I am my best thing.

João Machado

Kayla: Your collection is a beautiful contemplation of heartbreak. If you could put a song to your work, what would it be?

João: The song that I would relate to my collection to would be the main theme score, composed by Pino Donaggio, of Brian De Palma’s movie Blow Out.

Kayla: What is the best gift you’ve received? The best gift you’ve given to someone else?

João: The best gift I have ever received was the spontaneity of my previous partner. In return, I gave my full support and love to him, sharing doubts and fears even though we were so far away from each other.

Kayla: What is inspiring you in life right now?

João: Remembering the past of our relationship. My future plan to move to him again already excites me: for the next stages of our love and reconnection after being so far apart, and how living separate lives will inspire our new perspectives.

Shiny Shiny is on view through March 2 at Central Saint Martins’ Lethaby Gallery.

Kenneth Proto

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