“Many of these graduate collections can stand in a retail environment together with established brands,” Stravos Karelis tells Clash.
The collections in question belong to 12 students on the MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear course at London College of Fashion, and as founder and buyer of cult London store Machine-A, Stravos has ample credentials to make the assertion.
Joined by writer and editor David Hellqvist, some-time SHOWstudio panel chair (and fashion editor) Daryoush Haj-Najafi, plus Becc Gray of PR agency Bloody Gray, the 12 were selected by Karelis to show on the catwalk ahead of London Collections: Men.
While Central Saint Martins’ MA course has long held its own on the London Fashion Week schedule, LCF presented for the first time just two years ago; tomorrow will be the menswear offering’s debut, and kicks off the MA15 graduate season, which will culminate with a public exhibition of work from across the school’s courses next month.
“This is a great moment for LCF MA Menswear,” continues the buying director, “and a great number of graduates from the course will be successful whether they choose to work for other brands or launch their own long viable and commercially successful brands.”
Anders Sølvsten Thomsen has been brought in to style the show, while make-up artist Andrew Gallimore will lead a team from M.A.C.
Indeed, as an off schedule opener to the sixth season of menswear in London, the show already has much to boast about.
“It’s a brand new starting point for LCF’s menswear collections as well as for the designers,” says Jasmine Haoyao Deng, one of the 12 selected to present. “It’s a one of a kind valuable platform to showcase our work to the industry.”
“It’s a bit surreal,” agrees Thien Trang Bui of the accolade, “LCF has such a large pool of talent and being able to represent the college and the MA menswear course is a great honor.”
The clothes themselves vary massively – naturally – from Gebei Hin’s bold silhouette and Emma Fenton-Villar’s reinterpreted denim, to Jun Zhou’s fluffy coat and Na Liu’s vision of purity.
“Most of us have become compliant consumers displaying minimal interaction with our clothes,” Fenton-Villar explains of her influences. “Today we encounter others wearing the exact same garments; we are losing our sense of individuality.”
The ‘colour and shape of Sichuan cuisine’ was the starting point for Gebei He meanwhile, as the student explains: “This concept is also combined with some research of the Chinese mythical beast ‘Taotie’, which is a sign of desire.”
Jun Zhou began with visual sensory experiences, applying geometrical abstract colours to fabric and materials to compose a picture on the human body, while Liu referenced ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ and Pina Bausch circa 1975: “The whole collection is divided into four scenes, ‘The Mourning’, ‘Violence’, ‘Peace’ and ‘The Death’.”
Similarly, each has a different reason for joining the menswear fold. “In my home country, Brazil, men’s style is fairly restricted,” offers Antonio Slusarz. “There are only a few options of brands and I couldn’t relate to them, so I started designing clothes.”
Ka Kui Cheng worked as a womenswear designer for seven years before making the switch. He tells Clash, “Despite being male, I couldn’t tell what menswear really was and thought it was time to understand and explore it.”
Likewise, Kitty Ng spent ten years working for sportswear companies prior to the MA course, following studies in Hong Kong. “Because of my androgynous personality,” she reckons, “I know how to elevate the fashion technique from womenswear to menswear.”
Young Hwan Yang recognises that fashion reflects society, and with this in mind opted for menswear “to show that a man’s identity is multifaceted, and to challenge stereotypes.”
Asked what they hope to achieve post-MA, many of the students note Asia as their desired market. Says Xuefei Wang, “I plan to work for a designer for a couple of years and then start my own design studio in China, after I have gained enough experience.”
Xiaoli Su too, hopes to acquire work experience before setting up shop in China: “I can run my own brand whilst also selling products by some of my favourite designers and artists.”
Tomorrow’s show will be important for several reasons, not least for the careers of the students above – and those that follow them – but also as an indication for the industry as a whole, away from the TV personality event spokesmen who will make up the front row over the following days.
Acknowledges Pro-Vice Chancellor of UAL and Head of LCF, Professor Frances Corner OBE: “The UK menswear sector is incredibly exciting and dynamic, and by holding this show we can provide a platform for our talented and innovative graduates who will be the future creative drivers of the industry.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photos: Felix Cooper
LCF MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear will present at 11am on Friday 9th January; you can stream the show here.