A v.long post, I must warn. But this needs to be said_
That Louise Wilson gets about a bit, doesn’t she? She keeps cropping up in Sunday supplements and magazine articles, pushing her brand of tuition and guidance every which way. Straight-talking Louise knows a thing or two. Louise knows best and don’t we know it!
The Harder They Come: Louise Wilson
I’ve sort of fallen out of love with fashion a bit. Fashion, to me, has become unfashionable. The worldwide financial meltdown, the ethical, ecological, sizeist, ageist, racial and moral debates, the endless backslapping, the championing of a 13 year old blogger in an industry that now criticises the use of under 16 models whilst still balking at the idea of a size 16… I could go on forever. Too many collections, too many voices, too many opinions that sound the same. Too much lip-synching and paraphrasing. What is the point of pointless clothes that nobody wants to wear or has the money to buy? Or merchanise that gets whisked off the shop floor to make room for a new delivery before you can reach for your credit card?
Cathy Horyn premised the stress of running a global business and the constant need to deliver as a factor that played in Alexander McQueen’s suicide. A grain of truth in that, perhaps. Fashion has been eating itself from inside for quite some time now. Ugly. I’ve worked as a designer for the best part of a decade now and the change has been gobsmacking. Gone are the days of designing a collection, taking a break and recharging one’s batteries. Oh, no, the pantone ink’s barely dry before you have to reach out for another ream of paper and start churning out yet another collection. Pre-fall? Pre-spring? Winter-Spring? Autumn-Summer. Bummer. Makes you want to Resort to jacking it all in.
Looking at what’s been trudged down the catwalk lately reaffirmed why I put my own label on the back burner for a while and focussed on consulting for other companies. Things are in a sorry state of affairs when Victoria Beckham’s fashion line looks fresh and new.
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Anyway, back to professor Louise Wilson, course director of the Central Saint Martins [CSM] MA and her right hand woman, Sarah Mower of Style.com. Back to London. Back to the future_
I hazarded a look at the show images of the CSM MA with the usual trepidation. Who’s trying to knock off Christopher Kane now? To be The Next BIG Thing? What’s this I see? I nearly fell off my chair. What, graduates having a direct dialogue with high fashion? Empress Phoebe Philo and her wipe-the-slate-clean approach having an influence? Graduates sat at a round table with the likes of Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, Nicholas Ghesquire, Miuccia Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Helmut Lang? I totally agree with Sarah Mower in her review that the new graduates had left their elders trailing in the dust. It must be noted, the elders in question have mostly labels less than five years old. It seems that even that’s too old these days.There’s been a lot of believing in one’s hype lately. Of regurgitating the same old idea thinly veiled with stylistic skulduggery as newness. Don’t get me started on digital printing – that cheap trick of making a basic shape look more interesting than it is – and of the twinkle-twinkle of Swarovski, who seem to have monopolised talent with their sponsorship and quasi-shameless brand-pushing. Granted the funding such sponsorship brings comes in very handy and designers such as Peter Pilotto have really pushed digital printing techniques but FUSSY FINISHED, to quote Polly Mellon from Isaac Mizrahi’s mid 90s documentary, Unzipped. Indeed.
I felt totally energised watching these images. Perhaps they’re more in synch with what I believe is au courant. Perhaps… What really blew my mind was the focus of proportion and cut. The fundamentals. And then the plethora of techniques, detail, finish, use of colour and the unexpectedness of it all. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen all season. Controlled, confident, assured and an overall lack of the superfluous. And also, the return of womenswear to the fore. Relatively young as my career might be I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve gained in experience I’ve lost in freshness so its good to see something that sharpens the eye and points the way. Bravo graduates! And Bravo Louise! A job really well done. Fait accompli.
A dear friend of mine, Stuart Bourne, works for the acrhitects Stanton Williams and art directed their book Volume, celebrating their first 20 years. Why relevant, you ask? Well, Stanton Williams are the architects of the new Central Saint Martins campus in King’s Cross, London, uniting all the various branches spread about London in one space. There’s been a lot of tutting about how it will affect the course, how Soho is the lifeblood that makes the fashion school so good. Well Soho isn’t Soho anymore and change is good, is it not? This is an industry that demands change after all. Added to that, the cross-pollination of different disciplines and line-blurring that characterises modern design surely makes this a logical step forward.
With the architectural nature of the new MA show and the architectural influence of the most relevant shows of recent seasons – focus on line, balance and the essential – it sort of brings things round full circle. Back to the beginning. Back to the future. Adios. LFN
catwalk images courtesy of style.com
Louise Wilson, 10 Magazine, Issue 34
Stanton Williams, Volume, Black Dog Pubishing 2009