Shows are cancelled, shops are shut and factories are struggling. The fashion industry that Central Saint Martins’ 109 BA Fashion graduates are entering has been ravaged by Covid-19, but the college’s students are famed for creativity and determination.
Jessan Macatangay (@jessanmacatangay), who studies Fashion Design with Marketing, was stranded alone in London, thousands of miles from his home in the Philippines, when the college shut in March. He had no fabric, nor the machinery needed to complete the otherworldly, conceptual compositions he had planned. “I had to change a lot: the design, the process, the materials,” he says. After a week’s planning, he had sourced Lycra and jersey digitally printed at the Richard Quinn studio with vivid works by Filipino artist Benedicto Cabrera, before crafting his mesmerizing chair-like structures using found wood, metal and home tools. Quitting was never an option. “This is the culmination of my five years of training. It’s now or never.”
“We were all in tears about the prospect of not having a show,” says BA Fashion course leader Sarah Gresty, but spirts have been partly lifted by a carefully developed digital platform launching on June 18. She has been amazed by the resilience and resourcefulness she has seen. “It’s been very empowering,” she says. “The students realized they can cope on their own, and you don’t necessarily need to get expensive silk from Italy – you can just use some curtains.”
For Sam Wellington, a Womenswear student from North Yorkshire, having the hand-in requirements reduced from six to two outfits allowed him to hand-sew his tailored collection traditionally. “It meant I could spend the time that each piece genuinely deserved,” he says of his garments, which are part-bird, part-human studies, crafted from antique or turn-of-the-20th-century fabrics. Each design is the product of 80-to-120 hours’ work and at least 20,000 hand stitches.
Now marks the anti-climactic end to around five years at the college for the graduates. “It’s a scary moment to leave,” says Wellington, but he speaks pragmatically about the next steps: “It’s time for us to move quickly and forcefully into the future.”
“The collection is called An Angel Gets His Wings Clipped, and at the core of it is my journey to further the skills of my craft – tailoring. The myth of the angel is then superimposed on top of that.”
“I want to make emotionally lasting designs that make people joyous and know their choice is helping the earth. I tested a lot of new materials and developed sustainable techniques in this collection, like zero-waste patterns using laser-cutting. The products are part of myself, my experiences and my happiness. I hope they can now be special for someone else.”
“My sustainable graduate collection, Mind Full or Mindful? The Windows of Perception, is based on fashion’s influence on surroundings and self. It guides you into the state of mindfulness through multi-sensory, experiential features.”
“At the very center of the work is nature. This is the foundation of what I’m trying to communicate and share. It’s also important to me that dance and movement are intertwined with the garments. There’s a gentle power in that combination, and that is exactly the feeling I hope to communicate.”
“With this collection, I only used waste and existing materials. My hope is that fashion will slow down drastically and that we can rely on the resources we already have and cherish them like we do our personal memories. Something beautiful can come from working with the existing.”
“This collection draws on clothing once inhabited, the absent body and collected artefacts of memories. Does a garment really exist once it is no longer on the body?”
The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown