Fashion's Next Big Designers Make a Statement at Central Saint Martins

Fashion's Next Big Designers Make a Statement at Central Saint Martins

by Kanika Talwar

After two years of online showings, Central Saint Martins’ MA: Fashion show finally returned to a physical showcase with 32 graduates of varying backgrounds bringing their grand ideas to life. Staged at London’s King’s Cross, the show was held inside the school’s entranceway, which was transformed into a winding runway.

The front row was a mix of old-guard fixtures and new wave of British talent:: Suzy Menkes, Michael Halpern, Charles Jeffrey, Han Chong of Self Portrait, and more arrived to scope out the next generation. Designers of Yemeni, Turkish, Spanish, Peruvian and Filipino heritage made their debut — with a particularly strong showing from menswear designers this year. The aptly named collection, Shiny Shiny, reflects clothing that demanded the audience’s full attention.

James Walsh Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

Opening the show was James Walsh, who has explored 3-D printing for the past few years, citing the endless possibilities. His work merges the physical and digital worlds — existing solely in the digital realm before becoming a tangible entity. “Printing the [pieces] out is the exciting part. For me, fashion demands to be worn and interacted with,” says Walsh.

Jessan Macatangay tapped into the insecurities of being a Roman Catholic growing up in The Philippines where showing skin was culturally shunned. “This collection is about making society realize that a woman is more than her body,” Macatangay remarks. “Clothes exist to accentuate the feminine figure and showcase it in its most lustrous light.”

Jessan Macatangay Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

The crowd erupted in lengthy applause as Macatangay and Ed Mendoza, who has been at CSM since foundation year, both won prestigious prizes sponsored by L’Oreal. Mendoza looked at the colonization of Peru and the Caribbean by using indigenous imagery, as well as making body-inclusive oversized 3XL- 5XL looks. “As a plus-sized guy myself, I feel sexy and hot and confident in my size!” Mendoza exclaims. “I want to give people like myself the tools through clothing to feel the same way.”

Despite the competitive nature of fashion and the course’s rigor, there is clearly a camaraderie and championing of one another amongst the designers. “Sharing [winning the prize] together with my classmate, Ed Mendoza, was amazing because we were able to represent our respective communities.” says Macatangay.

Steve O Smith Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

In creating dresses and hats with marker-like drawings, Steve O Smith took inspiration from vintage early 1800s fashion cartoons. “There was an absurdity to the idea of making my own drawings from caricatures of fashion and then making those drawings as fashions, which resonated with me,” Smith explains.

Kazna Asker and Mehmet both tapped into reframing the narrative of Arabic people living in the West. Asker had the first hijab collection at CSM, with her hijabi models wearing abaya tracksuits. Mehmet, who has worked at Balenciaga, took on Orientalism draping imagery while challenging these notions. “I’m very fascinated in the way [the West] represents us,” Mehmet remarks. “They put us in a box—so I wanted to destroy this box and do something provocative because I don’t have these references in my background.”

Mehmet Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

Kazna Asker Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

Brais Albor, who modeled his own collection on the runway, challenged traditional takes on masculinity by asking the question, why do men’s clothes need to be boring? “The casting is really fun but also important,” said Albor. “Fashion needs to change, because it needs to be real and for everyone. Not just for girls who are super skinny.”

Closing the show was couturier Brandon Choi. In refusing to go by the book and using his own interpretation of savoir-faire given the time restraints, Choi created a top from paper and tape and had a cardboard pannier skirt to round out the show.

Brais Albor Runway Show for Central Saint Martins. (Photo via Getty)

While the catwalk was a chaotic mix, no doubt because of its 189 looks, it fittingly mirrored the state of mind of the postgraduate students creating collections during COVID-19. Against all odds, the designers faced the recent times of uncertainty with optimism. After all, it wouldn’t be life without a little bit of beautiful messiness involved.