Graduate Fashion Week 2015: Denim Design Talent
By Samuel Trotman

With the dust now settled over the graduate catwalk shows we uncover the most promising denim design talent from classes of 2015.

Jun 22, 2015
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With the dust now settled over the graduate catwalk shows we uncover the most promising denim design talent from classes of 2015.

Each summer we’re super excited to see the new wave of young students who present their final collections as part of the graduate shows. While we may only get to see a select few designers explore denim each year, it’s always great to see the fresh, experimental and often innovative approach of the ones that do. This year we were lucky enough to get to see three designers from London, Hannah Jinkins and Ange Syrett Roper from Royal College of Art and Daniel Mckinley from University of Westminster that took on denim as the core focus of their final projects. What made these three collections even more special was that they were given sponsorship by one of the most oldest and prestigious denim mills in Japan, Kaihara. The fabric from this mill is usually picked up by some of the finest denim brands in the market today including 3Sixteen, Baldwin, Epaulet as well as British denim brand Endrime, of whom its founder Mohsin Sajid was on hand to mentor the students throughout their final year. With such a promising story around this years students, we couldn’t wait to see what the final results would be.

Earlier this month the students celebrated as they sent their work down the runway in front of an eagerly awaiting audience of international press, tutors and proud families. The shows received much coverage with magazines like Vogue and Dazed attending the presentations and even a special editorials in HERO magazine. We had the pleasure of seeing the shows live as well as getting the opportunity to meet the students, hear them talk about their work and see the detail, craft and the technologies up close. Below is a short excerpt from the interviews we did with each of the students on their inspirations, love of denim, and future plans after graduation.

Hannah Jenkins: MA Fashion Womenswear, RCA

You were lucky enough to work with Kaihara Japanese selvedge denim. How was it working with premium fabric and how did it affect your design?

I’m super passionate about honest design, and to be able to use Kaihara selvedge meant that the garments could be finished to the quality I wanted. I also felt that raw/unwashed selvedge was something that seemed to be kept aside for menswear, so I wanted to play with that and find my way of feminising it without taking away the properties I love about it.

Each of you came from completely different angles for your designs – the way you treated or worked with the fabric and results you achieved. What were your individual inspirations?

My graduate collection combines explorations of gender, mending techniques and denim culture.

My work seeks to reveal the beauty in things than have been used, damaged or broken. Through my research into denim and the culture surrounding it, I began looking at Japanese processes and mantras such as Boro and Wabi-Sabi, then exploring Kintsugi—the Japanese art of mending pottery using staples, glue and gold leaf.

The process behind the collection begun as a ‘staple-to-fit’ custom-made, tailoring method which I applied to the RTW collection. Using both raw and coated denim (wet-look coatings such as gloss, wax and latex were inspired by workwear, fishermen etc.) , I took masculine shapes and rough materials and feminized them through manipulating, fitting and shaping to create garments that play with ideas of spontaneity and happy accidents.

Why did you choose to work with denim in your collection and what was most challenging about working the fabric?

Having looked at gender and identity, denim just felt right. Using something that, even now, can have very masculine connotations was something I wanted to explore. Equally, the idea of 100 garments being identical and the way in which each person wears them means they will age differently is something I looked at. Those aging properties of the raw denim – how the cloth takes on the identity of the person wearing it – was something I wanted to build from. The way I shape and coat the garments encourages them to wear in certain ways and they will wear specifically for the individual.

In the collection, the heavy, masculine denims contrast with delicate materials, such as sand-washed silks and soft knits, to create a tactile, comforting layer beneath seemingly tough exteriors. However, this contrast and combination of textures and textiles was probably the most challenging thing about working with the Kaihara fabrics – 13.75oz denim and super-light sand-washed silk are not fabrics that particularly like being together!

You received mentorship from Mohsin of Endrime, a well known and well respected designer in the denim industry. How was it having guidance from an industry professional for the project?

Mohsin is an amazing mentor; I’ve never met someone with so much passion and knowledge about the industry they work in, and that has been the most inspirational thing. Equally it is terrifying – Mohsin has an eye for detail that I’ve never known before so after months of guidance from him, I was pretty nervous to show him the collection.

What are your plans next?

To continue building from all this. I developed a process that I fell in love with, focusing on fit and the idea of custom-made so I’m working on taking that forward – hopefully into building my own label.

Oh, and I plan never to stop thanking Mohsin at Endrime, Irene at Kaihara and everyone else who’s been involved, as I couldn’t have done it without them!

Follow Hannah on Instagram @han_jinks 

Ange Syrett Roper: MA Fashion Menswear, RCA

You were lucky enough to work with Kaihara Japanese selvedge denim. How was it working with premium fabric and how did it affect your design?

It has been an incredible experience to work with Kaihara Denims, the material is like no other. I would really like to thank Irene at Kaihara for the continued support throughout the project and sponsorship the denim.  For me the more challenging aspect was working with the selvedge denim and exposing it in an innovative way. Mohsin of Endrime really wanted to see how we used the selvedge denim differently so there was a little pressure to develop signature details within the garment. What I did not expect was that the denim and my patterns began to inform and dictate where I used the selvedge, this has now become a natural way of working with denim.

Each of you came from completely different angles for your designs – the way you treated or worked with the fabric and results you achieved. What were your individual inspirations?

One of the fondest memories I have of my family is the long rack of coats and jackets hanging in the dairy at ‘The Farm’.

My work originates from my grandfather’s military service in the Second World War as a prisoner of war in Burma. This experience intertwines with my childhood memories of him dressed in workwear when farming in the Norfolk countryside.

I was interested in the merging of the two, questioning the flatness of the hanging garments and the purpose-built military uniforms. This has informed my design process, silhouettes, techniques and fabrications.

Why did you choose to work with denim in your collection and what was most challenging about working the fabric?

I decided to specialize with cotton throughout the collection, with the exception of a wool. For me it was important to use denim because of the workwear relationship I had experienced with my grandfather and my research went into depth about denim workwear. What I find fascinating about Denim is the way that it wears how denim collects experiences, alters shape, stretches, shrinks, tears, gets dirty, oily, etc.  Therefore denim garments over time become unique and the wearer creates the material.

You received mentorship from Mohsin of Endrime, a well known and well respected designer in the denim industry. How was it having guidance from an industry professional for the project?

Working alongside Mohsin has been such an incredible experience; I cannot thank him enough for his generosity, and making time to help me, to guide and to listen. Mohsin has really opened my eyes to different techniques, styles and a new way of thinking. I am so honored to have the opportunity to learn and develop with him. I want to also thank him for introducing me to some incredible denim experts in the industry and sharing this passion. Thank you so much Mohsin.

What are your plans next?

I want to continue to develop the wash and dye techniques, which I have been working on my Masters Course, at The Royal College of Art. I want to allow the cotton and denim fabrics to naturally develop in my next collections. I therefore want to open my own studio and develop into a Denim and Cotton specialist, whilst making myself available to freelance and consult.

Follow Ange on Instagram @angesyrettroper

Daniel Mckinley: MA Fashion, University of Westminster

You were lucky enough to work with Kaihara Japanese selvedge denim. How was it working with premium fabric and how did it affect your design?

Using the Kaihara denim completely elevated the collection. The colour quality, the weight and the rigidity let you know that you’re looking at something special. And then there’s the selvage detail to play with too.

When it comes to premium denim I know that a lot of people don’t get it, but there is also a world of people like me who sit on the tube staring at their legs admiring the slub, or how the colour has changed or the newest wear line to appear.

As for the impact on my design I just had to keep in mind that the cloth is much narrower than usual and how to work around that. This did lead to me cutting some parts on the bias so some nice grain-line detail came through too. Usually bias-cutting is quite wasteful so people avoid it but the end result was a pleasant surprise.

Each of you came from completely different angles for your designs – the way you treated or worked with the fabric and results you achieved. What were your individual inspirations?

When it came down to it, most of my inspiration came from denim itself. The paint is my take on the denim wash but I’m adding instead of subtracting. A lot of people asked me how I could bring myself to throw paint on such beautiful denim but I don’t believe in being precious when it comes to clothes – especially denim.

So I made the garments, put them on a friend and went at him with a paint roller following contours in the cloth. In some places you get this really effective whiskering and the undersides of the collars are great. There’s a couple of hand-shaped negatives too.

In terms of garment design, fundamentally it’s menswear so everything has to be pegged in reality. But after this fact I was hashing out my personal aesthetic. I’ve been cutting patterns for quite a few years now and I enjoy experimenting with fit and silhouette, I’m very bored with how so many of the #menswear brands seem to be using the same blocks for everything. So being a sci-fi enthusiast and film snob I used Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as a cornerstone reference. Big, rounded forms like the spaceships that dwarf the people inside them, quilting to subtly evoke spacesuits and I even threw in some overalls as a more literal reference to the death of Frank Poole. Above all, Kubrick always had a deep understanding of proportion and form and that’s what I want to bring through.

Why did you choose to work with denim in your collection and what was most challenging about working the fabric?

For me it was always going to be this way. Back in first year we had a jeans project and it really grabbed me. We had William Kroll (of Tender Co) as a guest tutor, I remember the introductory lecture he gave. It was an hour and a half in-depth denim crash course detailing everything from the history, to the principles of indigo dyeing, and about the contemporary denim movement that was just kicking off back then. I gulped it all down, and threw myself into the project. William noticed that I was into it so we talked a lot and have remained friends. My first ever jeans were a side-seamless pair inspired by the 1863 H.Osler Pantaloon, from the patent in Jeans of the Old West.

I think the challenges started to come when I started making bigger pieces of outerwear, especially after I had added a blanket lining. Generally I’d rather sew denim of any weight over any other fabric, but the 13.7oz raw denim could be a bit tricky to manipulate under the machine when it came to finishing.

You received mentorship from Mohsin of Endrime, a well known and well respected designer in the denim industry. How was it having guidance from an industry professional for the project?

Having Mohsin on board was probably the best thing that could have happened for me. Visiting the Endrime studio and trawling through Mohsin’s bottomless archive was enthralling, in fact you can draw two of my trouser shapes back to garments I found on those shelves. And he’s a great person to talk to about denim or design in general, decanting knowledge at every turn and always about sharing and showing.

What was perhaps the most important thing for me was hearing about real-world experiences and getting to see the reality of the denim community. I didn’t know about the wide, inter-connected

What are your plans next?

The plan is to keep making. I’ve never enjoyed myself more than when I was making this collection. Fourteen hour days became my idea of a good time and I never had more energy because I was doing what I love. I’ve done enough work experience to know that I’m not made for offices or churning out tech packs. And I’m not motivated by money. All I’m after is satisfaction and I know I can find that by keeping my hands busy.

So the first project is in collaboration with a weaver up in the North, she’s called Hollie Ward and you should check her work out  (@Hollieward_). Hollie has been weaving the most amazing denim, and we are going to release a collection in January. I am also working on an illustrated denim book which should be done after the Summer and I am working with a friend to establish his creative agency, Hyde, which combines support and promote new creatives, as well as provide a retail platform. I’m sure some more fun things will come up too and the best way is to follow me on Instagram.

Follow Daniel on Instagram: @danielmckinley_C

 

As their mentor for the year, Mohsin Sajid also contributed some words on each of the students, their work and how the Kaihara sponsorship came about:

I just wanted to add – that each student has been superb. Easily the best year of denim teaching. Each student mastered there field. And were different. 

Daniel, BA Men’s – I heard about few years earlier. As he had emailed me few years ago about interning at ENDRIME – but I was just too busy. Few years later, I invited him again. I showed him a few pieces from my Archive. I was impressed by his passion, and the eagerness to learn. I knew about him as he had interned at TENDER. So I know he was good.

Ange, RCA menswear I met when I did a denim history lecture at the RCA. She was one of the 1st to come up to me, and I ended up mentoring her. Her concept was superb. ESP as it was so personal – we forget when your designing such a personal project. It takes over. And it’s lovely to see. When you end up working in the industry – the initial ideas get lost by the time they hit the shop floor. Ange had demonstrated amazing dart manipulation for her styles. Superb pattern work – I was just excited getting her amazing denim and seeing what she would do with it.

Hannah – RCA womenswear was another student I met while I was at the RCA. She really had a purest approach but had presented to me her “staple to fit” concept – she was excited about green cast broken twills, which you don’t normally hear about from students. She also did some superb cutting and stand work – so again I was excited to see what she would do.

Every year I meet a lot of students – but this year the talent in London was off the scale. I spoke with my friend Irene who runs the Kaihara export office HK – I told her about each student – and we managed to get each of them 100m each – Kaihara are one of the best in japan – each student knew how lucky they were, when they awarded the sponsorship so they used the denim in the best way to show off the selvedge – but keeping each of there collections modern and new.

I’m just happy each of them – did something different – and not a simple 5 pocket jean – as I too am a trained designer. It’s great encouraging more Students of fashion like this. Then we can together change the denim world.


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