It was when I started to focus on Menswear, during my BA in Fashion Design at Edinburgh College of Art, that I realised I’d found the thing I wanted to pursue as a career. I applied for the Menswear programme at the Royal College of Art because it seemed so unique, both in the quality of teaching and for the amount of attention it gives to students.
I was also drawn to the fact that you graduate specifically in Menswear; in other programmes you tend to graduate in ‘Fashion’, even if menswear is your specialism. I came here intending to develop my tailoring techniques but I was challenged in many other ways too. You get the chance to start from scratch here, and to look at things in a new, mature way and to find a way of working that suits you. I think that the MA is a space for finding out, not just who you are as a designer, but who you are as a person.
I’m very interested in construction and in adapting traditional tailoring techniques to make them appropriate for today. I’m also interested in making a certain kind of luxury achievable for the ordinary man. Even after these two years at the RCA, however, I’ll admit that I’m not a tailor! I’ve realised that it’s a craft you need a huge amount of training in, and I’ve only really been doing it in earnest for the last two years. Before coming to the RCA I used to be really into English tailoring, which I thought of as a kind of armour for the contemporary man, but while I’ve been here my work has become much more influenced by softer Italian tailoring techniques.
I was incredibly lucky, during the MA, to be able to work closely with the Italian tailoring company Brioni. In the first year the company set us a brief, and we all went out to Italy to visit them. We stayed in this beautiful castello and spent five days working with the company’s master tailors. We also visited their factories – it was such an amazing experience. I ended up winning the tailoring competition that Brioni set us; I suppose it was because tailoring is such a passion of mine. That experience opened a lot of doors for me. One of the most remarkable things that came out of it was that the company ended up making 50 per cent of my final collection. When I got a call from the Creative Director saying that they’d do it (after about six months of discussion, and a lot of pleading!) I remember running out into the hallway and just screaming – I was so excited! I still feel so honoured that they took the time to work with me.
On my first day at the RCA I remember having a crit on the summer project they set you to work on before you arrive. That first crit was the most intimidating thing I’d ever done – way more nerve-wracking than any interview because you are presenting your work to a whole group of peers that you’ve never met before. Looking back, I realise that this fear was probably important: one of the main things that the course is designed to teach you is how to have confidence in your own ideas and your own opinions. The crits play a big part in developing this confidence.
At the start of the second year, you work on the ‘pre-collection’. This is supposed to be a kind of trial run for your final collection. I ended up having quite a bad time with my pre-collection because I was trying too hard. I’d had a very good first year, and so I was recycling a lot of ideas from previous projects. It just wasn’t working. Then one day Ike Rust, a senior tutor, said, ‘Look, just do what you want to do’. I really needed to hear that! Ike’s such a great tutor. All of the tutors are brilliant actually. It’s a real privilege to be taught by people who are so skilled, and so sought after in the industry.
After graduating, I got a position with a young London brand called E. Tautz. At the moment I’m really looking forward to January, which is when the London Collections – the equivalent of London Fashion Week for menswear – are staged. It’ll be the first time my work has been shown. I can’t wait!