campbell, ibrahim, king and harry: the next generation in london creativity
Campbell Addy (photographer), Ibrahim Kamara (stylist), King James Owusu (illustrator) and Harry Evans (designer) are four of the brightest stars to spring from Saint Martins and the next in line to fashion’s throne.
Campbell Addy is living, breathing proof that sometimes, from the most difficult of upbringings, the most creative and inspiring individuals grow. The 23-year-old photographer and publisher grew up on the fringes of south east London in a strict Ghanaian family of devoted Jehovah's Witnesses. As Campbell grew older and came to terms with his sexuality, he was pushed out of his religious family and at 17, went to live with the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity that helps homeless and displaced LGBT people. His passion for photography gave him the impetus to apply to Central Saint Martins. He got in and met fellow creatives Ibrahim and King, as well as a plethora of designers, artists and illustrators that "literally cracked my brain wide open," he states. "When you arrive there, you have a mindset that is shaped by where you grew up, and then you see your friend walking down the hallway, head to toe in lingerie or a wedding dress, and suddenly anything is ok. Being in such a creative environment chips away at your psyche and suddenly anything goes." Campbell soon began to think anything was possible, and alongside his photography work -- which has an intimate sexuality and tenderness running through each photograph -- he created his own publication, NiiJournal, which explores the issues of empowerment and representation in race. As well as creating a bespoke casting and modelling agency, also entitled Nii, to help combat the lack of diverse faces in fashion. His recent exhibition, Matthew 7:7&8 (named after the biblical scripture "If you seek you will find"), featured a small collection of his photographs that was a glowing celebration of a softer black masculinity that he displayed in a gallery in Hoxton Square. Talking to an energetic and loveable Campbell, you can't help but feel some of his DIY spirit rub off on you. "Doing things on your own and making things work in turn will give us hope. People think you have to assist or be someone's intern, but I think our generation will be the ones who start things up. We should be having more fun with fashion. We aren't saving lives. They're clothes and we should be going crazy. It's good to have extremes, leave the in-between."
Ibrahim Kamara is special. Don't believe us? Well, Ibrahim's inherent love of fashion and extraordinary talent for styling and image-making led the lecturer on his BA Fashion Communication and Promotion course, Martin Andersen, to proudly proclaim Ibrahim "as easily one of the most talented students I've seen in 16 years of teaching at Central Saint Martins." And we have to say, he might just be right. Ibrahim has an incredible knack of quite literally taking trash and turning it into treasure. Together with photographer Kristin Lee Moolman -- who he met over Instagram -- the two hit South Africa's shanty town markets and city centre dumpsters to concept out-of-this-world visions of masculinity ten years into the future, which they entitled 2026 and showed at London's Somerset House last year. Google the images and if they remind you of a modern take on Buffalo style, the experimental, radical, anything-goes movement in the 80s that ushered in a whole new way of dressing -- melding together MA-1 flight jackets, oversized headgear, opulent brooches, and Armani suits - and pioneered by Ray Petri, photographer Jamie Morgan and the late, great Barry Kamen, it's because the latter was Ibrahim's mentor. "Spending those late evenings and long afternoons just talking, him and I, in his studio inspired me so much. He taught me to think for myself and to create whatever world I wanted to create." Born in Sierra Leone, and raised in the Gambia before coming to London, a career in fashion wasn't always part of Ibrahim's plan. "I studied science for a while and then dropped out and switched to fashion. I was going to be a GP, which is what my mum wanted me to do. Then I met all these beautiful people at CSM and they changed my life." Now, post graduation, he's one of London's exciting new stylists and is juggling a steady stream of editorial commissions, as well as working alongside Grace Wales Bonner and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph on a film for Sampha. "I think if you want to be a stylist, you need to be one right now. There's no waiting around. I've been on jobs recently where I'm the photographer, stylist and art director, I am doing everything at once. I have a vision and I don't want to wait for people to come on board with my projects. I just keep it moving. That's our generation, we just do it."
King James Owusu
King James Owusu's face is one in a million. The perfect amalgamation of feline angles and boyish good looks; King's understated elegance has been adopted by Alexander McQueen and Grace Wales Bonner, but King's talents go beyond the surface. The 20-year-old London born student is also a talented illustrator; who, after growing up in Wood Green with a mother who studied fashion design, and siblings who work across the creative industries, was compelled to apply to Central Saint Martins' Graphic Design degree - an interest he developed as a kid through his brother. While pottering around the library, he met Ibrahim and Campbell, who signed him to Nii, his modelling agency. His illustrations are reminiscent of the doodles we all did on the back of our textbooks in class, only much better. The inky-black outlines meditate on love, sexuality and identity, and King uses anything as his canvas; paper, skin, clothes, nothing is off limits. "I feel like I've really come into my own at CSM and become my own person," King explains. "You see everyone getting into their own thing and you think to yourself, 'what makes me interesting, how can I set myself apart and bring to the world?'" Using the old adage his father passed down to him 'Now, not tomorrow!' - King's success in navigating the fashion and art industries is a testament to the skills and inspiration he picked up at CSM, and in turn, he's a huge advocate for the grounding that university can give to young people. "If anything, university has made me more driven. It pushes you - you just think to yourself, 'I can do this.'"
Harry Evans, 25, is a crafter of jaw-dropping Elizabethan-inspired fashions. Starting out in 2010 as a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and super-talented 18-year-old, he hasn't looked back since. He embarked on a BA at Central Saint Martins (his mum's alma mater), craving "something artistic" in every aspect of life. "I had different colour hair every day of the week in my first year," he laughs. "The looks you would see at CSM were just mad, and I feel like they've just got madder." Harry has always used the city's most eccentric dressers and subcultural stars as inspiration in his design work. "I just loved the Blitz era, everything about it... the rawness, it was home-made and came from nothing. I also used to work at Meadham Kirchhoff and that was really special. I can still feel the impact from being there." After meeting Ibrahim out on the club scene, he finally succumbed to lending him his work - "It took me about a year to give them to him," he says retrospectively. His work can only be described as a modern take on Galliano-era Dior with a splash of Lacroix-esque fantasy and a fondness for Mugler's exaggerated silhouettes. With a Céline internship under his belt, Harry is set to follow those greats as one of fashion's most fantastical designers. "I'm seeing people who start at CSM and they are already posting all their work online. That culture didn't really exist when I started. There's an instant nature to what everyone is doing, it really doesn't matter if you haven't left uni yet. I just believe in the mantra, if you don't ask, you don't get."
Text Lynette Nylander
Photography Tim Walker
Styling Ibrahim Kamara
Hair Alex Brownsell at Streeters using Bumble and bumble. Make-up Lucy Bridge using Chanel Les Indispensables de L'Été and Chanel Blue Serum. Model King at Nii. King, Harry and Ib wear all clothing, earrings and socks Harry Evans. All other accessories Slim Barrett. Campbell wears rollneck and trousers Prada. Shoes model's own.