the london fashion student who took the met ball by storm
In the last two months, Conner Ives’ designs have appeared on the red carpet at the met ball, popped up on Riri’s Instagram and graced the pages of i-D. Impressive, yes, but even more so considering he’s only in his first year at CSM. We meet the...
Photography James Robjant
Daylight flows through the wide expanse of windows in Conner Ives' studio. It illuminates the clean white room -- luxurious as it may seem, it's also the kitchen of his flat. This juxtaposition is true of the designer too: he's on the cusp of great fame and glamour but is so down to earth that talking to him is like talking to an old friend.
The last two months have been something of a dream for the first year BA womenswear designer. For i-D's recent Creativity Issue, Conner was commissioned to make his signature reconstituted T-shirt dresses, which were shot by Tim Walker and modelled by Edie Campbell. His friend Adwoa Aboah then asked him to dress her for the Met ball. In a matter of weeks, Conner went from crits to Vogue profiles.
It's all been in the pipeline for a while -- at a young age, Conner knew where his future lay. "I think from the age of 12 I got it in my head that I'm going to London, I'm going to CSM. I was a bit crazy about it." Six years later Conner's determination became reality when he moved to London from his native America to undertake his Fashion and Textiles Foundation diploma. His future seemed set: study, graduate, work.
Despite initial rejection from the Womenswear BA at Central St Martins, Conner took the Fashion Folio course and was accepted to start his BA in 2016. He loves it. "I love when there's a project, and we're all in the studio at 10 o'clock at night and we're zany and weird and we haven't slept in days. I'll get home from school and I'll be all giddy."
Studying aside, he also finds a creative outlet in his bi-annual personal collections: "I think to have a separate outlet from school keeps it much healthier. If you have a bad crit at least you have another outlet and it's not the end of the day," he reasons. "They are what I am thinking about at that particular chapter, in that particular time.".
His studio is bursting with bags full of thrifted slogan T-shirts, waiting to be reconstituted into dresses like those featured in i-D. They already have something of a cult following, cropping up regularly on Adwoa and Rihanna's Instagrams. This season, his splicing technique is applied to soft fleece jumpers, the type your Dad probably wears on a dog walk. Not content with their monotone surfaces, Conner embellishes the garments. For this decoration, he sourced scenes of American folk art and transformed them into magnified dye transfers. The finished garments are evidence of Conner's eye for beauty and potential within the mundane.
He seeks out the raw materials for his collection like a magpie. Hunting through beautiful second-hand jewellery and fabrics, sensing their potential for further reincarnations. "That was a big learning curve for me," he admits. "I always saw shopping as something frivolous as it's not like work. But I came to realise that it was just as much my job as the sewing or the design. The sourcing of things is so important to me."
With all the media attention he has received since the Met Ball and his i-D debut, it's hard to remember that Conner is still just a student. He jokes, "If I don't have an aneurysm next year then it's mission accomplished." Not only that but hopefully he's still having fun too.
Text Elspeth Taylor
Photography James Robjant