meet the central saint martins student behind that viral balloon collection everyone’s talking about
Fredrik Tjærandsen’s BA graduate collection blew up the moment it hit the runway last week.
All images courtesy Fredrik Tjærandsen
“It's quite nice inside,” Fredrik Tjærandsen explains, while inflating the inner piece of one of his balloon garments with an electric air pump. “My models find it quite calming. It's when you’re actually putting it on, that's the most uncomfortable bit.”
The inflated piece in front of us forms part of his graduate collection; a hybrid of balloons and clothing that Fredrik presented at the college’s annual BA graduate press show five days ago. The last of 43 fashion graduates to show their work, videos of his collection had gone viral before the last balloon had even left the runway. Instagram feeds were filled with the vast multicoloured structures moving slowly and delicately through CSM’s central hall; some pieces remaining inflated, others deflating elegantly into differently shaped draped garments. With every deflation came a round of applause from the audience.
Following a standing ovation from some of the audience, Fredrik was presented with the L'Oreal Professional Young Talent Award. Not long after, celebrities were soon getting in touch with Fredrik to congratulate him, from fashion critic Tim Blanks to music icon Erykah Badu. “She DMd me saying she loved it,” Fredrik says, holding up a short back and forth on Instagram filled with multicoloured love hearts and smiley emojis. “I really didn't think it would be this big. I was shocked after the initial assessment show, because I went from 1000 to 1600 followers. That was already a big deal. Now this happened. It just exploded... last week I had a thousand followers, and now I have 70,000.”
Fredrik grew up in a small town in Norway and came to London to study a foundation at CSM after leaving high school. “I always did art, but then I sort of got into fashion when I was about 15. I liked sewing and pattern cutting, and then I found out about this school,” he says, gesturing around at the CSM studio we’re sat in. “I had applied for the fashion foundation here, but didn't get in. I got into diagnostic instead,” referring to the college’s generalised arts foundation course. “They told me I was better suited to it. So I did sculpture, and I was very close to doing sculpture instead of fashion for BA. I’m still trying to keep those elements of sculpture... I've always been very multidisciplinary.”
This mixture of disciplines -- just one the of the reasons why the college is so revered -- allowed Fredrik to conceptualise new possibilities in garment making and thus create something so boundary-pushing. “In first year I made a lot of clothes. Nicely made pattern-cut clothes. In the second year I started exploring more abstract ideas. What can a garment be? What are the limitations of it? We have two tutors [on CSM's BA Fashion Womenswear], one is a visual artist [Anna-Nicole Ziesche], the other is a fashion designer [Heather Sproat]. They just really push you creatively. I remember we had this [garment-making] project at the beginning of the second year. It went really well for me, because I know how to make and pattern cut things, and one of my tutors says, 'Ok we know you can make and pattern cut, but what else can you?' and that really stuck with me. That's when I started doing these more abstract things.”
The starting point for the BA collection was “unclear childhood memories,” Fredrik says, flicking between videos and images of their creation on his laptop. “I really wanted to have this idea of capturing that mist... Sometimes there are these images that I can't really put into a place or a time. It's just that general feeling of fogginess, mist. The way I work, it's very ambiguous, full of things that I can't really explain. But I'm trying to make work that gives you that feeling.” Throughout all these images and videos, Fredrik is inside the outfits. “I always try on every piece,” he explains. “I want to see the function of it.”
His own movements within his designs feel as important as the final product. “We have an exhibition in a couple of weeks, so I'm hoping I can show some of the videos. My work is more about the process... I experiment with material, relating it to the body.
“This is one of the bigger bubbles,” he says, pointing to another video of himself inside one of the balloon sculptures. “It didn't fit in the show. I have like four that have exploded, completely destroyed. In the last show, one of them exploded, so I think I've made 12 or 13. The space was limited, so I had to really plan and get people out at the right time. Because some of them didn't deflate on stage, the green and yellow ones crashed backstage. We tried to push them to the walls so they could pass through, but one just popped in the end. I had to remake that one for the press show and it's now in orange. I think that looked a bit better.”
Luckily, no disaster stuck the night of the press show. “I had so much anxiety about it though. All the models were stood in the staircase in the corner... they were just so close to the corner! All the models were really afraid they were going to burst. Also people kept on touching them. Afterwards I saw videos of people touching them. I thought that was quite nice, because it gives you something different... you just had to touch it! Although, if it had burst, then I would've minded,” Fredrik laughs. Never has the headline, “meet the designer about to blow up” been so apt ;-)
All images courtesy Fredrik Tjærandsen