Visuals Natassa Stamouli

meeting your creative half

They say great things come in pairs.

by Georgia Canning
15 October 2018, 9:15am

Visuals Natassa Stamouli

How can schools encourage healthy competition without dissuading students from collaboration? Designers who share similar references, ethos and aesthetics are automatically pitched against each other. Sure, the lone wolf genius doing it all makes for a captivating story, but learning how to work with others is essential in fashion as no designer is an island. Many even work as duos: Marques’Almeida, Viktor & Rolf, Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood, The Row, Proenza Schouler, Eckhaus Latta to name a few. Fashion design is a sum of inspiration and lived experiences — so surely two heads are better than one. The trivialities of working this way, however, lack documentation: What is it like to share success? Who takes control? How are disagreements solved?

Most duos choose to begin collaborating post graduation. How can we better integrate this way of working into fashion education? What should a marking system that reflects the industry look like for this? In an effort to understand, we spoke with five emerging duos who are building their careers, together.


Daniela Geraci and Kelsey Dykes (MAFU)
In February Daniela Geraci and Lesley Dykes graduated from the Central Saint Martins MA course, and twelve months later they will be debuting their first collection together under the brand name MAFU. Both designers explore womanhood and female sexuality, so the collaboration of these ideas is undoubtedly set to be promising.

What was your first impression of each other?
Our first impression of each other was that it was nice to see someone who wasn't dressed in black! We bonded when we were both struggling with our mental health after our pre-collections, which was at the end of the first year, and decided to start hanging out.

Are you creating the brand’s universe together?
Yes, fully 50/50. We go to gigs together, watch the same genre of film and read the same books. Our interests are similar but we express ourselves in different ways. We both look at womanhood, and as young women ourselves it's something very self-explorative. Kelsey's is a lot more raw and angry, and mine is more soft and fragile. They merge together in a way we find really exciting. We both have a very individual aesthetic but together it's better than we could have imagined. We have learnt a lot from each other, helped strengthen each other, and have enjoyed seeing each other grow. Constantly we are inspired by each other’s way of dressing, which is vital to us, as we wouldn't design something we wouldn't want to wear ourselves. We both realized we had started to think of each other whilst researching and designing, which feels like something really special. Something Kelsey taught me is to be stronger; not to water myself down for anyone, and give less fucks about what other people think.

"I would never want to go back to working alone now, working alone can be incredibly lonely, and torture when you have a creative block or feel too anxious to trust your own judgment."

How does working with another person differ to working alone?
It is so much more enjoyable. You are bouncing ideas off each other, and when you know the other person is like-minded in ethos — and you respect their taste — it then becomes a conversation between two designers. All the pressures and anxieties working alone are gone because the work complements each others.

How do you draw the line between work time and friendship time?
Everything is work. Things that we did as friends before we were working together, such as going to gigs, vintage and charity shopping, is what enriches our work, and what we count as research. this is our life and what we want to spend all our time doing.

Have you had any disagreements?
No. Together we are a Gemini and a Aries which is a pretty good match.


Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault (Charlotte Knowles London)
Design duo and couple Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault launched their brand in 2017 upon Charlotte’s graduation from Central Saint Martins MA course. They are currently in the second season of Fashion East and explore the theme of female sexuality, drawing from the strong women in their lives.

What input did each of you have in creating the ethos of the brand?
The aesthetic is pretty much revolving around our different perspective of the same woman. We both grew up surrounded by strong women: Charlotte with her mom and grandmother and Alex with the girls in the alternative music scene, and sci-fi heroines in movies and video games.

“Working together allowed us to be running a fashion brand as an actual business.”

How do you draw the line between work time and relationship time?
At this point there isn't really time to make the division!

Are there certain things you disagree over?
Constantly, but it usually is for a reason, and it usually refines ideas for the best. We learned to be able to admit when we were wrong.


Arnar Már Jónsson and Luke Stevens (Arnar Mar Jonsson):
Arnar and Luke first discussed working together in the RCA art bar, after graduation they began collaborating. Arnar is from Iceland and the draws from the move to London as a source of inspiration, “dressing for this transition means fabric innovation is key to what we do.”

When did you first start working as a duo?
We began designing some accessories and at one point we were ten looks deep, without ever really formally discussing anything or putting it in black and white.

Did you create the brand’s universe together?
We are still creating the universe, so at this moment we have no idea if it comes from just one of us. I’d say it is always mutual. We have a lot of trust in each other, so often the best ideas come when we work on things separately and then come back together to discuss and refine those ideas.

Coming from different cities, with different climates, cultures and ways of dressing informs a lot of our processes. But this sense of transition isn’t just geographical, it’s also present in the way we approach the design of the garments themselves.

“I’m much more interested in the work that comes out of collaboration and discussion than I am in having my name on the label.”

Are there certain things you disagree over?
Our most stubborn moment was over the length of a model’s hair, but it was resolved over a beer.

What are the different responsibilities that each of you take in running the brand? How did you split these up?
On the whole we’re able to be fairly fluid, as we both have a background working in the industry, so we’re used to jumping from design to production and back again.

How do you draw the line between work time and friendship time?
There’s rarely a need to draw a line as each one informs the other. So much of what we do is born out of conversations that we had long before we considered working together. There’s a natural progression from that, which informs how we approach both the brand and our friendship.


Harry Freegard and Gui Rosa
Harry Freegard and Gui Rosa aren’t a designer duo, however, one could argue the world surrounding their personalities is a brand in itself, a self-proclaimed “socialite duo”.

Where did you meet?
We weren’t really friends and then we started working at the same place. We bonded over gossip. We were in the same space together every single day over summer, and then we realized we are both bitches.

Do you consider yourselves a duo?
The best way to cause a storm, is to walk in somewhere in a matching outfit. Sometimes we plan it in advance. We didn’t intend to be a duo but it got some talk, so we went with it. People are quite charmed when we play off each other quite a lot.

"When it’s just one person, it is a conversation, but when we bounce off each, other people see it as a little show."

When you attend events do you see it as work?
Absolutely, we don’t really have that much fun, it’s so stressful. We like to arrive really drunk, it’s definitely work though, and it’s hard work, but it pays off. It’s a performance, I think other people are performing too, but it’s a shame when they’re not very good at it — everything is quite dull. We always get cigarettes, even though we don’t smoke, because of the people you get to talk to in the social area.

What have you learned through doing this?
We have learnt how powerful dressing can be. A look is really a weapon. We’ve really built a career on the back of putting on dresses. We’ve also learnt the balance between not giving a fuck and also giving a fuck.

Does a designer have to have a social media presence?
I think it’s silly not to have a social presence, even if you hate it. There’s times when we absolutely hate doing it — it’s another job which can be a pain in the ass. But you just have to do it! I guess it is different now than then it was back in the 90s, because people just had to go to all the parties, how could you measure somebody's influence? Literally every job we get now is a DM or from our email being in the bio. It’s like an online directory for young creatives, people don’t use LinkedIn anymore. We are our own PRs.


Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena (Chopova Lowena):
Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena are the duo behind Chopova Lowena, after graduating from the Central Saint Martins MA course. They are in their second season having released their autumn/winter 18 collection, a mash-up of Bulgarian Kukeri wear and 80s rock-climbing, accompanied with a photo book in collaboration with photographer Charlotte Wales, stylist Agata Belcen and art director Jamie Andrew Reid. Their spring/summer 19 collections brings dirt biking and traditional coming-of-age celebrations, such as proms and weddings, to juxtaposition. Instead of melting their worlds together they have always found more interest in the collision and contrasting elements.

Where did you meet?
We were in the same class in our womenswear BA, and spoke to each other on the very first day. We would travel home together and go out together. I think it was at a party that we first properly bonded.

How did you transition from being friends to working together?
It was just giving each other advice. We got really comfortable with each other quite fast and we also liked the same things. It’s kind of a boring answer but it was a very natural, slow process. It was just like: of course we should do this together.

"I think it was a really interesting thing because we weren't related, we were just friends and everyone kind of questioned it. They were worried we would fight, but neither of us really doubted it."

Did you create the brand’s universe together? What was the input each one of you had in the aesthetics and the ethos of the brand?
We basically had never worked together before and I was really panicking the summer before the MA, because we didn't actually know how it would work together. So, we started trying to put our heads together and make one idea. Throughout the projects it became more of a: let’s put this and this together. We came to the realization that that’s when we liked things, when they were two really odd elements put together. That’s how we built the aesthetics of it. Usually Emma will start with the Bulgarian, traditional clothes element and Laura takes the sports-side and then half way through we switch. The one side isn't really anything on its own.

Do you ever have disagreements and how do you overcome them?
We do, but we also trust each other so much. So if Emma says there is something wrong with something, I will ask why, and we will find a way that we both like it. There is never anything in a collection that one of us dislikes.

How do you draw the line between work time and friendship time?
We don’t have a line, everything is about the business and about working. It is a really weird relationship because there are no boundaries, we have said the worst and best things to each other that you can probably ever say to somebody. Also the fact that we live together, you cannot help it when you get a good idea... So we will be eating dinner and you suddenly think of something. You can’t turn it off. I think sometimes it can be really hard, and I do miss just being best friends.


Visuals Natassa Stamouli

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

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