The designer making futuristic, armour-like knitwear
Martin Tual is the award-winning Central Saint Martins graduate creating fantasies and algorithms in his designs.
Fashion designer Martin Tual likes to combine an eclectic mix of references. Moebius, the French cartoonist, all the Marvels, Miyazaki, Dune, Star Wars, Alien: all were big influences on him growing up. “My father had a big collection of comic books,” he explains, “so I think it started there.” More recently he’s taken ideas from observing his friends, people on the street, and much more abstract, existential concepts. “It can be very random, but I am often very inspired by the development of the human experience, technological advancements and how we as humans adapt to it.”
He also looks to product and industrial design; “the need to be intelligently designed, rigorous, precise and innovative,” he says, while Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Cronenberg, Fellini, Polanski all provide him with cinematic references. “And I like the artist James Turrell and interior designer Pierre Paulin, as I love 80s interior design, which references the 60s and the Art Deco movement.”
Born and raised in Paris, after leaving high school Martin enrolled on a year-long Fine Art Foundation at L'Atelier de Sèvres before joining Central Saint Martins's Fashion BA in London. “I was always drawn to design and architecture, but I was not equipped to understand it. When I started studying I discovered so much more about art, architecture and fashion... the hypnotic power of Vasarely, Gary Hume, Pierre Paulin’s design, Azzedine Alaia, Issey Miyake, Pierre Cardin and Thierry Mugler’s clothing…”
During this time, Martin worked at Kenzo (where he continues to contribute as a freelancer) and Italian leather house Berluti. “That was a good learning experience: precision means everything there. It is like engineering.” After graduating from his BA, Martin stayed in London and joined the Fashion MA. “CSM is a visual explosion, people express their self-style and fantasies with no fear. The tutor's expectations at CSM are very high and you go through very difficult times, but these harsh times allow you to grow. It feels cruel in the moment, but I now realise it is a luxury to have someone giving you such criticism to move forward. Especially towards the end I felt that I knew myself better and I was able to express myself more directly and specifically.”
During his BA, Martin was “all about experimentation, and then relating it to the body.” Building a visual language. For his MA, he focused more on the architecture and construction of his garments. “I was trying to translate my work from 2D to 3D in a more intelligent manner, stronger, sharper, more seductive and emotive, with more context.” Supported by the LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship in both his final year of BA and throughout his MA (“It forced me to push myself to do the best work possible,” he insists), Martin has already won acclaim for his signature reimagined, gender-fluid knitwear.
His graduate collection, a mixture of circular patterned constructions and leggings that create the illusion of delicate armour, was all about exploring “an evocative fantasy” and designing a world and a character “that represents our time.” It’s best surmised as “Sci-fi meets romantic” with influences from 60s sci-fi cinema, combat sport, warriors, Pierre Cardin and 80s fashion. “There was a lot of experimentation with materials, in this case, with knit. Some pieces in the collection are engineered in one strip of knitted viscose, which is in an infinite spiral shape. Spiralling around the body to create both sleeves, the material itself determines the construction of the garment. So in the end, it is about following the logic of the material, like an algorithm.”
For now he’s going to continue working with labels, and doing his own personal work on the side, before launching his own label in the future. Keep your eye out.
Photography Pablo Di Prima