“it’s not enough to dream anymore”: csm's ma class of 2019 reflect their troubled realities and push for a better tomorrow
Led by L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award winners Sheryn Akiki and Goom Seo, this year’s brightest young design talents went beyond igniting imaginations as they delivered a collage of creative call-to-arms.
With its reputation for birthing fashion icons like Galliano, Philo and McQueen to name but a few, there’s an expectation that the CSM MA show will always push fashion forward into a more fabulous tomorrow. Year in, year out, its graduates deliver. For the Class of 2019, they went beyond just igniting imaginations.
Against a backdrop of youth-powered protest, from students ditching school to demand action on climate change to Extinction Rebellion calling for the BFC to declare a ‘climate emergency’, the next generation are angry and they’re ready to call for change. This includes Beirut-born, London-educated L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award winner Sheryn Akiki. “I explored ideas of elegance in an age of crisis because that's how people live in Lebanon, day by day," she explained after her domineering display of distorted glamour closed the show. “Despite that reality, women still want to be glamorous and that, to me, is the biggest fuck you that you can give the world. It’s about dressing up, feeling good, and going back to making a woman look good,” she continued. This power of dressing up was a theme that ran through each of the 25 collections showcased.
“Led by course leader Fabio Piras, this year’s level was so strong,” L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award guest judge Stavros Karelis, founder and buying director of Machina-A -- the Soho-based curiosity shop of cool that has long celebrated and nurtured young design talent -- explained. “There were so many good designers but I chose these two specifically, because each of their collections were layered and narrative-filled. Today, it’s not only about a good garment or a good product. For me, it’s not enough for young designers to dream anymore. Now more than ever, they need to share their realities and push for a better tomorrow.”
As he cast his eye over the boundary-blurring, imagination-igniting CSM MA class of 2019 the work of Sheryn Akiki and Goom Seo stood out as they symbolised this new energy. “Coming from Beirut, Sheryn is telling her own own story and sharing her own experiences through her garments, particularly that characteristic of Lebanese culture, where you live for the now, not on the past and not of what will happen tomorrow,” Karelis explained. As skirt suits seemingly shape-shifted down the catwalk, handbags threatened to spill contents and dresses threatened to split. All the while, her women owned it. “It gives you a freedom almost a feeling of everything’s possible now. In times where the past doesn’t explain enough of what is currently happening and the future is looking unclear that message can become optimistic and liberating for all of us living in similar times. That message connecting with feminism was something resonated deeply with me.”
“Goom Heo is a designer ready to enter the world of retail,” Karelis explained as he told us what drew him to the work of the Jinju-born, London-based designer. “She has already made a brand without perhaps even fully understanding it,” Karelis explained. After her sci-fi infused sportswear, disproportionate tailoring and inflated silhouettes saw her scoop the CSM BA prize back in 2017, she pushed it even further for her latest graduate collection and was rewarded once more. “Her garments are designed to challenge convention. They floated through space and invited people to wear them,” Karelis concluded.
From Kim Jones to Matty Bovan, Craig Green to Christopher Kane, the list of previous recipients of the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award reads like a who’s who of industry leaders and firm fashion week favourites, so you should remember the names of Goom Heo and Sheryn Akiki. However, from Gerrti Jacob’s silhouette-shifting sartorial explorations of class identity through to Min Kim’s hyper-erotic, form-clinging bodysuits that used a knitting technique to mimic exotic skins, there are plenty of stars of tomorrow just waiting to be discovered here. “My message to them and the students daydreaming of following in their footsteps is to stay open minded, push diversity, create a community of like minded people, embrace independent thought and creative freedom, and challenge the word ‘system’, Karelis declared. “Be innovators with their ideas and skills. Find that important story to tell and build everything around it. Follow your instinct and enjoy the process. Live now and make sure you respond to the society you live in and reflect real times. Now is the time for active citizens.”
With this closing remark, we were reminded of a sign one young protester held aloft earlier in the day that echoed the words of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg: “once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”