from buffalo to beyoncé, designer edwin mohney is a master of subversion
We caught up with the CSM graduate to chat about his first NYFW show, where to wear his Donald Trump heels and whether his Beyoncé NDA has been lifted yet (it hasn't).
Photography Reece and Dean
London Fashion Week has always been characterised by a more experimental, subversive approach to design than its international counterparts. From Alexander McQueen’s landmark VOSS show 20 years ago, to the charming ragtag gangs of Art School, Charles Jeffrey and Rottingdean Bazaar today, there’s always a healthy dose of theatrics and a heap of irony for good measure.
Edwin Mohney, a graduate of Central Saint Martins and a collaborator of i-D’s Fashion Editor at Large Ibrahim Kamara, has championed this approach in his designs since the day he arrived in London from Buffalo, New York. Inspired by his contemporaries -- Freya Morris, Richard Malone, Matty Bovan, Reba Maybury, Gareth Wrighton -- his eclectic designs quickly turned heads and found themselves on the pages of i-D in 2017, in a portfolio of young designers shot by Tim Walker for The Creativity Issue. But if you don’t know Edwin by name, perhaps you’ll remember his MA collection, presented last February to much fanfare, sparking a tide of “What is fashion???” think pieces in the process. The inflatable swimming pool necklace, the collection’s most outrageous piece, even made it into the Daily Mail.
Having now moved back to his native Buffalo, in order to afford a proper studio to work in, Edwin’s bringing this wonderful experimentalism to the more demure catwalks of NYFW -- he presented his first New York show last season. Not to mention, since we last spoke he’s also had a hand in Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run II visuals and Childish Gambino’s Guava Island costumes, so we thought it was time to check back in and see if any of his NDAs had been lifted.
Hi Edwin! What's the biggest change in your career since we last spoke in 2017?
I think just having a career is the biggest difference. Last time we spoke I was just out of my BA and still trying to work out what exactly I was doing. I remember thinking I had a dream from a young age of being a fashion designer, but then through my BA I found my voice as an artist. I was so lost about how the two could exist together, but I think now I'm finding my way. I'm way less attached to understanding and naming exactly what I'm doing and just trust my gut.
You've done your first NYFW show. How was that?
I thought it was a success. I literally booked the venue a week in advance online and just said "Fuck it." I packed my car to the brim with all the mannequins and outfits and drove myself to Canal Street from Buffalo -- it took seven hours. That’s not that far, but I remember thinking, "If I get into a car accident, I'm fucked because this car is way too full." The show itself went great. I met a ton of new people and got to actually speak to people face to face. The only downside was that the power kept turning off so only one space heater would work. It was cold AF, because the space was open to the street.
Can you talk a little about the collection you presented?
It came about very last minute. I felt like it had just been way too long since I showed any work, but at the same time I didn't have a brand new proposal. I still think my MA collection is relevant so why not show some of it again and mix new pieces. I thought of it as The Fame Monster after The Fame. LOL.
How did it compare to showing at LFW for your graduate show?
When I showed at LFW, I was very aware that it would be seen by lots of people and that CSM was a platform. I wanted to play with what was expected and anticipated within a "fashion" space. This time around there are no expectations. It’s a blank canvas. It was much harder to think about how to present something without losing the performative quality in the work. I really see the NYFW show as a performance piece in itself.
Has your brand and your message changed over the last two years?
Not at all. I think its always been about self-expression and representing and performing my identity through my work.
How do the two cities' fashion scenes compare? Is the reaction different? Do you find your designs are more suited to one rather than the other?
Everything is different. I think the hardest thing in NYC is the lack of community that is willing to do work for the sake of collaborating. Everyone in this city wants money! I get it, because the rent is too damn expensive. However, it cuts out the possibilities when it comes to something happening organically. The end result tends to be so product-driven that I find it really distasteful.
In contrast, it's hard to earn a living in London because no one wants to pay. I think this is a difficult paradigm. I try to take from each what works best and apply it to Buffalo. I show in NYC because I think there’s room to grow and I'm very much my own entity in NYC. I avoid doing everything for money by working six hours outside the city in the middle of nowhere outside of Buffalo and work really hard to produce everything myself for my own reasons. Having to hustle and make something out of nothing keeps me creatively on my toes. I'd be happy to show wherever and I think it’s time that these fashion "capitals" get the fuck over themselves. Neither place owns me or my aesthetic. I do.
Can you talk at all about Beyoncé wearing your designs in her On the Run II visuals or are you NDA'd to the teeth?
NDA. However, I will say working on that set was like doing a second MA. The professionalism, kindness and work ethic of everyone involved taught me so many lessons, for which I am incredibly grateful.
How did Guava Island come about? What was that experience like? NDA?
NDA. It was INCREDIBLE in all senses of the term.
You recently released a satirical perfume campaign. What was the idea behind that?
Fair enough. What does it smell like?
Steeped in late capitalism, the aroma has a decadent note of desperate millennial marketing schemes and finishes with a fruity blend of perspiration. All for only $20,000.
Where does one wear the swimming pool outfit? And Donald Trump heels?
Produce aisle, PTA functions or inaugural speeches.
Lovely. What's coming up next for you?
Short term I'm currently working on a few projects. There are the custom commissions which keep me busy on top of producing another collection. Next fashion week, I'm doing two shows. A pop-up performance space again in NYC with the Art Collective I work with and a larger scale performance piece in Buffalo on my own.
Long term, my dream is to develop an artist collective space outside the city where artists and designers alike can come and develop their work. I want to create a space that doesn't demand proof of sales or tons of Instagram followers. I think the oversaturation of imagery today has subsidised our need for quality and sustainability within fashion.