craig green: anything is possible
Emerging from a whirlwind of promise, Craig Green has reduced the fashion world to tears, won awards and seduced pop stars into joining his growing cult.
For our meeting Craig picks a quiet spot in the sunshine outside his Hackney based studio. As students, designers and familiar faces pass by to smoke, Craig is at ease, ready to smile the afternoon away. The London College of Fashion base is a world away from the sprawling space of communal creativity that is his Bethnal Green studio, the location of our last meeting. "We have both studios because we don't like change," he says, "but what's great about this space is the volume of sewing machines and classrooms at our disposal. It's a case of the messy art studio versus the pattern cutting studio." This mix of worlds sums up the designer perfectly: he personifies that collision of art and fashion. Five seasons in and he has lost none of the sincerity, honesty, freedom and effervescent creativity that instantly drew us to him, but this is a more focused Craig Green.
"The last two seasons have been quite a drastic jump," he says. "In my mind at least, this is when we really began to evolve into a business." Looking back, Craig chronicles his collections into chapters, each one a reaction to its predecessor. "When we were making spring/summer 15, it felt right, but I was terrified that after the weirdness and angsty emotion of previous collections, people would be left disappointed by the floaty plainness of it all." Of course, his solo debut left the audience mesmerised and tearful — London had just seen Craig's promise develop beyond their imagination and for many, myself included, the experience was overwhelming. "It was an emotional time, Louise [Wilson OBE, the former head of the Central Saint Martins MA course] had recently passed away, it was summer and we had sails and Enya playing," he concludes calmly. For autumn/winter 15, we weren't reduced to tears but we were seduced. It was a carefully considered continuation that subtly shifted the narrative and pulled us closer to his uniform.
"It felt easier, less brutal and more innocent," Craig revealed backstage. "But there's a darker element. It's covered and the protective straps are tightened rather than being free to fly away." It was the next chapter, the next emotion. "We began by approaching it in a polar opposite way to last season, but as the process went on we began stripping it away and we found a balance between movement and structure," he added. Craig Green's cult of shoe-less dreamers appeared to float down the catwalk. Delighting in the interplay between restriction and release, this display of whimsical workwear washed over us like a cleansing tide. Craig dances, delves and delights in duality. His close-knit team of collaborators don't just blur lines or introduce opposing forces, but majestically manifest creative collisions. "I've always been obsessed with ideas of community, subcultures and cults, and I guess I don't like being alone," he confesses. "The studios have a family atmosphere. Ultimately, we're friends that like to make things. We laugh every day and not many people can say that about their jobs," he says. From old boyfriends to house parties to studying together, different moments have brought the Craig Green collective together. "Craig Green is my brand, but it's not me."
So what drives him? "I just love making things, I've always loved making things," he says. "I used to dream of ending up in a book because it would be amazing if somebody could go to the library and be inspired by my work." In an industry that feeds off air kisses and Insta-likes, Craig refreshingly delights in the tangible, the real, and the work. "There are times in the industry when it feels like some people are doing it more for what it means than what it is, the ends rather than the means." In the age of the celebrity designer, Craig revels in the means and he's at his happiest in his own world, a world that orbits art and fashion.
"This is going to sound terrible but before I studied fashion, I had no idea i-D or any other fashion magazine existed. I only used to buy Kerrang!. I was a typical suburban boy who drank in the park." His honesty is refreshing. Craig Green is real. Growing up in a quiet enclave in northwest London, surrounded by a loving family of craftsmen, his daydreams were filled with aspirations of being a sculptor or painter. He accidentally fell into fashion. "I didn't even know what Central Saint Martins was," he says, embarrassment taking over his cheeks. "I finished my A-levels and had this romantic idea of being in Scotland, studying Fine Art at Edinburgh, but then a friend ordered me to apply to CSM. There was no Googling, I just went along to the open day. It's all accidental," he confesses. Edinburgh's loss, was London's, and ultimately fashion's gain. "During my foundation, they were trying to deter students from fashion because too many were taking it. So, I had to take it." We should be thankful for this act of teenage rebellion because Craig could apply his talent to any creative discipline, so how does fashion continue to engage him? "I love the pace and competitiveness of fashion but they can be unattractive traits as well. Art felt so much slower, it was forever. The attraction of art now is the freedom to have that bit more time to create. We've found something in-between."
"The cult of Craig is about to explode," is how Tim Blanks signed off his spring/summer 15 Style.com review. From being vilified as unwearable on the front page of tabloids, he's become one of the most visibly worn designers. "It's exciting when someone you know wears it, but it's even more exciting when you go somewhere and you see a stranger wearing your work. You know nothing about them, other than they own one of your pieces." Despite not being interested in the world of celebrity, that excitement must be heightened by the sight of FKA twigs captivating festival crowds in Craig Green. "It's a girl wearing it so it's part of the story," he says humbly. As the industry gets louder, there's a sense that Craig is ignoring the calls to create collection after collection. He's evolving at his own pace. But has he been tempted by the call of womenswear? "Of course, it's a constant conversation, but it has to be at the right time," he says. "A lot of women wear the menswear now and we didn't expect that. It's great that garments can translate. Some of the pieces might even look better on women; they're certainly easier for some women to wear because they might be deemed risqué for men," he concludes with yet another smile. With the world at his feet, anything is possible, but one thing is certain: we will all continue to be enveloped by the craft and smiles of Craig Green.
Tett Steve Salter
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Fashion Director Alastair McKimm
Hair Anthony Turner at Art Partner
Make-up Lynsey Alexander at Streeters London
Nail technician Jenny Longworth at CLM using Chanel S2015 and Body Excellence
Photography assistance Lex Kembery, James Robjant, Matthew Healy
Styling assistance Katelyn Gray, Lauren Davis, Ianthe Wright, Bojana Kozarevic
Hair assistance David Hardorow
Make-up assistance Camila Fernandez
Executive producer (not on set) Lucy Johnson
Producer Lucie Newbegin at 10-4
Production assistance Laure Liyombo, Harry Burner, Lyndon Ogbourne
Special thanks to Jen Ramey
Retouching Output Ltd.
MoDel Daria Werbowy at IMG.
Daria wears all clothing Craig Green. Boots stylist's own Dr. Martens.