The buzz around the Next Hot Thing or the Name to Watch or the new Must-See was palpable during London fashion week. It can be traced, almost entirely, to the global reputation of the city’s design schools. Consider the fact that of the week’s major players, Erdem and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey went to the Royal College of Art, Christopher Kane to Central Saint Martins and up-and-coming JW Anderson to the London College of Fashion (to name a few).
So it makes sense that last week the schools themselves finally decided to take advantage of the awareness and up their profile during fashion’s main event of the autumn via a series of pop-up shops, luxury fashion collaborations and historic relocations.
Take the Royal College of Art’s latest initiative with Fendi, for instance, which involves nine students from the MA design products course creating a series of window and in-store displays to coincide with the launch of the brand’s new Sloane Street boutique last weekend. Student works include a series of glass bell jars – each one containing a twisted leather handbag zip – by Samuel Weller and Imme van deer Hak. Then there’s Meret Probst’s blank sheet of hide, which forms a slow moving picture as dye drips from a hanging yarn above.
“I have deep respect for the Royal College of Art and for its heritage and ethos,” says Silvia Fendi. “For this collaboration, we presented the students with an overview of Fendi’s DNA in terms of creativity and craftsmanship and watched as their unique vision unfolded. There was no theme or obligations from our side. Total creative freedom is, after all, the ultimate luxury.”
The London College of Fashion celebrated its first-ever pop-up shop in Kingley Court, a stone’s throw from Carnaby Street, demonstrating the saleability of some of its alumni’s one-off designs. The College Shop, which opened on September 8 to coincide with Vogue’s after-hours shopping event, Fashion’s Night Out, will remain open all month and includes pieces by William Tempest, Ada Zanditon and Beatrice Boyle. Prices range from £5 to more than £400.
At Central Saint Martins, big changes have been afoot. Following a three-week move that began at the start of the month, its fashion and textile, graphics, performing arts and industrial design departments are now housed in the gleaming new Central development in King’s Cross.
Leaving its old premises in Charing Cross Road behind was an emotional experience, as those who went to the leaving party on a stormy night in late June could testify (including myself, a former fashion and textile design student, class of ‘92). The ramshackle building, with its weary-looking 1930s façade, whitewashed brick corridors and rattling windows, has stood for 150 years but the administration finally decided this world-class design school – alumni include Alexander McQueen, Jarvis Cocker and Giles Deacon – needed a building to live up to its own hype.
The new campus will shift the axis of London towards the huge transport interchange that is King’s Cross, giving the school neighbours such as The Guardian newspaper, The British Library and University College London. According to Jane Rapely, the head of college for Saint Martins, it’s about time. “We need an art school for the 21st century,” she says.