At 2 p.m. on Friday 5 February, Greenwich Mean Time, the Central Saint Martins (CSM) White Show flooded the college Instagram page with the creations of 150 students. It is a rite of passage – the challenge to create a suit with a piece of white fabric – the first project entrusted to college students for generations. However, no one has before faced the colossal test of courage and ingenuity that all who enrolled in September 2020 must face: these students are putting their talents to the fore from rented rooms and parental homes scattered around the world. .
No college campus parade, no personal style show, no student party after the show – but it doesn’t matter! Refusing to be defrauded by the pandemic, these kids have come forward with videos, performances, interviews and documentaries. An enterprising youthful attempt to push the new boundaries of fashion communication – exactly where the entire fashion industry is at the moment.
Designers (from left): Yuxi Tao, Siri Castres, Thomas Spooner and Jasmine Broadhurst. Photo by Justin Jensen
Fashion promotion and communication students Macey Kerrigan, Katie Hudson and Aïcha Sommer, all in their 20s, made a 3D representation of the college campus at King’s Cross, projecting huge images of other fashion students’ work onto the walls. A project conceptually up to those paid for by big brands – done by three twenty-year-olds with zero budget.
A 3D rendering of Central Saint Martins by Macey Kerrigan, Katie Hudson and Aïcha Sommer
This is just for starters. Education is changing fast and students are like lightning rods for all the issues the world is grappling with. Central Saint Martins, like other universities around the world, has been shaken to its foundations by student protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. College head Jeremy Till comments: “After George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests and obvious indignation at the injustices in our society, both UAL (the university pole of which CSM is a part) and CSM have developed detailed anti-racism plans through which we tried to recognize the suffering and emotional burden our black students and staff have experienced ”. After consulting with students and staff, he says, the college is organizing to “diversify the student body and employees and” decolonize “the curriculum. We understand the need to recognize the mistakes of the past ”.
Designers from top left: Adriano Iuliani, Chin-Hoa Chen and Oleg Ratnikov. Photo by Justin Jensen
Below: Jack Lambert, Jasmine Nelson and Spencer Carrol. Photograph by Frankie Baumer and Cult Chan
The show featured works that mix themes such as racism, colonialism, gender, sexuality, sustainability, and mental health during isolation. Journalism and photography students – practicing their editing and teamwork skills – divided the presentation into three themes. They concern the “supremacy of digital surveillance,” an examination of the present reality in which it seems to be “living in permanent limbo” and the invention of metaphors for a reconsideration of how society should be: “An evolution of values, a new start, far from the institutional disasters and the turmoil caused by this year’s pandemic ”.
Cameron Jukes designer. Photo by Solar Klinghofer Bar Dov and Max Kallio.
But how to convey all this through a few meters of white fabric, perhaps having only a pair of scissors and a glue gun available? Cameron Jukes, an 18-year-old British of Jamaican descent, photographed her look, which was born from the fusion of the history of cotton cultivation and her research on Nietzsche, on the banks of the Thames. “I called my grandmother, who heads the Black Church in Nottingham, and she told me the story of cotton. It is permeated by an atmosphere of horror. ” She then created a spiral dress with cotton bags and charged with the concept of übermensch by Nietzsche: “Becoming your own god”. Jukes knows exactly what his purpose is in studying fashion. “The Jamaican branch of my family is made up of proud people, tailors who immigrated to England on a false promise and lost everything,” he says. “I want to give back to my family the respect they enjoyed.”
Designer Yodea Marquel Williams. Photo by Justin Jensen
Generation Z is moving towards a new spirituality. Yodea Marquel Williams, 24, who identifies as black, British and queer, expressed all this with her first project. His creation is a vision of his mighty angel, born from the fusion of souls, Sumerian art and biblical images. He describes his angel as a being “moving between realms, who is non-binary. Because that’s what I am. “
A sharp critique of “British piracy, stolen art and colonialism” came from 20-year-old Dylan Yeung, who sees the issue through the eyes of his Hong Kong Chinese family. His broad-shouldered masculine suit is based on the uniform of an English sailor who is “sneaking away” a Mong Dynasty vase-shaped sack under his jacket. It is his comment on the controversial question of the ‘ownership’ of the treasures of the British Museum, which have been largely taken from China as booty – and all other cultures that have fallen under the rule of the British Empire.
Designer Dylan Yeung. Photo by Solar Klinghofer Bar Dov and Max Kallio
This is just a taste. Everyone here can express their voice in equal measure. The White Show is a great leveler and also a great elevator. There is more to individual students trying to figure out who they want to become through their spontaneous creations. Anyone who looks at these works will also grasp some indications on how young creative minds are determined to reshape the future. The fashion industry is on the lookout. It is a premonition.