Like any young independent designer, the last six months have not lacked obstacles. Fortunately, Saul Nash is a designer who loves a challenge. Since presenting her SS21 collection as part of Fashion East in September, there have been a few internal tweaks, both for me personally and for the brand. It’s been a really interesting transition period, he told himself, but there are new challenges every season and, at the moment, they really excite me. This novelty really stimulates me.
Today marks a new milestone for her eponymous brand, her first independent appearance on the London Fashion Week calendar since her exit from legendary talent incubator Lulu Kennedys. It presents Twist, an AW21 collection and film that reflects widely held preconceptions about sportswear and the men who wear it. Without giving away too many spoilers for the film which you can watch below, it’s an uplifting vignette that poetically subverts and exposes the viewer’s preconceptions around the men in the movie and makes you wonder why you got them in the first place.
The same can be said of the clothes that make up Sauls’ fifth collection since graduating from the Royal College of Art. Continuing its exploration of sportswear as a technology to improve body movement, this season sees the introduction of new fabrics, colors and shapes. Softshell anoraks, for example, bring more rugged silhouettes than we’ve seen before in the mix and offer counterpoints to the kinetic cuts and zip details that quickly became a Saul Nash signature. And vivid embroidered graphics and an earth tone palette add a fresh decorative touch to the equation.
Ahead of the collections release, Saul shared with us his collaborations with director Fx Goby and musician CKTRL, and the renewed importance of promoting self-acceptance in his work.
** This is the first collection you have shown since graduating from Fashion East. What do you feel?
** Well, I think we’re in a time when the fashion system was pretty disrupted, and all of our work was presented on an equal footing. So I think it was a little less intimidating than if it was a season where I had to do a massive show. But I really love Lulu and the whole Fashion East team, and I really miss them. The three seasons I have shown with them have been such a great journey, but I’m really excited to show the world what we’ve been working on.
** What kind of impression of the world of Saul Nash did you want to give with this collection and this film?
** We’ve always looked at the idea of self-liberation from the start, but sometimes it can take a while to really refine or articulate an idea, or even achieve what you’re trying to express. Whenever people ask me how I perceive masculinity or how I perceive men’s clothing, there are so many aspects that make up my answer. But it wasn’t until I brought these aspects together a few times that I began to understand why I am bringing them together the way I do. I guess this collection really expresses and provides context behind why I did the job I did. This sums up the idea of subversion that I have studied. When you first watch the movie this season, you assume one thing about the men in the movie, but your understanding of who they are has changed completely by the end. It’s a story of acceptance; to find and show a space where the main protagonists of the film feel comfortable enough to share their truth with their friends; to embody yourself and be happy with who you are. These are things I’ve always referred to, but now it’s said.
** In the film, you chose to look at these themes through an explicitly strange lens. Why was it important this season?
** I think it was just a natural development of the job, something that I felt ready to do. There were also events in my personal life that energized him and made me feel confident to express what I wanted to express in my work. We live in an age where issues of identity and perception of people are really part of the conversation. Sometimes I walk down the street, for example, and see someone grabbing their purse as they pass. But the person doesn’t know that I’m going to work in the same building as them. I think the time is now more than ever to reject these preconceptions, to see people as people and to accept them as they are. Being a 28 year old man who always feels like he’s profiled in the street, I wanted to take the opportunity to express the nuances and beauty of what is perceived to be something to be feared.
** Fx Goby, your partner and creative collaborator, directed the film. What conversations did you have about the direction you wanted to take?
** Fx is such an integral part of my daily life, and he knows all the feelings that I go through, so it was a really natural process. The good thing is that I am able to really put my cards on the table and see him through his lens. Our collaborative work is truly the product of a duality between the two different people that we are.
** You also asked CKTRL to mark the music of the movies. Why did you want to work with him this season?
** I performed on one of his pieces a while back, he performed live and I danced. But one of the reasons is that he’s also from London; I’ve met him in social contexts as well, and we really relate to each other and respect each other as artists. The emotional qualities and the sense of expression that you get in his work really blend in with what I wanted to communicate in the film, so it was really natural to work with him on that.
** When it comes to the clothes themselves, the palette you’ve worked with this season is a bit brighter than what we’ve seen previously in your work.
** Whenever I look at color, I always look at more mundane or generic hues, thinking of the idea of a spectrum between fitting in and revealing. And I’m also wondering how far you can push men to wear color, but in a still comfortable way. So while the colors are pretty poppy, I still wanted to make sure they were quite earthy and natural, as you can see with burnt orange, for example. It’s about introducing colors that stand out, but are still at the cooler end of the spectrum.
You’ve also introduced more decorative elements than we’ve seen in previous seasons, like embroidered graphics. What is the story behind these? They are in fact of me kissing me! If you look at the expression on the faces, it’s also a nod to this idea of liberation. But the embroidery itself also referred to a college jacket I wore as a teenager. It was about elevating those graphics and finding a way to fit them into Saul Nash’s world.
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