Austen Western is a final year BA Fashion student studying the Menswear pathway.
I’m from Walthamstow in London where I have lived my whole life, which is quite fortunate - it’s very close to school!
It was after my A-levels that I realised I wanted to get back into being creative so I pushed to do a foundation. I explored the possibilities and realised that I was really interested in fashion, and I seemed to be quite good at it.
Central Saint Martins
I had heard quite a lot about how influential the college was and how good it was, but I always thought that it was unachievable. There had never been anyone who did my foundation that went. When I told my teacher that I wanted to study here they told me that there was more chance of winning the lottery. They encouraged me to try but warned me that it would be very hard.
I had always been interested in the way people wore their clothes and I always enjoyed playing with clothes. I’d say that I design for young people, the youth. I used to always focus on sportswear and casual wear, but I went travelling during my internship year and I’ve come back with a totally new style.
I am from East London originally and growing up there has influenced my work a lot, but last year I went to Burning Man festival in Nevada and it has really inspired my collection. For me it brought these two polar opposite worlds together and I’m basing my collection on that idea – it’s essentially Tottenham goes to Burning Man. It’s going to be tracksuits, youth inspired silhouettes with detailed and slightly spiritual references.
Working in the industry
We do two years of studying, a third, industry-based year and then in your final year you make a collection. For my industry year I went to work for Craig Green for three months, Lanvin in Paris for six months and then I went to a very small brand in LA called Leather and Smoke.
The industry year is optional, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do it when I graduated so I wanted to experience different areas of the industry. That year helped me realise exactly what I wanted to do, I would recommend everyone doing Fashion at CSM to do that year.
Studying and inspiration
CSM is very independent, almost as soon as you start you never get adulation, you just get a ‘yes it’s good’, which forces you to work harder. I think that is a really good way of learning, they don’t just hand it to you on a plate, they give you the tools and encouragement and then let you run with it and build on it yourself. It’s about being independent and learning how you work.
I prefer to go out and see what people are wearing and what’s happening now on the streets. All my research is taken from photos that I have taken myself. For my first two projects they were based on east London street style and that’s the sort of thing that you can’t really sit down and find in a book, it’s happening now and it hasn’t been documented yet. When it is your personal experience you are so much more passionate, I always try and use my personal experiences in my work.
Be yourself and be individual - that is what CSM looks for; they don’t want to see something that doesn’t feel authentic to you.
One of my tutors told me “do what you love and then you will get the job that you love” – I see it as do you, it’s the best advice you can give someone. Be confident in yourself and your style and you’ll be fine.