Following the departure of Willie Walters this summer, (read her parting interview here), former Knit Pathway Leader Sarah Gresty will be taking over the reins as BA Fashion Course Leader in October. We spoke to her about student diversity, the course’s future, and the increasing importance of sustainability in the fashion world.
On becoming the new BA Fashion Course Leader
Obviously I’m absolutely delighted to be the new Course Leader. I’m looking forward to welcoming our new students and with our policy of tough love, supporting their talent, originality, creativity, and carrying on and embracing the ethos of the course.
On her aims for the course
Our student body has become increasingly diverse and international. We all benefit from that varied community. In any single group of students their life experiences are enormously different. So although you give the students the same brief, no two points of view are the same. I want to retain that richness despite the current political climate.
I hope with every project students will become increasingly aware of sustainable issues. Whether that’s to do with materials, production methods or more to do with social and cultural and consumer patterns. Students are becoming more concerned with this and understand they have a responsibility. We are encouraging the students to make sure they inform themselves of new developments and practices.
On the course’s progression
Hopefully it won’t change dramatically but there may be a certain amount because of restrictions by Theresa May and Brexit and things like that. Students are so different to how they were two decades ago when I was a student, and we want to retain the CSM art school energy and freedom. When a student comes here I hope they feel absolute trust in us and the environment so are able to explore their fantasies and ideas. Concepts they may be unable to develop once they leave, once they’re in the real world. I hope that the climate doesn’t change so much that they lose that ability.
On inter-disciplinary focus
I have taught in many fashion colleges around the world. We have a huge advantage in that we are part of an art school and have all these other disciplines surrounding us. So I love it when we have a collaboration, or even sometimes there are maybe graphics or jewellery or sculpture students hanging around the studios who are friends with the fashion students, and they share their skills and knowledge and energy. The students tend to gravitate towards other pathways and disciplines anyway, so I really want to encourage that. It’s great to talk to different tutors in the building about collaborative ideas.
On the evolution of BA Fashion
I’ve been here nine years as the Knit Pathway Leader, and that pathway has changed enormously. Before it was a little bit traditional, a bit twin set and leg warmers and that kind of thing. Now the knit students are really interested in sculpture and art and more conceptual things. It’s been fascinating watching it grow. It just takes one student to change the culture of a pathway. A good student who presents a really special final collection may inspire lots of excellent applicants down the line to apply for the same pathway. There have been quite a few students who have done progressive collections in Knit, so it’s completely evolved that course. As far as the whole BA Fashion course goes, I think they’ve managed to retain their original Central Saint Martins DNA.
On her strongest memories so far
We have amazing crits where students present their final pieces on models, within environments that they develop. They find incredible places. Even the nature reserve around the corner, the students managed to get permission to use it and they had models floating on a rowing boat in the middle of their pond. We were just led there, we didn’t know where we were going. The students had a transistor playing some kind of French radio commentary in the background, we were led along and given refreshments that were in keeping with the concept.
Students have found areas in this building that I didn’t know existed. A group managed to create an illegal gambling den somewhere in the building, in keeping with the theme of their collection. They got drama students to act aggressively when the tutors entered, as though we were interrupting an American illegal gambling session.
Every project, there’s something that brings tears to my eyes because it’s such an innovative, forward thinking and energetic idea. The students are fabulous.