This year, London College of Fashion celebrated 20 years of postgraduate fashions studies in its MA20 catwalk show in the iconic surroundings of the Roundhouse, showcasing to a bustling audience of 280 industry and press. Although this year, one particular collection grabbed the attention of an audience beyond the Roundhouse. MA Menswear student, Harikrishnan, became an internet sensation in the days after the show with his inflatable latex trouser design hitting the headlines. The collection sparked conversation across TV, social media and press, leaving people eager to find out the purpose of his particular designs. We caught up with Hari to find out how he managed the overnight success and the true idea behind his collection.
The world is flooded with fashion images this time of year, yet your designs have cut through the noise and have gone viral. How does it feel to have been noticed on BBC Breakfast TV and by celebrities across the world for your graduate collection?
It’s overwhelming actually, the idea of a graduate fashion show is to push boundaries and create a conversation about the clothes. You expect to get some attention from within the industry, but not the wider public.
This collection was made to start a dialogue and I guess that’s what has happened.
A lot of the time, within menswear, you focus on the details and technicalities of creating a garment that then you somehow fail to create a conversation, people will admire it but not talk about it, especially when there is so many beautiful images out there - it is hard to penetrate people’s minds and be remembered and it’s amazing that it has been noticed.
The internet is going crazy over the inflatable latex trousers to be specific, but there is so much more to the collection than just the trousers, can you tell me a bit more in depth about the rest of the outfit.
I want my pieces to speak. I have brought in a balance where it is not just artistic, but I have used a fine formula, much like a Bollywood movie, where you have elements of substance, drama and also heritage. Where the inflatable trousers create the drama, you have the tailored jackets for the substance and to create the proportions and there is craftmanship and culture within the top. I have used a 200 year old ‘UNESCO World Trade Organisation’ approved craftmanship technique for the beads and taught the women within a village in south India how to sew the beads together, so to me, the compilation of the outfit is so much more than the inflatable trousers. It is an accumulation of the collaboration of all the pieces together.
What would you like to say to those who are questioning the wear-ability of the collection?
It is all down to interpretation, I cannot influence someone's mind. In this instance, there is a lot of misinterpretation.
A lot of people think a graduate collection is supposed to be ready to wear by the public, but actually it is to push boundaries.
It doesn’t, to an extent, have to have wear-ability, but the MA is the platform where we launch our career, where we can explore and these are some of the pressures we face – some expect us to push our collections in a certain direction, and conform to wear-ability, but actually it's all about expressing ourselves and showcasing our skills. Initially you don’t see the details or story when you look at a fashion image, but when you focus on the pieces as separate, the tailored jackets are commercial, made of great quality hand dyed wool from India and can be sold commercially.
How about those questioning the sustainability of latex trousers which supposedly cannot be worn off the catwalk?
Latex is very expensive, £20 a metre to be precise, and with 5 metres per trouser and 9 outfits, it adds up, so I approached Supatex – the leading latex manufacturers in the UK which sponsored my collection by giving me the off cuts for free. Which meant that their waste was used and they sent me the samples of colours and I chose which colours and then used this as my palette for the whole collection. And matched these to colours for the organic bee wax which was used to dye the beads.
Those from outside of the industry sometimes don’t see how much time, effort and detail goes into the creation of one collection..
That’s what I think, a-lot of designers put in so much work and attention into an item, picking the fabric, in creating a colour and at the end of the day when you put it in front of someone, it flashes past their eyes and then it’s gone, and they don’t appreciate it. But, I can’t blame people for that, it is looking through an un-trained eye. Most people aren’t trained to see the detail, but for this reason, my mission is to create a show that stands out and makes people see something amazing without looking into the detail.
Among this traction and attention you have received from your collection, you have been featured in Dezeen, Vogue and GQ. How is does it feel being recognised by the industry?
I was approached by The Guardian yesterday and did an interview with them, and when they said that they liked the clothes and reposted my work, it makes you feel so happy that you are getting recognition within the industry, and that’s all that matters.
You have cut through the internet noise in the biggest fashion week of the year, surely that must make you feel proud?
Yes, Yes I feel very proud. That my collection has been seen across the world. Especially the recognition from people like MC Hammer. He said he respected the boundaries that I have pushed and described me as a creative. That was touching and such a validation.
I read in Vogue, that you have been approached by two music video projects, can you elaborate on these?
I have been approached by people in LA, and I didn’t even realise that Latex was such a big deal in Los Angeles though. Lil pump approached me with a proposal for a music video although, I can’t explain anything more though!
So lets talk future plans, is there going to be a second collection of inflatable trousers? Because obviously you are recognised for this eponymous design now, will you stay on this trend and use the design again?
Well its definitely a part of my work and a part of my journey, I am into working with craft. And I’ve worked with print design before and I would like to explore that with patterns, and bring all this with inflatables. Put it out there and make people talk. And at the same time I also want to focus on my jackets, make them more sellable and on the craft which I use. When you put the craft on a person or make it wearable, it then represents that craft in their personality, and I would like to go back and collaborate with the women again who made these and see where It can go, by making patterns out of it or even sofas.
By moving it forward and even making furniture out of it. When I used this craft I was paying a tribute to my country and the diversity of craft we have and the communities that make them, whilst representing them in a different way here and I would like to carry on with that idea. Showing that we can bring 200 year old century craft into the fashion industry.
Harikrishnan‘s inflatable latex trousers brought “anatomically impossible“ proportions to the runway this weekHere‘s why inflatable fashion is blowing TF up: https://t.co/9k7O1z8SyS pic.twitter.com/V8xy0btNvz— Dazed (@Dazed) February 26, 2020