Ronit Zilkha joins Ed Curtis for exclusive interview at Stella McCartney store
London College of Fashion, UAL alumnus Ed Curtis joined BSc Fashion Management and MSc Strategic Fashion Management lecturer, Ronit Zilkha, at Stella McCartney’s 23 Old Bond Street flagship for an exclusive in-conversation. Ed's work was specifically selected by Stella McCartney herself to be the name of a new collaborative collection titled Stella Shared 3. The collection took over Stella McCartney's flagship store, covering the entirety of the space with psychedelic and saturated prints to give an all immersive experience. The collection took over Stella McCartney's flagship store, covering the entirety of the space with psychedelic and saturated prints to give an all immersive experience.
BSc Fashion Management and MSc Strategic Fashion Management students joined the discussion and were invited to ask Ed their questions on the new collection, his personal and professional experiences and his words of advice on the next steps of their careers.
You've collaborated with Stella McCartney - how did this come about? We're all dying to know!
Well, rewind back to February and I was in my studio one day. Nothing was going on at that time because we were in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown. There hadn't been much going on for a while. Then one of the designers I used to work with at Hillier, Bartley texted me and said, "Can I give your number to someone from Stella McCartney, they want to ask you about something?" I was like, "yeah, okay." I hadn't really had much contact with anyone for a while. Then one of the print designers messaged me and said, "We're doing a project for a line called 'Stella Shared 3' and we want you to be one of the artists involved." It was a great day!
So we need to talk about collections. For example, do you do let the fashion cycle dictate you? Do you think this is how things are evolving?
I generally don't stick to a fashion calendar; I just work by myself. I've had one girl helping me on a freelance basis this year, so I couldn't physically make more than one collection but I also just don't feel like I need to if I put all this energy into one project. There's a lot within it already to keep telling the story, I just don't feel it's necessary to keep telling new stories every six months on the dot. I see it like it's almost like a lifelong project. My work isn't trying to say something new every six months.
When designing new pieces, is there usually a particular story or message you'd like to tell through your work?
Not particularly. I just want people to look at it and think "Wow, that's great. It makes me smile and feel happy. If I wear it, people might compliment me on the street.” I feel like it doesn't really need a story. I feel like when you're shopping, most people don't care about what the idea or the story is, they just see it and like it. That's it for me. The motivation is just making fab stuff that people want to wear and feel happy wearing.
What is your work ethic like? And how did you handle the toughness of creating designs post-pandemic?
My work consumes all of my time and a lot of my energy and I have worked the same way throughout the pandemic because I've got a small studio which is five minutes from my house. For the pandemic not much changed for me except I didn't have as much work going on, but my work ethic didn't really change. I've always worked super, super hard, but I think it's important to also take time to enjoy other parts of your life. I'm realising that more now, going out, partying, seeing friends and spending time with your partners are also really important. You have to take yourself away from your work because you also need to need to go out to get inspiration and energy to put back into your work.
What is the best way, in your opinion, for a big brand to notice your artistic talent?
I think just being authentic. Don't try and over-think, just be true to yourself. Don't try and imitate or copy anyone else. I feel like that is what stands out. Have as much fun as you want, but you also have to find ways to promote and monetize your creativity.
Do you consider this project as one of your greatest so far? What do you do to improve your design skills?
Yes, massively. It's definitely the biggest and best project I've done. When I talk about it I just smile all the time, because I can't believe how incredible the whole experience has been. From start to finish, everyone at Stella McCartney has just been incredible and so trustworthy. They have really believed in me and given me a lot of confidence. We've been able to make something more than just a collection of clothes, we've built a whole world around it. I feel that's what makes a good collaboration; the trust between the two partners.
What advice would you give to a student that just started studying fashion?
I think it's important to try and not compare yourself to what other students are doing on your course. I remember when I was studying, you really feel the presence of what everyone else is doing. It can really get to you if you are comparing yourself all the time to other people's work. But you know, you're all here for a reason and you've all got your own stories you need to tell. I would also say, milk the whole process! Ask as many questions as possible and don't be afraid to ask tonnes of questions to your tutors to the technicians. Exhaust all the facilities you can and collaborate with other students on other courses. If you have any ideas that you might think are silly, you just have to go for it and really make the most of your time at university. At the end of the three years, you're like, "wow, what we had was so amazing." My advice is absolutely rinse it.