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Themes/Opinion: Fashion’s talking

Central Saint Martins BA Fashion Show 2014 in the West Handyside Canopy at King's Cross. Photograph: John Sturrock.
Written by
Kalina Pulit
Published date
21 April 2018

Whether it’s ‘high street’ or ‘high-end’, the decision making process for a fashion designer always starts with an idea or set of influences.

Kalina selects a diverse group of fashion designers that communicate their concepts and beliefs through clothing and accessories.

Hussein Chalayan: Fashion, objects and storytelling

Hussein Chalayan Autumn Winter 2000

Via Messechina Music. 

AW 2000 Catwalk show featuring musical performance by Bulgarka Junior Quartet.

Central Saint Martins (CSM) graduate Hussein Chalayan, a designer famous for his conceptual approach to fashion, created a series of portable furniture pieces for his Autumn/Winter 2000 collection. Inspired by the theme of wartime and families forced to flee their homes. The catwalk show featured models dismantling a set of wooden chairs, turning chair covers into dresses and folding the chairs into travel cases. Watch the video to find out how a coffee table became an A-line skirt.

Follow Hussein's studio on Instagram: @chalayanstudio

Katharine Hamnett: Political tees

A group of young men and women stand together wearing slogan tshirts, for example 'Now showt Labour'
Young members of Red Wedge wearing Grey Organisation t-shirts designed for the Labour Party. Photograph: Courtesy of Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Katharine Hamnett, another CSM graduate, is a fashion designer and political activist who made slogan t-shirts iconic in the ’80s. White tees with bold statements in black lettering tackled a range of political issues including nuclear weapons, world poverty and famine. According to Hamnett, a successful t-shirt is a voice, it has to make you think and (more importantly) act. Hamnett’s slogan t-shirts became cultural signposts of the era, they were featured in music videos (worn by artists such as Wham! and Queen). They were an inspiration behind the ‘Frankie Says Relax’ t-shirt design and more recently, were re-worked by House of Holland into a series of tongue-in-cheek t-shirts aimed at the fashion industry.

Follow Katherine’s studio on Instagram: @katharinehamnett

Stella McCartney: Ethically led, high-end fashion

Teen Vogue: Grimes chats with Stella McCartney

Video: sourced from Teen Vogue.

She is the daughter of former Beatles member Paul McCartney and American musician, photographer and animal rights activist Linda McCartney. Her upbringing gave her an early interest in animal rights advocacy and sustainable living. A lifelong vegetarian, McCartney does not use any leather or fur in her clothing or accessories, a very unusual approach for a high-end fashion house. She supports PETA and speaks about animal cruelty in the fashion industry. In addition, all Stella McCartney boutiques are operated in an eco-friendly manner, the stores’ biodegradable bags are made from corn, for example.

Follow Stella's studio on Instagram: @stellamccartney

Grace Wales Bonner: Race, colonialism, identity

Fashion in Motion / Grace Wales Bonner

Video: sourced from Victoria and Albert Museum.

For menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner, born in south-east London to an English mother and Jamaican father, fashion is a way of exploring her dual identity. She uses her designs to play with representation and to challenge ideas of masculinity, privilege and luxury. Model casting is key to her creative process; she’s interested in models coming from dual heritage backgrounds. She listens to their stories, how they respond to her designs and makes them a part of her collection, a part of the story.

Follow Grace’s studio on Instagram: @walesbonner

Bethany Williams: Community, sustainability and social change

Two photographs showing male models in garments made from re-purposed denim and cardboard
Bethany Williams. Looks from Breadline final collection. MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear. London College of Fashion. Photography: Felix Cooper. Styling: Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.

To produce her final collection titled ‘Breadline’, London College of Fashion (LCF) graduate Bethany Williams used waste materials from food banks and recycled cardboard from Tesco. Focusing on the issue of hidden hunger in the UK, Williams developed an exchange of fresh fruit and vegetables for waste items from food bank users. She then collaborated with local craftsmen/women using traditional hand crafted techniques to create sustainable woven, printed, knitted and embroidered materials. Part of the profits from the collection will go back to The Vauxhall Food Bank to complete the cycle of exchange.

Follow Bethany’s studio on Instagram: @bethany_williams_london

Kalina is a  London based photographer, filmmaker and creative director.

Explore her website:

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