Central Saint Martins Programme Director of Fashion, Hywel Davies, and Cally Blackman, lecturer in Fashion History and Theory, sat down to discuss the influential fashion school, challenges facing today's fashion students and their new book 'Fashion Central Saint Martins'.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and the work you do at Central Saint Martins?
HD: I graduated from the BA Fashion Communication & Promotion course at CSM in 1998 and then spent 10 years working as a fashion journalist – writing for magazines and newspapers. I then moved into writing fashion books and in 2009 I started working part time at CSM. I am now Programme Director of Fashion – this involves over-seeing all the fashion courses – responsible for all the amazing staff and brilliant students – it’s a total privilege!
CB: I studied Fashion Design at St Martins in the 1970s then worked in the industry in womenswear and as a freelance knitwear designer. After having a family I went back into education, gaining an MA from the Courtauld Institute in History of Dress. Since 2001 I have been teaching on the Fashion History & Theory Pathway at CSM and am currently Acting Pathway Leader. I also write books on fashion history.
How has Central Saint Martins influenced the global fashion industry?
HD: We have a reputation of nurturing independent and brave creative designers and communicators who challenge what fashion is and could be. John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo, Kim Jones, Craig Green,Katie Grand, Riccardo Tisci, Ibrahim Kamara, Rottingdean Bazaar, Charles Jeffrey – there are so many of them – that are all defining fashion now.
CB: The name is synonymous with fashion design! Our graduates have not only become successful designers, many of them heading up leading couture houses and brands, but also have spread our ethos of fearlessness, deep research, creativity and practical skill to fashion education around the world.
The book is packed full of material, including sketches, design drawings, photos and catwalk shots. What did you most enjoy about researching and editing the book?
HD: Learning about how many people appreciate and cherished their time studying fashion at CSM. There is so much love for CSM Fashion, it’s really wonderful to feel are all part of this story.
CB: I really enjoyed hearing people’s memories of being a student here and their funny stories – some of which aren’t repeatable!
What has been the highlight of working at Central Saint Martins so far?
HD: Every day is exciting- it’s always a roller-coaster of buzzing activities – inspirational students, highly committed staff and a billions of ideas – it’s always about ideas.
CB: Teaching is demanding but so rewarding when you see a student who may not have had an easy journey through the course graduate. On a less predictable note, the farewell to Charing Cross Road party was pretty unforgettable!
What do you see as being the biggest challenges facing young fashion students nowadays?
HD: The cost. Students fees and living in London is impossible for most and it’s appalling. The UK government should better support art and design – both in Higher Education and in schools.
CB: Paying the fees and living in London – many of them have to have jobs to survive and this can conflict with their studies. After they get through, the fashion industry is a tough environment but there is also a lot of opportunity: some of our graduates have got amazing jobs.
What is the Central Saint Martins Fashion Fund?
HD: The Fashion Fund is to raise money to support and enrich the next generation of creatives for the global industry. The 30:30 fund will mark the 30th anniversary of Saint Martin’s School of Art merging with Central School of Art and Design and will provide a unique creative network for our partners.
The Fund follows on from the 20:20 Fund launched in 2010 by Professor Louise Wilson, which safeguarded the Fashion Programme’s central London move, from Charing Cross Road in Soho, to its new site at King’s Cross.
The 30:30 Fund asks 30 donors to pledge £30,000 to become a founding member of the fund and a significant supporter of Fashion at Central Saint Martins.
All donors to the fund will become part our network and invited to key fashion events at CSM. Partner / donor’s names will be listed on our website, all marketing and comms material and also displayed on a plaque in our Fashion studios. More information can be found here.