This piece originally appeared in the Strand Magazine's Summer 2019 Edition
We often wish for what we don’t or can’t have. As for me, I tend to miss winter when it’s summer. I particularly miss last winter because of the London Fashion Week, where I had the opportunity to interact with emerging talents. Join my longing and become acquainted with the three new names in the global fashion arena—Amari Carter, Katya Zelentsova, and Kitty Shukman. The designers have three things in common: they are females, they went to fashion schools, and they were brought together in one LFW showroom curated by Jeanie Annan-Lewin, a London-based editor, stylist, and consultant.
Amari Carter is originally from Atlanta, United States. She graduated from London College of Fashion, where she studied womenswear, and created her brand in September 2018. For Amari, the handmaking process is vital as she makes each piece by herself. Both of her collections—Collection I Under Your Skin and Collection II Lust For Comfort—examine one’s inner nudity and vulnerability by experimenting with lingerie-associated materials and sophisticated silhouettes.
Photos by Andrea Urbez (black pieces) and Jessie Collier (white pieces)
Your brand has a very strong aestheticcomponent. How long have you been working on it for?
For the last four months. Before, I was studying at London College of Fashion from where I graduated last July. The white pieces are from my graduate collection. Then I did an extension to experiment with black, so it’s a bit monochrome. I really love the black stuff because it’s more hardcore as opposed to the white angelic vibes, but it still has delicacy, which is my aesthetic. My clothes are based on intimacy. I focus on vulnerability, and this is why you see the bra straps. It’s about the inside being shown on the outside. You know, about what we hide the most. When we get undressed, we reveal our most private selves. My pieces are supposed to be worn as outerwear because the point of this artistic feel is to unveil your inner self.
Why are you here?
I got an email from Jeanie, saying: ‘Hey, will you show your things?’ And I was like: ‘Oh my God, she loves my brand! Great!’ I just graduated, so I thought that it would be a fantastic opportunity. ‘Count me in!’
What was going to a fashion school like?
It was really interesting since I’m from Atlanta. It’s definitely a whole different vibe, which is amazing. And the London underground fashion scene is so different.
Why didn’t you study in America?
I think that aesthetic-wise, I’m more accepted in Europe than at home. Here, you can be more creative and more conceptual. You’re able to tell your story.
How is the real fashion world going for you?
It’s overwhelming. But it’s been really good so far. I’ve also gotten a lot of valuable feedback here during this fashion week, which is so shocking because you don’t expect it when you just graduate. It’s definitely great for the learning experience.
Katya Zelentsova may trick you with a British accent, but behind it hides a saturated Russian soul. Originally from Volgograd, a city in Southwestern Russia known for its handicrafts, Katya moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins in 2012. She is currently finishing her master’s degree there. During her journey, the designer has gotten her hands on refining crochet and knitting skills while pursuing her unique design and vision. She pays homage to national crafts of both Russia and the UK while valuing self-irony when exploring the Russian identity outside of the home. Katya has taken advantage of stereotypes and misconceptions by employing them as tools that create a new fashion image of a contemporary Russian.
Photos by Katya Zeletsova
Could you share a little fashion story of yours? Why do you make clothes?
I did my foundation, BA, and I’m doing my master’s now at Central Saint Martins in knitwear. I decided to make clothes because when I was seven, I wanted to be an interior designer, but when sketching, I realised that it was easier to sketch dresses rather than sofas. This is kind of how it all began. When I was eleven, I found out about CSM, and I was like: ‘Alright, that sounds like a pretty reasonable place to go to.’ Fast forward seven years, there I was—knitwear. I initially came to foundation thinking that I would do womenswear, which was a bit silly, since I was extremely bad at pattern cutting, so that didn’t match up. But I had this tutor, whom we all really wanted to impress. She gave us a tutorial with a knitting machine, where I did so badly because I thought I would be amazing straight away. When I realised the disaster, I was like: ‘Shit, she must think that I’m an idiot, so I need to make sure that I’m going to prove her wrong.’ So, I stayed after-hours, practising with the machine for weeks and weeks. Until I kind of got somewhere. I ended up doing knitwear because of this. I did my BA, and I graduated last summer with a collection titled ‘It’s not easy being seductive in -20 degrees’. A very humorous name—obviously I don’t care about the male gaze or whatever. But, honestly, it’s not easy. I went back to Russia over this winter, and it was a struggle. Then, over the summer, I developed a little capsule collection of simplified pieces, derived from the graduate collection. And I’ve made it all of the offcuts and little bits and pieces left over from my grad collection. Just because I didn’t want to waste them.
Yeah, zero waste and all that. Also, it’s ridiculously expensive to remake things.
Why are you here?
Jeanie, amazing stylist behind this space, reached out to me, literally last week, and was like: 'Would you like to be in this?' And I was like: 'Yeah, I’d love to.'
How does specialising in knitwear rather than womenswear affect your skills?
I think it's nice that I have a skill. If I were to look for a job, which I will probably have to do eventually, this would be good, because I know how to do things for a niche market. Most of the fashion houses have a knitwear department. I guess that there is less competition because there aren't that many fashion courses focusing on knitwear in the world, as opposed to pattern cutting or just womenswear and menswear courses. So, hopefully, it will be a great advantage, but the time will tell.
How would you describe going to a fashion school? Where would you be if you didn’t go there?
I wouldn’t be doing any of this, I suppose. I can’t really imagine not having done this education. I don’t think that I could have done the things that I was able to do at Central Saint Martins anywhere else. Because while I would desperately YouTube how to crochet and knit, most of the skills that I acquired over the last five-six years were learned in CSM through the practice that I did there. I don’t think everyone needs a classical education, it’s more about what works for you. But I like to think that this education has worked for me. It doesn’t mean that it’s the best, though.
How different were responses to your graduate collection from the international and Russian communities?
Everyone has been quite sweet about in Russia actually. Maybe people took it a little bit more literal. But all of my friends there were like: ‘Oh, I get it. It’s funny.’ Yet, if people just want to see it as miniskirts, it’s cool with me. However, you read the collection.
Kitty Shukman is a London-based shoe-designer, who graduated with the first class degree in footwear design from London College of Fashion Cordwainers in July 2018. She is now a junior designer at Yeezy. Kitty incorporates the conversation about mental health into the couture environment by creating shoes that help their owners feel powerful and protected when they are anxious. Her two unisex designs—in grey and black—play by the sustainable rules and employ the technology of innovative 3D printing. The designer steps off the pedestal of a fashion creator to demonstrate the importance of comfort and empathy in the times of racing for a perfect image.
Photos by Jackson Bowley (just the shoes) and Maxwell Conrad Granger (with models)
Why did you choose to make shoes?
Since I was little, I knew that I wanted to be a shoe designer. I feel like it’s a perfect mixture of fashion and sculpture. Also, shoes seem to be a collective item. Sometimes people can buy a dress and feel like they really have to wear it. But shoes feel different. After you buy them, you can hold on to them. While my journey was full of ups and downs, it was a really important time. When I started my degree, I interned at Sophia Webster, where the product was very girly, glittery heels. But through my course, I learned that I’m very unisex and androgynous, so I wanted to make shoes for men and women, but away from those feminine heels. There’s still a special place for that in my heart, though.
Why are you here?
Jeanie reached out and asked me to be part of this. And it’s super exciting for me because I haven’t heard much about what people think about my shoes. So, it’s interesting for me to listen to the opinions. Also, I haven’t released a full collection. These are the only two handmade pairs from my graduate collection. I actually produced these myself, which made the process very long.
What inspired you to create these shoes? This year chunky boots have peaked, but I’ve been following you on Instagram for a while now, and you had used platforms and chunkiness before the boom.
It’s so saturated now! My inspiration for the collection was my desire to make something authentic to me. I struggle with OCD, which is a mental health condition, and I have a lot of anxiety from that. When you put on an item of clothing, it totally changes your energy and your state of mind. I wanted to make shoes that other people could wear when feeling anxious so that they make them feel very confident and very strong. So, I looked at different ways of how humans protect themselves. For example, sportswear padding, first aid support and armours from various cultures, like those of British medieval knights and Japanese samurai. That’s why there are so much strapping and things that hold on to clothes to give you that comfort. They are like warrior shoes. I 3D printed them to make them so light that it’s possible to wear them every day without your feet hurting or feeling tired. Also, I wanted to make them without leather, so they’re made of recycled suede. They have reflective elements and foam inside, so they’re super comfortable.
Are you planning to mass-produce these shoes?
I think that when the time is right, and I’m on my own, I’ll definitely do it.
How did you find a fashion school? What is it like in the fashion reality?
I was so tired. Last year was very hectic and intense. After graduation, I started my new job, and it gave me so much energy. LCF prepared me in many ways, like teaching me technical and photoshop skills and giving me an idea of how the process works. But in other ways, there’s so much stuff about the industry, which you just have to learn; how it actually works outside the classroom.