What were you doing before you got into fashion and what made you get into fashion design?
I was studying a textile course at my local college – throughout college I was creating prints on sample pieces of fabric and never got to see it on a final garment, so I wanted to gain the skills to be able to create that final outcome. When it actually got to deciding what course to take, I chose Fashion because I felt I wanted to learn more about that than textiles, which I had never been that passionate about.
Why Menswear over Womenswear?
Interning for Nasir Mazhar opened my eyes to a whole new idea of fashion, and I decided to make the effort and spent that summer becoming knowledgeable on designers and finding out what I like/dislike. Whilst looking at various shows I found myself being drawn to menswear rather than womenswear, and the designers who would ultimately become some of my favorite would be menswear designers. So when I went back to Uni to start my second year I knew I wanted to continue my course designing menswear rather than womenswear, and from that point everything felt so natural. The design process became so easy for me when designing menswear and my usual disconnect with fashion had gone. I understood it and I knew where I wanted to be placed within the industry and who would be my competitors.
Your previous collections have all had very clear concepts and messages. What is it that lead you to focus on these for your collections?
Some have clear concepts but some don’t. I think concepts should come naturally if it links in and helps to develop your work, but I don’t think you should force everything to have a meaning behind it – sometimes you just want to create things just because.
My “Breathe Deep’ collection came about from my research into war gas masks. I was fascinated by how intimidating and sinister they looked, yet they helped people. I also liked the look of asbestos suits and basically decided to make a wearable tracksuit version. I was reading a book called ‘Supermodern Wardrobe’ at the time that inspired me a lot, but there wasn’t that much of a concept behind that.
The ‘Let’s Play Voodoo’ collection was a collaboration with print designer Erin Murphy and the concept was all hers. She researched into toys and voodoo and her prints were amazing. I looked into African tribes and was influenced by costumes of ‘Nigerian Yaruba Voodoo Spirits’ at a Voodoo ceremony in Benin for the silhouettes of the collection.
My ‘Alphamale Vs Underdog’ collection developed meaning – it was a long development and research process; I looked into boxers, bodybuilders and gangs for ‘Alphamale’ and animal cruelty, femininity being perceived as weakness and femininity in a male for Underdog. I wanted to create a battle between the weak and the strong and depict the power struggles in society, also questioning what we determine to be masculine and feminine.
Do you find originality in your designs easy to come by?
Yeah I do find it easy because I try not to use a lot of fashion imagery or look at any whilst I’m designing, but obviously there are going to be some similarities.
I think at Uni you always had to back up where you got your idea from so you really had to be original in your work and if you weren’t, the tutor would know. Also my friend Dean Stephen Davies taught me that if you see something similar to what you’ve designed, study it, and make yours a hundred times better. If you’re going to have a similar idea to someone else, at least make it a better idea. But you can only hope your designs are as original as they can be, I try my best.
What is your greatest challenge as a designer?
I think being original, yeah – exciting people and creating that balance between brilliant and shit, there’s a fine line. More personally challenging is creating something exactly how you envisaged it in your head.
What do you think of the current state of experimental menswear design such as your own?
I think menswear peaked a year ago and I think it’s at a standstill at the moment. Everything’s very repetitive and being constantly bombarded by ‘streetwear’/’sportswear’ – it seems a bit contrived now. I had high hopes for menswear before last season, so I hope next season is going to be great.
I just think it’s sad that rich people with no talent can become successful because they have the money behind them – we have already lost some of our best designers from lack of funding/backing. It’s sad. I rarely get excited over collections I see. I still don’t think people are pushing the innovation enough.
Whose collections do you most admire?
Hmmm probably New Power Studio S/S 11 , Walter Van Beirendonck ‘Cloud’, KTZ A/W 12, Alexander Mcqueen A/W 09, Aitor Throup A/W 10, Thom Browne A/W 12, Antwerp Fashion Academy Show 2012 & Rick Owens S/S 14. It made me cry! There’s probably more but I can’t think off the top of my head.
If you could erase one trend what would it be?
Oooooh that’s a good one…Jordans, ew! And Kanye West.
Any last words?
I hope to continue making the best collections I can, & hope you like it!
You can find Naomi here:
Words: Rob Cupper