With his masked models covered in unsettling florals, Richard Quinn’s collection was a stand out at last month’s show
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With power shoulders lifted from the 80s and waistlines that echoed Dior’s seminal New Look, Richard Quinn’s vivid reimagining of fashion archetypes was undoubtedly the most ‘grammable’ collection of this year’s Central Saint Martins MA Fashion show. Covered in prints from head to toe, Quinn’s masked models hit the catwalk under the starry sky of showgoers’ iPhone flashes in one‐pieces covered with fuchsia roses, slick black patents and the designer’s favourite – a 50s floral frock paired against black and white houndstooth.
Born and raised in South East London, Quinn has tied up his sixth year at CSM with a buzzworthy collection. But equally eye-catching was his BA work – a collection of ripped and collaged evening gowns – which showed so much promise that Quinn caught the eye of the Stella McCartney Foundation, who sponsored his MA studies. Since then, Quinn’s designs have toughened up and modernised. The look is darker, with a more attitude than his previous work but with signature prints that provide a strong identity.
What was your thinking behind this collection?
Richard Quinn: I researched a lot into this relatively unknown artist from the 60s, Paul Harris. Harris had fully upholstered figures covered in print and clashing textiles in such a fresh and modern way. Although made decades ago, it was really refreshing to me. One image in particular, where all the different figures are in a room together, was really the starting point, very strange but engaging. I wanted to capture this feeling of different women and moods, the idea that the woman becomes textile.
How did you choose your prints? Was there a specific inspiration behind them?
Richard Quinn: I wanted the fabric to have a very ‘60s upholstery’ feeling, but completely taken out of context and twisted into a dark world. I get really drawn to the textiles from this era; the colours and florals are perfect. Most were based on existing prints that I then rejigged and added to. It was a challenge because of the amount of colours and screens I needed for each print to create all the layers, but really satisfying to see the fabrics I produced. The aim was to have strong textiles that contrasted but were not completely random, there had to be some order to the madness.
With the vintage upholstery fabrics and faceless models, are you intentionally turning women into objects?
Richard Quinn: The collection was really about creating the effect of an overload of textile, so the models would embody that fabric and mood, and be visually arresting. I see how they could become objects but they are still women, very dark women at that, but never objects. These women are meant to be quite dangerous, unafraid. The idea that this could be linked to feminism never really crossed my mind. To say it was a feminist statement would be a lie, but I see the link; it’s great if women feel connected with the mood and fearless attitude.
The feminine prints in this collection are contrasted by a strong darkness. Why are you interested in this contrast?
Richard Quinn: I have always twisted a mood or image into something completely different. Taking the image of a rose print and covering the woman completely, then pairing it with an interesting cut and boots – it becomes something otherworldly and dark, quite unhinged. A very reassuring print being used on such a woman adds to how unsettling the image becomes.
Do any of your pieces have a social commentary?
Richard Quinn: All the pieces in the collection are hand-printed, treated and painted. I think there is a real sense of quality and integrity to craft that I tried to develop with my work, and feel this is something that people appreciate a lot more now. People would like to invest in a unique limited run of pieces that have quality. I think this was the most interesting reaction to the collection, and it was really refreshing as a designer.
“Taking the image of a rose print and covering the woman completely, then pairing it with an interesting cut and boots – it becomes something otherworldly and dark, quite unhinged. It adds to how unsettling the image becomes” – Richard Quinn
Was there a message behind the veil with words?
Richard Quinn: Originally the thread running through the collection was going to be my hand writing across these neck chokers and bags with song lyrics and heartbreak quotes. It got a bit self-indulgent – I realised the person they were about isn’t really relevant in my life anymore. They bit the dust but the veil was a sample and more of a styling exercise that worked well, so it made the show.
What were some of the benefits and challenges in working with the Stella McCartney sponsorship – you can’t use leather, for instance?
Richard Quinn: The Stella McCartney scholarship was the reason I could afford to do the course – without it there would be no way to do it. It is quite amazing seeing how many scholarships are available from key figures in the industry. I think this is a real testament to the course and the experience you get. It actually made me think harder. In fact, it actually drove me to be more creative and develop new techniques and surfaces. I wanted a black patent leather, so I developed a coating that resulted in all the seams in the garment disappearing, so it created a really amazing finish without any animal products. Making a whole look out of leather as a textile designer is really lazy, there needs to be some modernity to what you do.
Are you content with the way your collection has been received?
Richard Quinn: You become so engrossed in the collection, then in the final weeks you are just racing through to get it finished and become what you imagined. I almost forgot about the catwalk and the exposure that comes with it. It wasn’t until after I looked on Google and Instagram the day after, that I saw how people really connected with it. I think the best thing that was said was the collection wasn’t just clothes but fashion. That was really what I was trying to achieve – presenting an actual world people can get lost in.
Are you nervous to enter into the industry at this moment with so many new designers? What is your plan?
Richard Quinn: I think although you always have uncertainty as a young designer, it’s really exciting. Seeing what is out there allows you to see where your work could fit, what’s missing in fashion – I think it’s interesting to see how my work will develop within that. At the moment I’m just working through a few projects, then hopefully will seek some sort of sponsorship for my own thing, but in the immediate weeks I’ll just be catching up on sleep!