Fresh from receiving the BFC/GQ British Menswear Fund, the designer discusses how Scouts, the river Ganges and rugby inspired his latest collection
“We’ve been looking at Scout scarves and boyhood adventure,” said Craig Green, speaking ahead of his SS17 show – sent down the runway yesterday afternoon at London Collections: Men, and styled by Dazed creative director Robbie Spencer. “I was a scout when I was a kid. My mum was actually one of the leaders,” he laughed. “Scouts and Brownies are definitely in the family. It’s a very North London thing, I guess.”
He may have been returning to his boyhood in his references, but Green has certainly surpassed the throwaway of ‘young designer’. Now in his sixth season, after a somewhat accidental journey into fashion (when he started at Central Saint Martins, he planned to become a portrait painter), he’s gone from shocking the tabloids silly with his “bizarre plank hats” (AW13) to captivating the fashion industry with his cerebral inspirations and wearable, often utilitarian designs. Last month, he landed £150,000, winning the BFC/GQ designer menswear fund sponsored by Vertu, and this season saw a collaboration with runway soundtrack master Frédéric Sanchez.
“We’ve been looking at Scout scarves and boyhood adventure. I was a scout when I was a kid. My mum was actually one of the leaders” – Craig Green
Yesterday saw Green return to explore one of his ongoing fascinations: uniforms. In the past, he’s cited both religious clothing and workwear – his “Zen” inspired SS15 show, for example, drew comparisons to samurais and gurus and barefoot penitents. “You put on one uniform for an imagined spiritual purpose, and you put on another uniform for an actual functional purpose,” he said of this interest. “I love the idea that they have such similarities in them because they’re so utilitarian and sexless.” This season, his “uniform” contained quilted jackets and double-breasted blazers, deconstructed coats and hoods akin to those he designed for AW16. The collection’s Scout reference wasn’t a straightforward one (the designer recalls wearing his grey school trousers, a green shirt and “luminous green” scarf – none of which appeared). Instead it was an “exploration of colour,” with “dusky”, romantic shades undergoing an almost ceremonial dyeing process.
The show notes called the collection an “unchartered pilgrimage that drifts, swells and forges forward en masse” which might have been referring to something else Green has been thinking about recently: the river Ganges. While he’s previously cited traditional Chinese dress – namely in the wrap trousers of his SS15 collection – this season, he looked at Indian draping, and at images of people at the Asian river. He said he was interested in the simplest ways of making clothes and so, inspired by these images, draped cloth (the Scout scarves) onto the models bodies, tying them around the models waists and feeding them through so they fell down their legs like diaphanous skirts made from brilliantly coloured flags.
There was another reference too – one that, though different, is again consistent with Green’s fascination with uniform: rugby kit. “There's definitely a sports feeling,” he explains, “we started with rugby tops and we cut them up and put them back together.” These tops were cut from Indian-style textiles, cut up into segments and tied together with lace. This was a theme that ran throughout the collection, most notably in the Mackintosh coats, which – in brown, camel and black – will no doubt be best-sellers.
For while Green is creating inspiring and poetic work, he’s also set his mind on building a viable business. Today’s show came three weeks after he was awarded the BFC/GQ fund, which in addition to the cash, will see him gain 12 months of high-level mentoring. “I’m going to expand the team,” he says of his plans for the money. “I’m going to expand our core product range, develop our production and bring it to a higher quality level… We’re going to use it to put down the foundations and build a brand that lasts.”
“Some people might think I’m a political designer. But it’s more that I do what feels right, what my emotion is at the time” – Craig Green
Green is continuing to design in a way that feels right to him – something that has, thus far, proved highly successful. “Some people might think I’m a political designer,” he said, speaking on whether there was a message behind this collection. “But it’s more that I do what feels right, what my emotion is at the time.” As yesterday’s show proved, it’s Green’s ability to channel his emotion into clothing, to imbue romance into the utilitarian, that makes him one of menswear’s most captivating talents.