The designer opens up about his AW17 collection, presented yesterday at London Fashion Week Men’s
Craig Green doesn’t really like talking about what his work means and much prefers people to come up with their own interpretations. His workwear-informed clothes are honest and sincere, and every time his words about them approach something more analytical, he checks himself in a self-effacingly jolly way, worrying he’ll sound too “fruity and conceptual”.
It’s hard not to go into analytical mode when you watch his collections unfold, though, because they’re always loaded with meaning. Last night we were lost at sea with fishermen in sou’wester hats and quilting with life vest-like attachments on their backs, styled by Dazed’s creative director Robbie Spencer. It was a beautifully haunting show where Aleister Crowley’s ominous voice and folksy Martyn Bates reverberated on the soundtrack, overlaid with faint radar sounds searching the waters ahead. The vibe: Is there anybody out there?
“I was watching this programme about old fishermen that used to leave their family and loved ones and not come back for thirty years, and there was no way to communicate with them for that entire period of time,” Green said when we spoke a couple of days before his show. That sense of isolation was felt throughout: a dark and foreboding kind of poetry, with waves crashing all around and bottomless black waters below. It felt like a commentary on the modern condition. We have all these ways of communicating (and presenting an idealised version of our lives) but at the same time it’s breeding feelings of loneliness for many, of being lost and aimlessly drifting around while everyone else is seemingly barging ahead full steam.
We’re under pressure all the time and Green’s recurring themes around protection had taken him to old cast iron pressure-resistant diving suits, which were translated into soft, padded garments wrapped in oxygen tubes – comforting but eerie. The team had also been looking at uniforms. “We found this book of all these military and police uniforms and we showed it to someone and they said ‘oh, it’s like real men’. And we were like, what’s real men?!” he says, chuckling at that archaic notion of what ‘masculinity’ entails. “It’s that weird idea of the man as the hero.”
Green’s boys wear their insecurities or anxieties on their sleeve, quite literally wrapped in padding. Or bits of embroidered carpet picked up on their travels that were stitched together into oversize pieces. “Carpet people”, Green called them. “Basically a man as a walking carpet idea.” Not to walk all over, but definitely the antithesis to masculinity as the hard, assertive man.
“We found this book of all these military and police uniforms and we showed it to someone and they said ‘oh, it’s like real men’. And we were like, what’s real men?!” – Craig Green
Sci-fi – which might not be the first thing you think about in terms of Craig Green’s work – had been on his mind as well. “There’s something very sci-fi about (sea explorations) and I feel like everything sci-fi is based around something to do with the sea,” Green noted. Here it was the abstract and philosophical aspects of the genre that came through: ideas of the unknown, a voyage into unchartered territory – the kind of existential or semi-religious themes you find in Battlestar Galactica, The OA or Prometheus (coincidentally, Green has made costumes for the imminent Alien: Covenant).
“I was reading about people that have phobias of the sea and how they’re directly linked to people that have anxiety about not knowing things and fear of the unknown,” he said. As far as the great unknown goes, the future is probably one of the scariest things out there, science fiction or not. But there was a flicker of a lighthouse here in all the sea metaphors, at least in Green’s mind. “It’s the romantic idea of all of that rather than the pessimistic view of it.” Romance triumphing over pessimism and dread – it was a beautiful thought to start the menswear season on.