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randa kherba gradaute collection central saint martins
Randa Kherba gradaute collectionPhotography Stephane Yu

The Central Saint Martins grad pushing the technical boundaries of design

Randa Kherba followed up her final Alaskan festival-inspired collection with a video game-esque lookbook

For fledgeling designers, there are lots of different things that draw them to choose a career in fashion. For some, it might be the image-making side of things, while others excel in the hands-on, technical focus.

For Central Saint Martins menswear designer Randa Kherba, exploring different fabric techniques and treatments was what caught her attention. “I was more interested in doing product design at first, but when you look at the fabrics in my work, it’s very fabrication heavy rather than fabrics alone,” she explains to us.

After deciding to study menswear, Kherba worked on a project for Stone Island in her second year and was lucky enough to receive sponsorship from the brand for materials for her final collection. After showing at the school’s graduate show, Kherba has now released a lookbook inspired by Alaska’s Arctic Man festival – “an icy Burning Man, with less hippies,” she says. “It’s not such a serious collection.”

Following the release of her graduate lookbook, we speak to the designer about her time at Central Saint Martins and the work that went into her final collection.

What was your introduction into fashion?

Randa Kherba: I never really wanted to do fashion until I was halfway through my foundation at CSM, but it kind of was just a natural progression. I’d studied graphic design at A-Level and I was always into image-making and 3D; when you put all of that together it makes design. Menswear made the most sense to me because I was always doing sports growing up and wearing comfortable garments, so functionality played a big part in my understanding of clothing.

What were some of the most important things you learnt?

Randa Kherba: At CSM you either hate it or love it. This independence that you have, people say ‘oh, they don’t teach you’, but I think it’s the independence that I got out of it. You’re taught to focus on primary and real life and you’re supposed to go outside and see things to help you understand how to construct looks, so on my phone I have a massive album of candids of strangers. Being surrounded by really driven students and big characters is inspiring too. Independence is really what I got out of it, though.

What was the starting point for your final collection?

Randa Kherba: For this collection I was lucky enough to have been given fabric by Stone Island, so I used that fabric as a starting point. I created a treatment in second year when I had a project with Stone Island, and I wanted to find different ways of transforming it. You could dye it, make it transparent, make it crackle, there were so many things that were possible. So the starting point was fabrication and then I saw a documentary about an extreme sport festival in Alaska called Arctic Man, which inspired the idea of layering.

“I tried a load of new different techniques, but obviously it depends on the fabric. You could dye it, make it transparent, make it crackle, there were so many things that were possible” – Randa Kherba 

Having the fabric sponsorship from Stone Island must have alleviated some of the pressure?

Randa Kherba: 100 per cent. I’m from London and I’m broke. I have no money. I expected a few metres here and there, but my mum texted me a picture when it arrived and it was four long rolls – it was mental. It really helped money-wise, and the quality too. The fabric looked like frozen nylons, so even without the treatment it worked perfectly with the theme.

Can you tell us about some of the treatments? Were you already familiar with the techniques or did you learn as you went?

Randa Kherba: It was a bit of both. I tried a load of new different techniques, but obviously it depends on the fabric. If it’s woven, it sits on top and looks like raindrops, but that’s something I achieved back in the project I did with them two years ago. This was my opportunity to push it further and create different effects.

The treatments were painted on, the t-shirt that looked like it was frozen at the bottom was thermal reactive – even the treated bit. Even though it looks wet, it’s actually hard. It’s like a high gloss. Every garment was hand-dyed, and it was my first time doing that. The lime green colour gave me so much trouble, it’s the hardest colour to create. It was exciting though, because you never know what you’re going to get after.

Why was it important for you to try different techniques?

Randa Kherba: It’s really important not to limit yourself. It could look bad, but it’s all developing so you never know how it’ll turn out. For me, the whole process was design development. For some people it stops at toiling, and then they know what they’re going to create. In my case though, it wasn’t happy-go-lucky, but it was all about design and development, even up to sign-off.

What was your inspiration for the lookbook?

Randa Kherba: On the runway, it’s really hard to understand what it’s about. For the lookbook, this was my opportunity to make it as fun as possible, so I took inspiration from the snowboarding game SSX. It was a game from 2000 and it had a really trippy feeling. On the day of the shoot we used a green screen to create the effects. It was an opportunity to highlight the silhouettes and details in the looks, because it’s so hard to see on the catwalk. I just wanted to bring a sense of nostalgia and fun.

What are your plans for the future?

Randa Kherba: For now I’m really open to see where my work will take me, but I think I’m ready to get some experience in industry. In my spare time I’d like to collaborate with my friends, explore different techniques, but also I need to go get a job, make some money – I’m very realistic. I don’t think there’s any rush to start my own label. Maybe in the future, but I hope I learn much more in the industry, knowledge about the business side of things, or maybe I’ll do an MA.