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Saul Nash is the Fashion East-approved designer fusing fashion and dance

The Royal College of Art graduate just made his runway debut at London Fashion Week Men’s, presenting his SS20 collection under the Lulu Kennedy’s initiative

As a longtime hub of young, creative talent, London is going through something of a transformation at the moment with a new guard of diverse designers emerging.

With each bringing their own unique perspective, the event showcases everything from the exciting energy of Nigeria seen via Mowalola’s high-octane shows, to the quiet yet impactful poignance of Paria Farzaneh’s Iranian-inspired offerings. Priya Ahluwalia and Dazed 100er Bianca Saunders are others proposing their own stories too.

The latest name to join this diverse line-up is Saul Nash. After graduating from the Royal College of Art’s MA Menswear course in 2018, the designer made his LFWM debut with an intimate presentation last season. Now, he’s back again for SS20, this time making his runway debut under Fashion East. “I’m such a big fan of Fashion East and what they do and it’s been such a pleasure to work with them this season,” Nash tells us.

Since making appearing at the RCA’s graduate show last year, Nash has been putting forward an offering that fuses the worlds of dance and fashion – two longtime passions of his, which he initially struggled to find a way to combine before starting university. “It was really a journey and a process that led up to when I finished my MA,” he explains.

For his first ever show, the designer faced the challenge of bringing the dance element to a fashion show – something guests were greeted with upon entering the showspace. As editors shuffled down to find their seats, the models meandered across the runway, moving fluidly and interacting with one another. When the show started they disappeared, before emerging back onto the runway, breaking away from the expected sashaying up and down to show you exactly how the clothes could move. 

The collection itself continued the designer’s exploration of streetwear and featured skintight vests with detachable sleeves, and trousers with pockets that opened to reveal mesh-covered skin underneath – all injected with a bright aqua colour picked especially for SS20. 

Here, we speak with the designer following his show on working with Fashion East, his ongoing relationship with dance, and what you can expect next.

How did you first get into your creative pursuits?

Saul Nash: I’ve been dancing for a while now and at the time I was prepared to go to university, but I had this fight between dance and art and design. My teachers would fight like ‘I want you to come to my dance summer school’ or ‘I want you to come to my art summer school’.

One is so much about the body, you cannot really draw it or write it down on paper. It’s so organic, it’s about the moment and when it happens. The other one is kind of focusing on visual aesthetics, which you put down on paper and it remains on the paper. So they work very differently.

Did you ever feel like you had to make a choice to pursue one over the other?

Saul Nash: I was searching for a way to incorporate the two, which led me to study Performance Design & Practise at Central Saint Martins. That was a course where you could do absolutely anything, as long as there was a performance at the end of it. During the time, I could dabble in costumes, film, set design, installations – it was fulfilling. At the same time, I could use my background as a dancer. I never stopped dancing, and up to today I’m still a dancer.

I totally understand that each side of what I do has its own history and industry. But I think there’s a space for both of them, even though they work very differently. For example, creating a performance for a theatre, it has its place but it is all about its narrative and concept within the theatre. Fashion does go beyond that because then you move into selling the clothes. Branding is beyond the performance space. I’m totally aware of the differences in the industries but the approach stays the same.

What advice would you give to people who feel like they have to make a choice between multiple creative pursuits?

Saul Nash: Honesty with yourself is the key part of figuring it out. You can’t try to force something, you just have to let it be what it is. When you’re able to do that for yourself, the work will become the most true to you. Now, for me, they don’t feel like two separate things – they feel like the same thing.

How important are initiatives like Fashion East at supporting upcoming talents?

Saul Nash: London is a difficult space to navigate as a designer. Things are expensive here and I feel like London, for me, equals work. I wouldn’t want to call it a hustle but you have to keep going and moving constantly, so it’s very nice to have platforms that support young people through that kind of journey. It’s not the easiest journey to be a designer, it takes a lot of work and it’s nice to have people you can speak to who can offer advice. It’s very important for young designers.

How does it feel to be part of a new diverse frontier of young designers showing in London?

Saul Nash: It’s important that everyone is represented and there should be a space where everyone can say what they want to say. There should be a spectrum of different designers because London is such an eclectic place – it’s important to hear a well-rounded opinion.

For me, it’s important for people to receive my work but it’s more about my story as opposed to my colour. I’m still very proud of that though because I know it can show many people that the landscape is shifting and changing. There’s space for everybody, which is beautiful. I like the idea that by me moving forward it could show that many others can also do similar things, but I hope one day it doesn’t necessarily have to be a topic. Instead, it’s just something that is.

“It’s important for people to perceive my work but it’s more about my story as opposed to my colour. I’m still proud of that though because I know it can show many people that the landscape is shifting and changing” – Saul Nash 

What motivates you to work in such a difficult industry?

Saul Nash: It motivates me to do proud the people who motivate me to move forward. I do it for myself but I also do it for the people who help me along the way. I always think about buying my mum a house, if I’m honest. That’s all I’m thinking about: ‘one day, I’ll buy my mum a house’.

What were some of the things that inspired the man this season?  

Saul Nash: You have to see the show to understand, but I was very insistent on pushing the brand forward as it is. There was so much room for development, even in the technical application. It was more about pushing and refining it as opposed to shutting one door and moving on to the next.

My work will always be a continuation. I see it as an investigation that is always evolving. For me, it’s key to always create new experiments for myself. I work to evolve in the story of my brand as a whole.

How do you hope to continue to grow with Fashion East and beyond?

Saul Nash: Right now is only the foundation of what I’m trying to build; I hope to see the brand expand. I would love to do projects with other companies, I’m very open to the directions the brand can go in. It’s still quite an early stage, but I would also love to do a lot more things in dance or have the space to do it. I mean, there are so many things I would love to do.