Sunday 28th December

| BY 10Magazine

Craig Green The Travelling Man

It’s seems strange to call a designer an “outsider” when they’re so popular with the fashion press. The wider media jumped on the opportunity to lampoon Craig Green’s first collection for autumn/winter 2013 with its clusters of wooden wreckage about the face. But those who actually know what they’re talking about, reflected more accurately on the fact that it was so hard to tear your eyes away from his creations, immediately labelling him the “one to watch”.

This “outsider” quality can by no means be applied to Green as a person. Having known him since I was 19, you could say I’m biased in this outlook, though I’d invite you to find a single interview in which he’s anything other than warm and brilliantly matter-of-fact. Including a SHOWstudio film in which he claims to be “rubbing his hands to blood” with nerves. What he does stand outside of – as his slight uncertainty in this setup attests – is a new social-media-fuelled age in which a designer’s own character is becoming as much of a selling point for their label as the actual clothes they create. Green’s practice is conducted behind closed doors with an intimate group of recurring collaborators. In their often backbreakingly determined collective effort, and propensity to dress the same, they reflect the major leitmotifs of community and uniform that continue to inform his collections. You might think that Green and I being friends makes the task of uncovering the reasons for these threads of interest an eyes-closed process. But with Green it’s clear these run deeper than the point of our first meeting at Central Saint Martins, to his upbringing in the suburbs of north London.

VINCENT LEVY: “Hi Craig. I’m interviewing you again. Are you bored of this yet?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yes very. Especially on a Sunday. No, it’s just a bit strange because we talk about everything anyway.”

VINCENT LEVY: “It’s probably quite strange for your family and friends to read about you more and more. I came across a film about you earlier. There was a massive projection of your face with a panel of people talking on top of it. It looked like a wake.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Haha.”

VINCENT LEVY: “So, how was your trip to Paris? I always think it’s a bit of a museum at first. You have to know people there for it to open up.”

CRAIG GREEN: “I’ve begun to love Paris because I go for work. I’d choose a work trip over a holiday these days. It’s boring just wondering around, going to restaurants.”

VINCENT LEVY: “You would rather work than have a holiday? That’s fucked up. I’m asking about travel, because I wondered how much coming from London, and the suburbs especially, has affected the designer you’ve become?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I suppose suburbia has got that kind of sombre, slightly strange, private emotion you might get in some of my work.”

VINCENT LEVY: “How would you describe where you grew up in Hendon?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Insular. Everyone knows everyone. There are people there who have known me since I was born there, and my mum since I was born there.  Actually, I found out recently that Adrian Joffe is from Hendon.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Shut up.”

CRAIG GREEN: “He’s from Brent Street. He went to the same school as me. How weird is that? We were chatting about it at London show ROOMS and realised. Hendon is funny. I do feel drawn to staying here in some way.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Aren’t people who grow up in suburbia, who are interested in art, design, music, whatever, usually wanting to go off in search of bigger and better things?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I’ve just always felt there are amazing things here, too. Maybe in a less-obvious way. Like, I really like Brent Cross Shopping Centre. It’s full of weirdos, but I quite like it.”

VINCENT LEVY: “When was it built? In the 1960s or 1970s?”

CRAIG GREEN: “My mum was born in 1959 and went there as a kid. I reckon 1970. It was the first indoor shopping centre in Europe, I think. It used to be countryside down there. My grandmother lived there and they kept chickens and cattle. It was basically farmland, and now it’s the motorway wrapping round Brent Cross. I don’t know why I find all these dull things so bloody interesting.”

VINCENT LEVY: “You grew up around builders. What’s your first memory of making something?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I remember my dad making a pond in the garden most clearly. He just dug a giant hole, put blue tarpaulin in and filled it with water. Then we went to a proper pond locally that had lily pads and frogspawn, and took things in a Tupperware box back to ours. Obviously it was just a muddy hole, and everything died. That was our fab pond in the garden, haha.”

VINCENT LEVY: “What is that weird suburban obsession with ponds and rockeries? And pretty places to bury your dead pets?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Haha.”

VINCENT LEVY: “But what’s your first memory of making something yourself?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I don’t remember the specifics. We used to do glass painting for no reason. Glittery things. I don’t know – weird Easter baskets and stuff.”

VINCENT LEVY: “What about costumes?”

CRAIG GREEN: “My mum made them all. I went as a rabbit once. I wore a grey leotard and I had a grey pair of tights on my bum stuffed with tissue, and then a pair of rabbit ears that she cut off one of these toys my sister used to collect. It looked terrifying. It looked like I was going running.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Haha! Stop talking about it, I can’t breathe. Let’s change the subject. What was your first experience of going outside Hendon?”

CRAIG GREEN: “When Princess Diana died we had to go to Kensington Gardens every evening and leave flowers.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Wow. What about when you were a teenager?”

CRAIG GREEN: “We always thought Camden was ‘central’. I’d go to the market with my family, then on weekends with friends. Then when I was 14 we used to go to club nights. Tuesdays and Fridays, Feet First at Camden Palace.”

VINCENT LEVY: “On a school night? Haha. So you went to school hungover?”

CRAIG GREEN: “No, I was 14 – it felt like we hadn’t had a drink.”

VINCENT LEVY: “You were a grunger then? That whole grunger thing was weird, because grunge had obviously existed years before us. Our older siblings had actually been grunge.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yes, we were called grunger more by other people in a derogatory way. I had a garage phase, too, but maybe I was just pretending to be cool.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Whose posters were on your walls?”

CRAIG GREEN: “People from Kerrang! magazine.”

VINCENT LEVY: “I gave Metal Hammer a go once, but it was too much for me. It had Cradle of Filth in it, and I felt a bit sick.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Way too much for me. I was into Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins and Placebo. Korn and stuff was as hard as it ever got.”

VINCENT LEVY: “What was your look?”

CRAIG GREEN: “First it was a weird home haircut and a really tight T-shirt with some kind of band on. Trousers that were”

VINCENT LEVY: “You always say ‘trah-sers’ instead of trousers. Very north London.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Trah-sers! Trah-sers that weren’t my size, usually belted beneath my bum, and a chain. My jeans were really dirty, and had drawings all over them. I’d wear weird bracelets I’d found, too. We used to call the jeans road sweepers. If it was raining you’d either get water halfway up your leg, or your legs would get dyed a different colour because they were dirt cheap. Criminal Damage or something.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Did you customise your school uniform?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yes. By the end of school, when I was a full-on ‘I’m an arty goth’, my bag was decorated with flames in Tipp-Ex and those screw-in metal spikes. It was so bad. And I had a phase of cutting thumbholes in the tops.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Someone explained to me how important uniform is at comprehensive schools. It puts everyone on a level playing field. On non-uniform days you’d realise because the poorer kids would either still be in their uniform, or get hassled all day because of what they were wearing.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yeah, I remember that. It was horrible.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Is part of your interest in uniform that kind of reassuring element?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yes, because it makes you feel like you belong. There are different levels to it, though, because that’s also quite scary – the idea that you should belong to something.”

VINCENT LEVY: “When did the idea of going to Central Saint Martins first come about?”

CRAIG GREEN: “There was someone in one of my A-level classes whose dad was a graphic designer and mentioned it. I didn’t have an idea of ‘art school’. I just thought you went to a university and picked fine art.”

VINCENT LEVY: “That’s interesting because so many people are so obsessed with going there, and from interview to actually attending, it’s like a battle from the get-go.”

CRAIG GREEN: “I remember people at the Foundation interview crying. It was like The X Factor or something. I look back and think I was very easily led, and very lucky. And then I tried for the Fashion BA and got in and was just like, ‘Oh.’ I remember asking someone whether I should opt out and do graphics the next year, and she told me I was fucking crazy. None of it was very planned at that stage.”

VINCENT LEVY: “When it came to applying for the BA, you made a dress for that charity thing.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Laced up and Licked Out? Haha.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Why the hell was it called that? I never went, but wasn’t it held in a pizza restaurant around the corner?”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yeah. I made that dress. I just put calico around my sister’s friend, wrapped her in gaffer tape and cut her out, and then ran a giant lace up the gap. I thought, ‘I can’t sew but I have gaffer tape and I can staple.’ At least I had the balls to try things, because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have done anything more.”

VINCENT LEVY: “It was all quite reactionary, because they tried to deter people from applying for Fashion, as it was so oversubscribed.”

CRAIG GREEN: “That was kind of my whole life in education, really. ‘You don’t think I can do it, and now I’m gonna do it times 100 and show you that I’m better than you think.’”

VINCENT LEVY: “Do you think people would assume you wouldn’t be able to do womenswear now?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I’m not sure. We were really focused on making textiles before, but now we’ve moved on in some way. It’s all about moving forward. I would like to prove that I can exist and be relevant in that field.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Can you see it in your head already? Developing?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I know the feeling of it.”

VINCENT LEVY: “You have less of a specific focus on an idea of masculinity now, anyway. Although they’re wearable menswear garments, it seems more about design itself than focusing on that maleness.

CRAIG GREEN: “The focus is on creating an exciting piece of design. The idea of masculinity felt right in the beginning, and then I was very focused on the idea of craft, and going against that whole digital-print thing. It’s not like these things are any less relevant to us any more, it’s just that it doesn’t need to be said so explicitly over and over.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Thinking about it now, there was a personal element of how you dressed as a teenager in the new collection. The shrunken top with the wide-legged trousers. There’s even the description ‘Cyberdog top’ on your sample-loans form, which is obviously where you used to go in Camden.”

CRAIG GREEN: “Yes, haha.”

VINCENT LEVY: “So is it safe to say the last collection was about your youth, and leaving that behind in some way?”

CRAIG GREEN: “It was about looking back on all those things I was surrounded by when I was younger. Travelling especially, which was most obvious with the Thailand trousers. When I first went to Thailand as a teenager I threw my shoes in the sea. I was drunk and announced that I never wanted to wear any ever again. And then the next day I was trying to walk through the town on the concrete with bits of glass stuck in my feet, feeling ridiculous. It was that ‘this is it’ feeling.”

VINCENT LEVY: “I always find the story of how you got the money to go travelling amazing. It has that ‘everything happens for a reason’ quality when you think in terms of the new show.”

CRAIG GREEN: “It’s almost embarrassing to say you’ve been travelling these days. I actually got burnt – but not that badly – in McDonald’s when I was a kid, and the money they gave me got put in a trust fund for when I was 18 to go travelling. My Mum drinks earl grey because she thinks she’s fab and difficult, and she always used to ask for hot water wherever we’d go as a kid, and have teabags in her handbag. Someone at McDonald’s gave her the water in a milkshake cup and it collapsed. I was kind of trapped in the middle of that semi circle seating they used to have. I just have this memory of standing up and screaming on a Saturday afternoon in the Colindale branch, and then being shoved in the sink at the back with the bags of frozen chips. I don’t have any scars, though.”

VINCENT LEVY: “Isn’t it weird to think that because of that you ended up in Thailand, and because of that you created a collection that made everyone cry at London Fashion Week?”

CRAIG GREEN: “I never thought of it like that. Haha.”

Photographer: Maria Ziegelboeck

www.craiggreen.com

By Vincent Levy