A Designer To Watch: Richard Quinn
Everybody knows that those employed by Ten retain their youthful glow by feasting on the flesh of talented young things and consuming their powers. If you didn’t, well now you do. Haven’t you ever wondered why our visages are such continual visions of radiant health? Hence why London-born designer Richard Quinn should watch out, as he is both a) young and b) talented, first catching our vampiric gaze at the Central Saint Martins MA show in February. His gloriously maximal work, an intricate clash of fabrics and prints, where couture shapes are built up or dismantled to reveal face-covering bodysuits beneath, simultaneously delights and unsettles. Or, put simply in the words of our Editrix-in-Chief, Sophia (which always must be heeded) – “love, love, love”. At the show, we gasped. Now, we corner him up with him as he is set free on to the big wide world. Friends and family, if he doesn’t return, you know what happened…
What was it like growing up in London? I know that designing clothes wasn’t an immediate choice, but do you have any memories of fashion from your childhood?
I grew up in Eltham, south east London. A bit sketchy in parts but I loved it. I was always making things ever since I can remember, very much into painting and making things from Lego or Play Doh. I was always drawn to images and dreamlike films like Edward Scissorhands rather than actual fashion. It was more about things like the dramatic images of Tim Walker that really inspired me.
Talk to me about the process of creating – I read something about you spending ages picking out a specific colour of white for your BA collection. How important is the actual craft of creating clothes and fabrics?
I think having a genuine craft and skill to your clothing is vital. If I wanted prints I wanted to screenprint all of them, regardless of how many colours. You have this amazing access to facilities that are so expensive once you graduate so I really wanted to use them to their full potential and create beautifully crafted fabrics. I always start with an image or a mood I want my woman to embody then break down the steps to make it as creative and dark as possible.
I think recently everyone likes to call themselves a textile designer, which I think is ridiculous. Making a reflected image and digitally printing it on fabric is a bit insulting. There has to be a modernity to what you do, bring something new and exciting to fashion and textile or don’t bother. Theres more than enough naff clothes out there by the bucket load. If you want a certain green fabric, go and learn properly about dying and dye that exsact colour, respect the craft and the people you present your work to.
What do you think Central Saint Martins offered you? You were the first year on the Master to not study under Louise [Wilson] – what was it like working with Fabio [Piras]?
Saint Martins is really a place you can do anything, you are surrounded by like minded people that just want to create. You can be researching in the library and come across your tutors in a book in your specialist area, its just a really exciting place to develop. I think there is a real sense of history and the amazing legacy that Louise achieved in the studio from her team to the wall hangings of her office pin boards. Even when I was on the BA you would hear stories or see drama going on and to me that was just like what the fuck is that about, I want to get my teeth into that upstairs. With Fabio he really believed in the collection so it was great to have a dialog with someone who could push me and have informed opinions to make it the best it could be, his depth of knowledge is quite incredible.
Was womenswear something that you always gravitated towards? How would you describe the woman in this collection?
During my BA at Saint Martins I always felt I could show more of my world with womenswear, the attitude and the drama – for me theres more potential. The woman is very dark and unafraid; you wouldn’t want to cross her.
There’s a duality to your clothes – the feminine, then something stranger, weirder, unsettling. What was the inspiration?
I wanted the collection to have beautiful fabrics and very fashion shapes but with a dark undertone. I looked into the artist Paul Harris where he made upholstered figures in floral fabrics. Even though the figures were covered in quite familiar light floral they became very unsettling, I really wanted to capture that darkness.
What was the idea behind the masks and bodysuits? I love the eye and mouth holes – there seems to be something almost ritualistic about it, but then there’s something fetish-y when it’s on the black.
The body suits were really to eliminate the idea of the woman and make her this very sinister unsettling person that becomes the textile. There are some fetish references, even a gimp ball on the back of one of the jackets. I like how dark it becomes even with reassuring florals. It makes you push the fashion forward more in shape to achieve that image and mood.
What’s the “boys don’t cry” reference on the veil about?
In the pre-collection I had all these heartbreak quotes and lyrics scribbled in my hand righting across chokers and bags. They were really quite aggressive but it became a vanity project. I took a step back and got rid of them but the “boys don’t cry” made it through the final stages of styling. Nice to have one in there as theres more impact – even if I really couldn’t really care less about the person they are about now.
There seems to be a link to couture in both the shape of the clothes, but also this idea of a mass, excess of rich fabrics. What is it about these ideas of couture that draw you in?
I really hate fast fashion, everything about it. There is no skill or respect for the clothing. Couture is the highest form of fashion, and when you see a couture collection up close you see why. I think even the ideas are more thought out and allows a designer to present an actual world. The fabric and textile you produce you have a responsibility to get it right if its going on this amazing gown, it gets you excited to create.
Who are the designers that you admire? Or houses?
Jean Paul Gaultier in the nineties, Thierry Mugler in the eighties, Raf for Dior – they are people and times of fashion that I am inspired by. Sometimes not even about the clothes they made just that strong uncompromising point of view.
Since the collection I have had a few freelance projects I have been working through. Hopefully I’ll find a platform to show a new collection but I’m just seeing what comes along!
Photographs by Richard Quinn