Gareth Wrighton Answers 10 Questions In Anticipation of his Fashion East Debut
Photo by Carly Scott
When interviewing an emerging designer, the conversation always at some point touches on their education. “Where did you study fashion design?” is an inevitable question, usually followed up with something along the lines of “How formative was it?” Clothes have always played an integral role in Gareth Wrighton’s work, however unlike the majority of designers to pass through the Fashion East platform, the initiative’s newest addition to the AW19 line-up (joining Charlotte Knowles and Yuhan Wang) studied a BA at Central Saint Martins in Fashion Communication and Promotion rather than fashion design.
Eschewing a traditional final show or presentation, Wrighton showcased his final project as a video game he designed; aptly named The Maul. Set in and around a post-apocalyptically mall located in a parallel universe, playing as the main character you can explore a deserted dystopian shopping centre, whilst zombies modelled his collection. It was downloadable and playable, totally tongue-in-cheek computer game and criticism of the fashion system’s conspicuous consumption.
Since graduating in 2016 Wrighton has been assisting, shooting, refining his practice and exploring techniques for making clothes both in the digital realm and IRL. Coinciding with the final night of New York Fashion Week last September, Wrighton exhibited Soft Criminal a project created with stylist (and fellow FCP classmate) Ib Kamara and photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman at Red Hooks Labs in Brooklyn. The product of over a year’s work, the off-schedule show featured 22 looks handmade in Johannesburg alongside experimental styling and imagery. “As we were putting it all up I just got the bite to find an accessible garment within our weird costumes, and thats what I’ve been doing since,” explains Wrighton.
“I haven’t wanted to jump into something too quickly, but I think the time is right for me to keep up with what showing as a brand in London requires,” he continues. “I’ve seen first hand how some of London’s most exciting young talent has been given a boost by Fashion East, and they were generous enough to have me show with them.” In the approach to London Fashion Week, I sat down with the creative polymath to discuss knitting, Netflix and, of course, what we can expect from his first collection shown on-schedule with the support of Fashion East…
Helena Fletcher: On a scale of 1-10 how excited are you to join the Fashion East line-up?
Gareth Wrighton: errr TEN!
HF: How would you define your practice?
GW: I call it ‘touching in the age of touch screens.’ I’m really drawn to intimate, folk-y techniques like knitting and embroidery, and telling contemporary stories with them. When the world ends and the survivors are making their clothes out of the remnants we leave behind; what will that look like? How will they re-appropriate the weird objects we take for granted in that home-crafty capacity that I love.
HF: You’ve joined forces and worked on projects with an array of creatives from designer Charles Jeffrey to stylist Ib Kamara – how important is collaboration to you?
Collaboration is everything in this industry but also the works that I’m so proud of are seamless collaborations that just happen with friends. I’m a believer in zeitgeist, when you’re in the moment and you have that urge to make with the people around you; you’re all going along with it and don’t really know why but the image is inexplicably worth it. That mentality got me in some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve even seen a few hours outside of Johannesburg; this ‘job’ is a dream.
HF: How did you get into designing and who are you designing for?
GW: I come from a photographic, journalistic background; so I think I approach making a collection the way I would approach making a magazine, or a film, or even a video game. Like arranging pages of a shoot, I think the meaning of each garment and look is changed by the look that comes before and after it. It is a whole that should be absorbed as such; like a magazine and like a film. I am designing for anyone who likes my clothes and wants them.
HF: Where do you find your inspiration?
GW: Every project I sort of find myself taking on a new theme and giving it the Gareth treatment. There’s over riding themes and narratives but I like to immerse myself in a specific era and really dress it. I find that I often drop everything I did before, and start anew, but I like to think theres still that Wrighton bite within that remains recognisable; a twist of the knife if you will, something to keep you second guessing. I look a lot at how video game character designers imbue narrative into the clothes their avatars wear.
HF: What is it that appeals to you about knitting and knitwear?
GW: I am drawn to the intimacy of knitwear, it is long hard work to realise a fully formed garment but that garment is very forgiving and so so flattering. Tailoring can be so violent; slicing through textiles and stitching them together is brutal and often so wasteful; but with knit the textile is shaped as it is being made. There is no waste.
HF: What are you looking to explore in your work?
GW: I get really passionate and hung up about specific topics and I can’t relax until I’ve sort of exorcised those ideas through making with my hands. With Soft Criminal we were looking at levels of power, corruption, inherited wealth and new money; these are really current topics but in our parallel universe where the boys were corseted and people wore snakes as shoes, they take on another energy.
HF: How do you unwind after a stressful day?
GW: It is toxic but I’m never not working. My hobby is what I’m now hoping to make a living and build a brand out of; which I am very lucky for but knitting in particular is so time intensive that free time is a luxury. I’m looking for just something void of clothes and making altogether- swimming?
HF: Here at Ten we love a Netflix binge (Sophia and Garth are currently hooked on Marie Kondo). What TV series should we all be watching now and why?
GW: While I’m working I really just survive on a diet of The Thick of It and Veep re-runs. Anything where the writing is tight and everyones hurling abuse at each other I’m there.
What can we expect from your upcoming collection?
Chelsea Manning, Aileen Wuornos and Bob Dylan walk into a bar; a bad trip through Americana, from the dustbowl to the Super Bowl via Altamont. Godless America at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Gareth Wrighton will show his first collection with Fashion East at London Fashion Week on Sunday, 17th January 2018.
Soft Criminal by Gareth Wrighton, Ib Kamara and Kristen-Lee Moolman