Where did you grow up? Where are you based now?
I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, and after spending three years at Northumbria University in Newcastle I moved back to Glasgow where I’m based now.
What was the first item of clothing you ever made?
A waistcoat inspired by art deco and Vivienne Westwood, for my design unit in higher art. It had a fan shape coming out of the front made of interfacing and hand-painted silk. It wasn’t good.
What was it like to study at Northumbria University?
The tutors were so helpful at Northumbria and would always make time for you when you needed help with anything. Their methods were good too. They would talk you through what to do and let you do it yourself, instead of just doing it for you, which is so important because that’s the only way you will learn anything. I chose Northumbria because aspects of the course appealed to me, like the option to choose an additional module such as knitting or printing for your final collection, and the industrial placement year to acquire some experience in the fashion industry, which is pretty essential after leaving uni.
Where do you start when you design a piece from scratch – what inspires you?
I look up things that have a collective vibe: for example, photography (usually quite dark), music, lyrics, film stills, art, photos of people that have a grungy, obscure, brooding and apathetic quality. I’m inspired by deconstructing clothes to make new silhouettes and cuts. I like using menswear for this, pieces like overcoats and suit jackets. I’ll place them on the mannequin back to front, upside down or inside out, pin the fabric in different ways and then just get cutting.
Can you tell us more about the designs you’ve entered for the Peek & Cloppenburg Designer for Tomorrow award?
I sent in photos of my graduate collection from last year. It’s an autumn/winter collection and is very dark, made up of only black, navy and grey. There’s very little skin exposed and the silhouettes are full and draped. I don’t want to make blatantly provocative clothing; it’s more the confident mood of the clothes that you get that from. The collection was inspired by a Tom Waits song called Heartattack and Vine. The gritty, apathetic mood of the song made me think of vagabonds and ramblers. I also had a quote in mind from the series Six Feet Under, paraphrasing philosopher Jean Baudrillard: ‘Every possible art form has already been explored and all that’s left is to deconstruct and play with the pieces.’ I then stumbled upon a poem by Tom Waits in which he lists derelict, drifter, vagabond, rambler, nomad. It all seemed to come together, creating an unstructured, lived-in aesthetic.
What did you think when you found out Stella McCartney would be one of the judges of the Designer for Tomorrow award?
I was so happy it was Stella McCartney because of the tailoring craftsmanship in her designs. I knew she’d be able to give me sound advice on where to go for my next looks for the show and I really value her opinion because she is such a prominent, successful designer.
What was it like to meet Stella McCartney?
I was a bit nervous but she was really chatty and down to earth. She didn’t act superior or anything like that so it was really easy to talk about my collection and she gave me her thoughts on where to go from there. She advised not to overcomplicate the design, so some pieces can stand out. Also, she said to stay true to your own design standpoint because it’s so important to know who you are in the industry.
Who do you think your biggest competition is?
The other finalists have such different aesthetics it’s difficult to choose who the one to beat is. It could be any one of us!
What are the top five things you’ll be bringing with you to survive Berlin Fashion Week?
Dry shampoo because I doubt I’ll have time to wash my hair every two days! Maybe flat shoes in case I have to run around, snacks to keep me going, gum because I don’t want coffee breath when I’m talking to people, and something with pockets or a bag to hold everything.
And, most importantly, will you be wearing one of your own creations on the night?
I started working on a jacket for myself a few months ago, so, yes, this is the perfect excuse to finish it.