In a world of slickly-manufactured "brands" and designers who would rather be posting selfies on Instagram with celebrities rather than holing up in the workshop to work on a new collection, Craig Green has emerged as a welcome new talent in menswear. Trained as a fine artist, his eponymous collection launched in 2012 and has quickly become a favorite of discerning fashion editors and critics alike.
His designs are rooted in the utilitarian—with his exaggerated work jackets becoming one of his most popular pieces—but he uses proportion, material, and details like quilting and straps to add a wabi-sabi artisan appeal to otherwise humble garments. He's also a firm believer in the fashion show and campaign as a way to flesh out his vision. His Fall/Winter 2016 campaign was shot entirely with drones, and for Spring/Summer 2017, Green teamed up with British choreographer James Wilton for a haunting campaign with a surreal Renaissance aesthetic, often blurring the very clothes it features.
Perhaps Green's otherworldly aesthetic is why he was tapped to design the costumes for Ridley Scott's upcoming film, Alien Covenant, releasing May 19. Earlier this year, Green teased a few of his futuristic uniforms on his Instagram:
From the looks of it, the costumes hew closely to the designer's penchant for lace details, hard-wearing fabrics, quilting, and hoods that toe the line between religious sect and special forces trooper. But before the film hits theaters, we were able to catch the designer during a recent visit to Soho House Berlin, where he spoke on a panel about the current state of menswear.
He also debuted his latest collection via MR PORTER, which just hit the e-commerce retailer this week. After the panel, we caught up with Craig Green to talk about the influence of workwear in men's silhouettes, his keen eye for fabrications, and how more men are using clothes like his to express themselves through fashion.
How are you liking Berlin so far? It's your first time here.
It's my first time and I haven't left the hotel yet. I got here yesterday evening and ... I like the hotel very much and everyone seems very nice, but I haven't explored the city yet.
What are your initial observations about Berlin so far? Everyone's very nice. Everyone's very well dressed. Everyone's very relaxed, but I haven't left the hotel. I am having a lovely time in the hotel.
Menswear revolves a lot around reimagining the familiar. Your collections revolve a lot around reinterpreted workwear. How did you gravitate towards these types of silhouettes?
My family are all workmen, My dad is a plumber, my uncle's a carpenter, and my grandfather is an upholsterer. So when I grew up, I grew up around people making things, and that was all of my part-time jobs. After school, I used to go and pull apart sofas with my godfather. In the summer, I used to gut houses with my uncle, take out the bathrooms, and all of that kind of stuff. I was surrounded by workwear, people that did stuff with their hands, and always surrounded by materials.
My house was full of wood and metal and raw things. And that's why at the beginning, a lot of everything that we did was built out of wood. The first swing tack that we did was made of wood, before we realized that the wood was scratching the clothes. It seemed like a great idea—until all the clothes came back with holes in them.
Materials have always been a great part of your collections. You have the washed silks in Fall 2016, and quilting is always a big motif. How do you decide what to use for your clothing?
If there was a fabric that could explain the brand, it would be cotton. At the beginning, the first collections are made out of calico only. They were all washed calico. It was always that idea of using a fabric in its rawest form, and either washing it or quilting it, or constructing it in a certain way that made it valuable, rather than starting it in a valuable way. I think that comes from being a student, because when you're a student you have nothing, so it's amazing to be inventive with things that are very everyday for everybody.
I've noticed there are really two types of male dressers. The guys that have a uniform, who dress in a way that's sort of variations on the theme, and other men use fashion as a means of self-expression. How do you feel like your clothes appeal to both type of consumers for menswear?
It's those two parts of the soul of the brand, I guess. Half of the soul of the brand is an importance in creativity. An importance in new ideas and having a show, when a show should be a show, and, that kind of artistic energy. Then the other side of the brand, which is based around accessibility, and the romance in uniform. They kind of sit together.
We find that all the largest sizes of everything sell out first, which, from the stores, means that it's an older customer. You have a 50-year-old guy that's coming in and buying this jacket. That's very rare for a young brand, so it's something that should be celebrated—that we can have both.
As your collections have evolved, there's more of a global influence with the tapestries and the other patterns that you're also using. Can we expect to see more color and print moving forward?
In the beginning, the first show was all about shadows, and then the following shows were all about textile and print. The first one was tie-dye and it was all hand-done. The second one was hand-painting, so there has been that kind of print element from the beginning.
And then in reaction to that, we went really minimal. When we did Spring/Summer '15, we went with directly minimal silhouettes. Then in Spring/Summer 17, it was our first nod back to mixed color, pattern, and print. It just felt like the right thing to do. I'm not saying that it will always be that. We kind of go in waves. The collections are very reactionary. They're either in reaction to the season before or the year that we've had. We're kind of like: "Let's do something different now."
You've mentioned that menswear is designed within a frame, and you add these extra elements to really tell a story, such as straps or quilting. What's the narrative behind your design?
The workman jacket's something that's been there since the beginning. It informs all of our shapes. Even when we did a trench, it was a boxy trench; it wasn't a skinny fit trench. Every pattern is based from that pattern. Even the shirts, even the jumpers. They're all that boxy cut. The way that we play with ideas is we start with something very different each season. A different idea, or a different inspiration, and we use tradition and we twist it. Those straps that you talk of, there's always that idea of function.
My M.A. collection was about the relationship between religious wear and workwear, and that one was for spiritual function and one was for an actual every day function, but they're so similar in so many ways, and they have that kind of sexless energy as well, and those straps are the same. Some of them do things. Some of them cinch in your waist, some of them cinch in sleeves, some of them close things. Some of them just are comforting that they're there, or they look like cords that you'd pull to inflate a life vest, but it all comes from a romanticization of workwear.
There's also an element of quality to it. I have one of the nylon work jackets from Spring/Summer '16, and the belt got caught on an escalator at the Tate Modern.
Oh yeah, with the metal straps also on the collar. I always joke about that! Like with the straps, you're going to get them caught in a taxi.
Yeah, but only a belt loop popped. And with workwear, there's this make-and-mend appeal to it, so I actually just sewed it back myself.
That's part of the beauty of it though.
Exactly, it adds to it. But it shows there's also a certain quality to the clothing too.
Yeah, I feel like a bartack is such a beautiful thing. It's something that's put on garments to make them last forever. I love hard-wearing things, and I'm always trying to make things thicker and more sturdy. That's where the quilting comes in. The quilting, we get it done at a factory that makes mattresses, and that line stitch is the most basic stitching you can do on that machine, but there's something so beautiful about how basic it is.
In terms of workwear, I guess our aim is that if you have a workwear jacket it's a Craig Green one. Just like if you have a trench, you have a Burberry trench. That's why we have the creative shows and the creative expressions, and still want to exist as an important part of men's clothing.
Lastly, London Collections: Men is coming back up again, and you're one of the star designers of LC:M. What are your thoughts on the future of dedicated men's fashion weeks as integrated collections are becoming more prevalent?
It feels like it's been a great time for menswear since they started LC:M, which was my first season. LC:M began when I graduated, so I was very lucky that I got to have my whole journey with the beginning of LC:M. Since then, it feels like definitely menswear has changed.
There's a lot of excitement around menswear, and a lot of menswear brands. Even if you look at someone like Raf Simons, who is a menswear designer, and the things that he's done, and the places that he's been through his menswear brand vision.
Now he's in New York. It's sort of crazy.
Yeah, now he's in New York, so it's incredible. Menswear-dedicated fashion weeks are definitely something that I feel like are here to stay. Before that, in London, it must have been so hard. The menswear designers that existed a few years before me, they were showing in the womenswear schedule, but then selling their collection three months before Paris, and then showing it on the last day of women's Fashion Week in London, and it just never made sense.
A selection of Craig Green pieces are available now via MR PORTER, and limited to just one item per size. Take a look below:
Take a look at Craig Green's upcoming Fall/Winter 2017 collection in our review of his fashion show.
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