Christopher O’Brien completed both his BA in womenswear and Masters in menswear at Central Saint Martins in London. Since graduating in 2011 he has been working for heritage brand E. Tautz as part of the design team whilst establishing his own eponymous label. O'Brien's crinkled, minimal wardrobe of well tailored staples unveiled as part of his final MA collection might have initially slipped under my blogging radar but it certainly caught the trained retail eye of John Skelton. Once his designs were bought and sold by the forward thinking concept store LN-CC this led to an approach by Fashion East, to appear as part of the hive of talent that is their menswear installations at London Fashion Week. On the Sunday before the madness of Menswear Day, we visited the design talent at his studio in Homerton to see just how his AW12 collection evolved from his accomplished MA...
"With regards to the MA, the main point of inspiration was a photo of some refugees in the paper, I just really liked the different layers they were wearing and it made me think about the way we wear clothes. When we put a jacket or coat on it often crinkles the garment under and I just wanted to look at bringing that effect to the top layer where you wouldn't expect it. I took it pretty extreme but as it was my MA collection with no restraints I figured it was a good time to push notions of what a man would wear."
Inspiration shots that remained from the MA collection.
"In terms of research for this collection, I didn't really add on the principles of my MA collection but instead focused on filling in the details, just changing the silhouettes and experimenting with the boundaries of layering. Working on the MA demands a singular focus so here I branched out. Both Lulu and Beth from Fashion East were really positive about my MA and given that I don't feel as though it is over saturated as it was only available at LN-CC, for AW12 I wanted to return to its themes and push it that bit more. Upon reflection, we felt it might be a bit more commercial for women so we introduced seven to eight womenswear looks. Simple, layered silhouettes."
A selection of found and archive images that inspired the developments for AW12
To help us see through the studio door and offer a real tease in to what AW12 has in store, I snapped away at O'Brien's wall of hand drawn sketches and fabric swatches...
"For me, the process is the honest side and it is great to be able to show it. I've never been previous about my work. As this collection is such a development of the previous one, so it is almost as if I have to talk back through the initial collection which was more a case of finding images, I'm completely random with my research, it is an amalgamation of ideas. I don't pick a theme, it is a just a case of collecting images that I like and it is almost the process of jigsawing them together to make it work somehow. Some might be images that will play no part in the collection, but I like it so it stays up on the mood wall for some reason. Once the images have been collated, I tend to write an overview of what I want the collection to be, an outline list that sketches out the collection. Once the structure is there, I then I move on to drawing before pattern cutting." Christopher O'Brien.
Today, as Christopher O'Brien sits at his kitchen table framed by a backdrop of his wall of inspiration one gets the sense we are the start of something quite special. "Everything has happened more of less at the same time" he confirms as he takes a sip of black coffee before continuing, "We bought the house just after Edie was born and we've been renovating it. Our move in date was the third of January and then it became our studio for AW12." Sat beside his young family, including the extremely cute Edie, it is impossible not to get the sense that the design talent is at the start of a special journey. A journey I'm excited to document, continuing tomorrow as I post the AW12 look book to complete the chapter for this season.