Satyenkumar Patel was one of the big talents that caught the eye on the Central Saint Martins MA when he graduated in 2001. Resisting temptation to launch his own line he opted to further hone his talent and knowledge of the industry With a keen focus on tailoring and ready to wear, his first design position was on the mainline collection at Versace in Milan. After four seasons with the giant in the Italian capital, Satyen returned to London to consult with Ashish before going it alone. Using simply his first name, Satyenkumar's debut for AW06 was an accomplished combination of tailored casual wear fused with formal dressing, a modern hybrid for eccentric that formed the solid foundation of the brand aesthetic. He has since quietly gone about his business crafting covetable collections away from the glare of the machine. His mark is as sensitive as his cut and fabric play. Today, I wish more people were aware of his designs. So, as he prepares to unveil his AW12 collection in a presentation at The Convenience Store on Menswear Day, I visit the design talent to learn more about his design process.
Now, Satyenkumar customarily begins with a character. For SS12 he looked to the British explorer, Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in 1925 during an expedition to uncover Z and in the Autumn before he looked to the twisted world and minds of the graphically materialistic yuppie Patrick Bateman. For AW12 he was drawn to Oscar Wilde's creation, Dorian Gray.
Exploring Dorian Gray's themes of aestheticism, duplicity and indulgence, Satyenkumar collated a number of old portfolio images, editorials and artwork that helped him build up the man for the new season. Satyenkumar's portrait of the man. Over the weekend we dropped in his West London studio to talk through his methods and to take a close look at his latest sprawling mood board...
"At the start of the season I didn't want to begin with a book again but of course it did. It came from a quote that encapsulated everything that I was feeling. An idea of self vanity, male image, multiple personalities. It began as I watched Oliver Parker's The Picture of Dorian Gray during a sick day over Christmas, I actually fell asleep in the middle of it but I had seen enough for it to lead me to the book which I read intensely. It linked in to the mood I had, ultimately that of a guy that was in his own world, obsessed with himself. It just summed it up perfectly. In part, it follows on from the last Autumn/Winter collection that looked to Patrick Bateman but moves on to an entirely different kind of guy. Whereas the last collection was quite aggressive and hard, this one is much softer whilst still keeping that edge. I wanted it begin quite darkly so all of my inspiration images are black and white because I knew that I wanted to touch on colour that and didn't want the palette to be dictated by my mood imagery. So for colour, it all evolved from the idea of an oil slick in a puddle which then linked in to the idea of money, wealth and the big BP leak in to the ocean. I brought in wave textures, the stripes and wanted the collection to lead from oil slicks to moss and rock structures.
Normally, I am very regimented and I begin with fabric but this time I wanted to do the reverse, it grew from found images. I just went through my entire archives including images from my old Versace days in Milan and spent some time on a few blogs and tumblr to find additional images before linking things together. I enjoy the research aspect and for me it is so important to build up the boy. Ideas of repetition, submerged in water and this image of multiple personalities all shaped the inspiration of him, from the mood to the silhouette of pieces and looks. I was drawn to the idea of rollnecks and concealment came to the fore whereas previously I've often been more drawn to transparency and the essence of flesh, where it's been used in this collection it is much more subtle and double layered. Everything has to link in to the mood and fit in with how this person is, this follows through to the looks and how I design my pieces, it is always formed on tailoring where it is about cut and blending textures and colours."
A selection of inspiration finds that fed in to Satyenkumar's Portrait.
'Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, revealed himself'
Quote from 'The picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde.
"This is the first season that I've not touched print at all. I've previously been dictated by fabric, texture and colour which then ties in with the visuals from the research and the two combine but this time round it was focused on the body and the wearer. It goes back to the quote about which is about the artist drawing the sitter and the importance being on the artist and the sitter being the accident in the occasion. Ultimately, this collection goes back to me, the designer. Every time I design I think of the person, even though I don't follow trends I do follow the mood that is happening out there in terms of what people are wearing. It has to fit with the moment. Once the collection is made I eject myself of it and then it just becomes the name. Now I think it should be about me, the designer. I wanted it to be timeless which is why the colour has been stripped back. In all of the pieces the classic signatures of tailoring and fabric are there but they might be mashed up a bit…"
It should be about Satyenkumar this season. As fashion consumers and obsessives, we rarely get the opportunity to see anything other than the finished look but as bloggers we are always interested to understand how the designer's sketches become reality. To help us see through the studio door and offer a real tease in to what AW12 has in store, I snapped away at Satyen's hand drawn sketches and fabric swatches...
A selection of Satyen's technical drawings including fabric swatches.
As Satyenkumar sits in his studio and examines the collection he is visibly excited, itching to release his collections. "I'm excited to see the looks come together when I sit down with Jason (Hughes). The look book is being shot on Tuesday and will then be projected at the venue on Menswear Day and the full collection will be there as well so that it is tactile." I do hope this is the season that more people discover and ultimately fall in love with his work. The Convenience Store event offers the perfect opportunity...