Monday, 1 March 2010

Unpicking the seams of Menswear Day: Carolyn Massey AW10

Patterns on display at Massey's studio.

As we've said countless times in recent posts, Menswear Day was a huge success as the diversity of menswear design talent on show was both staggering and exciting. However, now that a few days days have past and countless show reports have been penned and posted across the online landscape some would like to draw a line under the day and move on. Not us. As much as we enjoyed the day itself we felt a definite need to learn more about our favourite collections by speaking to the designers themselves and by getting up close and personal to their designs. Catwalk shows are pure theatre and rarely fail to demonstrate the emotions and themes of the collections but most of the time, both of us are left wanting more. With this as our driving motivation, over the coming couple of weeks we will seek out the designs that caught our eye on that hectic, frantic day and take the odd time out with the designers and their creations. Given our well documented sartorial love affair with Carolyn Massey and the fact that she kicked off proceedings at the day itself, it is only fitting that we begin this series of posts with her.

Carolyn Massey's AW10 collection takes its inspiration from a body of military patterns sourced from an anonymous donor. A few leading critics have made a real point of Massey using this archive of pieces but after having a good nosey around her workspace last year it soon became clear that Massey is at her happiest when researching something she has found, so this comes as little surprise to us. By taking elements from pieces she has seen and found while combining them with her vision for menswear she create something new. For this collection the initial inspiration came from the patterns which were toiled and fitted them and edited into a more contemporary story. A darker military aesthetic is explored in union suits, flight suits and smocks released exclusively for Massey's research.

In addition to the delicate detailing and beautiful craftsmanship we have come to expect from the designer, this season sees the label diversify in to printing techniques. Massey developed a wonderfully deconstructed print based on Ray Johnson's postal art and worked with print designer, Sam Cotton to allow the print to repeat and fade and ultimately mirroring the 'lived in' military uniforms and the nostalgic feeling running throughout this collection. You might recall that when Carolyn recently went to Tokyo she kept an image diary for us and that one particular entry confessed her love for the Tokyo morning skyline. For the AW10 collection the muted hues of the Tokyo morning sunrise inspire the colour palette and echo the rose tinted, worn and faded feel to the prints perfectly. At the show itself we were particularly struck by the layered and textured styling of the looks and to achieve this Massey has continued to build and develop her accessories line, knitted hats and scarves were presented along with lavish knitted balaclavas. Also, this season saw her unveil her collaboration with Tabio, the Japanese sock specialist and Style Salvage favourite, which has seen her produce a stunning men's collection.

Armed with a bag full of pastries and our camera we met up with the designer on Sunday morning to both congratulate her on a wonderful show and to learn as much as we could about the collection. Be warned, the result is quite a meaty post but it's definitely worth the read as we talk to the designer about her inspirations, her love of knitwear and the collaboration with Tabio and her hopes for the future...

A rail of utter temptation; a tale of textures and prints.

Style Salvage: The collection is entitled Obsolete Prototype C53 and takes its inspiration from a body of military patterns sourced from an anonymous donor. Were the patterns themselves the starting point?
Carolyn Massey: My work is always a continuing work in progress, it grows and expands with each season but yes, it was this encounter with the donor... well, actually it's an organisation. Due to my passion for reviving things from the past and bringing them in to a more contemporary light they saw that and wanted to help me and hence the donation of the patterns. We started working on them really, really quickly, toiling them up and creating looks we could experiment with. Some were awful and I always think that you have to be extremely careful when you are looking backwards to go forwards. As I've not been going sixty years and don't have an archive of my own, I am drawing on a archive of what I know.

SS: Someone like Kim Jones for example, he has a huge archive to play with at Dunhill, do you look at him with a tint of envy in your eyes?
Carolyn Massey: Exactly, I would love to work for an old house one day and that would be the first thing that I would do. I don't understand how designers can ignore the past; I think you have to contextualise where you are in order to move forward. So, for this collection, we started toiling up very early, fitting them and looking at things and binning a few things and going from there.

One of the prints designed in collaboration with print designer Sam Cotton. Massey had been to see the Ray Johnston exhibition at the Raven Row gallery and was inspired to create postal prints. The faded nature of them is reflected in the silk twill.

SS: Did you find any interesting or novel garment constructions, like you did with the cape from AW09 (which was cut in one piece)?
Carolyn Massey: There were some really great things actually. There was a coat which had a sword pocket in the back- it was all about the positioning of everything, we discovered an ergonomic line of where you would draw your sword from.

SS: There was one coat in particular that both of us loved- the voluminous grey overcoat, was this the one?
Carolyn Massey: Yes, that was the one. For me, elements like the positioning of pockets and how that changes how you stand in a garment fascinate me.

One of the grey overcoats that we both fell head over heels for!

SS: This season sees you experiment and play with the silhouette. A lot of the looks see a teaming of relaxed and loose tops with tighter bottoms...
Carolyn Massey: I think it was more balanced in regard to the collection as a whole but in terms of the styling for the show that was definitely the case. I am quite bored of this straight up and down skinny thing and I think that we are evolving beyond that and are pushing things forward.

SS: There was evolved way of layering and a sense of the clothes being lived in and a richness of subtle textures...
Carolyn Massey: The aged and lived in look is something that I really love. It comes down from my interest of handing down garments from generation to generation. One of the first projects I did as a student was to make a suit out of one of my grandfather's and how the shapes of his body had changed the shape of the jacket. So that has always been fascinating to me.

Exquisite soft, romantic tailoring.

SS: The colour palette was inspired by the muted hues of the Tokyo morning skyline. Looking back at your Tokyo diary for us we can see a great example and can see how it translates quite beautifully in to the realised designs...
Carolyn Massey: Ha, I'm glad you remembered! Whenever I go I am just so jet lagged and this combined with excitement to be there means I am often awake at three in the morning and not able to sleep. I am always inspired by the landscape and I'm up sketching in the early hours. It is just so beautiful. The soft hues also translate to the fabrics used as well.

A quick glance at the ever expanding accessories line

SS: The textures for this season are so interesting. The Lurex jumpsuit is particularly amazing and such a statement piece.
Carolyn Massey: Well a lot of people have said that it would be great for the weekend. For me, when you are showing, you have to have pieces which are interesting and light hearted. You can take it all a bit too seriously, at the end of the day it is fashion and you should be making a statement. The model who wore that, Mathieu, was perfect. If you do those types of pieces you have to ensure that the casting is spot on.

SS: With each season you are building on your accessories line...
Carolyn Massey: Yes, we did a lot more knitwear and as you can see from the table, I love knitwear! I love working on accessories and have grown this side of the line over the last few seasons. I'm always quite obsessed with building up a silhouette around the neck with scarfs and around the head and this is something that we will continue.

Aw10 sees the second collaboration with her comrade and luxury men's jewellery designer, Hannah Martin. Hand crafted new medals and badges, these symbolic objects were given a lustrous patina for new life.

SS: This season sees the unveiling of your collaboration with Tabio. How did the collaboration arise and how happy with you with the results?
Carolyn Massey: It was amazing and I'm really pleased with it all. I started working with them a couple of seasons ago when I was just borrowing items from the shop. During my Tokyo travels I've been able to have meetings with them. They are brilliant because they are obsessed with quality of make and a huge product development section. I've always loved the brand. I proposed this to them and they were really up for it. They've never worked with designer in this way before, they have in house designers in Japan and this is the first time they've collaborated with an outside designer. So I did some designs and set them off and they looked at them and they were like "wow!" I can't wait to see them on sale!

The fruits of Massey's collaboration with Tabio.

SS: Congratulations are in order, we've only just heard the news that you've been awarded Unica's On Stage project! Well done! What can you tell us about the award?
Carolyn Massey: Thank you! I am so pleased and honoured. It was awarded by a panel of people including Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani, and Pier Luigi Piana, Chairman of Unica. Every season they select ten designers to receive the award which involves a trip to Milan where you will be able to meet with the mills and select your fabrics and work alongside the mills. I feel so honoured because not only is it awarded internationally but across women's and men's as well. It is such a lovely thing to do so I am extremely pleased.

SS: What can we expect from Carolyn Massey over the coming seasons?
Carolyn Massey: I'd really like to build on the success of what I do with Topman and the collaborative projects that I do by working with companies that I love. The collaboration with Topman seems to be going really well. When my sales are high I am always so inspired and it pushes me forward, I am quite driven by sales really because then I know I'm doing the right thing. The bottom line of all of this is sales. It is brilliant to do catwalk shows but the real boost comes from success on the shop floor. At the end of the day we are designing for people out there. I got really excited by one of the looks in the show because it felt as though it had come 360, I tend to be inspired by the people I meet or the guys I see on the street through people watching and one of the looks is genius because I can see it walking down the streets in Hackney. For me, it is a complete validation of what I am doing, it comes from there and will go back there.
For those eager to get their hands on a piece of Carolyn Massey we have news of a Sample Sale Spectacular. We missed out on the last one but were told tales of absolute bargains, so if you are in town over the next coming days, we suggest you swing by and take a look for yourself...


Matthew Spade said...

a really nice read, so good to hear about her influences, inspirations and general chit chat. and i did read it all!

CM seems to be coming on now and getting alot of well deserved exposure, i look forward to adding some of the new socks to my collection too

the collection looks so so much better up close, make me appreciate the palette and fabrics so much more.

Matthew Spade said...

and ps, shame i wasnt down south when the sample sale was happening! grrr


i absolutely LOVE the color palette in this collection! actually, I love this collection. It's edgy, but there is such an ease and a visible comfort...a perfect marriage for the modern man.

~ Joseph

Anna said...

I love the dreamyness of the color palette, and that rack of all the textures and sleeve silhouettes makes me drool..


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