Carter Wagner, Creative Director at Cell Workout and graduate of Plymouth College of Art, has recently returned to London after exploring her career options. After having her garments featured in ELLE Slovenia and a short period working on a freelance basis in Germany, Carter is embarking on her next career step as the newly appointed role of Creative Director of Cell Workout.
Inspired by her maternal family to sew, mend and create, the physicality of working with her hands is a joy that Carter champions and found throughout her degree. Now working for a company that could be described as a social initiative, we catch up with the GFW18 alumni to hear more about what she has planned for the new Athleisure collection.
Which university did you attend, and what was the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I graduated from Plymouth College of Art last year, now being able to work in various fields of the fashion industry. I grew up with my mum and grandma making and mending clothes for me and my family and I always wanted to learn how to do it. Most people are completely alienated from the process of how a garment is made and under what circumstances. Being able to create something from beginning to end with my own hands is something I really appreciate. Doing an intense course like fashion also teaches you to work hard and believe in yourself and your ideas. Also sleep is overrated.
Graduate Fashion Week provides a platform for emerging fashion graduates to showcase their work regardless of the specific discipline. Which area of the industry have you chosen to pursue, and what informed this choice?
The fashion course at PCA is very extensive which gives students a good opportunity to explore most areas. I am a hands on person and enjoyed the physical making ( pattern cutting, sewing, toiling, fitting) part most of it. My graduate collection included a lot of tailoring techniques and I wanted to go towards working in menswear pattern cutting with a focus on coats, as they are my biggest passion. At the moment I am doing more design work which I didn’t plan on doing but I don’t feel restricted in any way and fully enjoy it.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey since showing at Graduate Fashion Week.
Just after Graduate Fashion Week I made a shirt for the London edition of the shirting project (shirting.si), a Slovenian based model to redefine garment ownership, which has just been published in ELLE Slovenia last month.
After that I met up with L.J.Flanders from ‘Cell Workout’ who attended GFW with Rowland Gee to find a designer for his Athleisure collection. I created a little portfolio of how I would see this collection and became the new designer. Because this is a start up business I worked freelance and moved back to Germany where I also applied for various jobs, interned with a german brand and looked into additional tailoring courses. But designing for Cell Workout was so much fun and I wanted to be more involved in the whole process so we tried to find a way to work closer together and five weeks ago I moved to London and can now proudly call myself Creative Director of Cell Workout.
How have you found life in the industry?
Getting your foot in the fashion industry is most of the time not easy due to unpaid internships or not enough experience which I think should be accessible to everyone regardless of their financial situation. I am very lucky to be in the position I am now and what I like about it most is that I not only get to do something I love doing but I can also make a difference.
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
Cell Workout came into being because LJ was in prison and wanted to channel his energy into fitness and studied to become a personal trainer. Having limited access to the gym and no internet there wasn’t a lot of information available which got him the idea to write a book about bodyweight training in a confined space upon his release. He initially self published the book and it has now been republished by Hoddor & Staugthon. LJ is now going back into prisons delivering workshops on how to use exercise for mental and physical health and is on its way to find trainers to employ and deliver these workshops. Being asked about the grey prison tracksuit a lot and meeting with Rowland Gee the idea of an athleisure collection was born. The collection is inspired by various things from in and around prison. Some of the garments will be produced in prison and the profit will go back into the enterprise to help more men and women trying to change their life.
Our future goal is to help prisoners with fitness, learning new skills and offering employment to prisoners and ex offenders, for them to be able to live a different live.
Where are you hoping to be in five years time?
In five years time I hope to run our own studio, employ ex-offenders who can deliver fitness workshops and work in the fashion studio, help prisoners learn new skills as well as provide them with employment, take on interns on a regular basis and have a team working full time on creating amazing collections that will have an impact on society.
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
Things do need to change and people have to start taking responsibility and think about their actions.We all love fashion so we need to find a way to stop exploitation, waste, fill the pay gaps, put more women in top positions, be more inclusive and think about what we can do as individuals and as designers. Universities should focus more on teaching students about current issues and offer a way to be better informed on things such as sourcing and production, As long as we all try to find better solutions we can start changing things.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this is admiration of your career-what advice would you give to students hoping to showcase this year?
Take every opportunity you get, be prepared, professional and stick around, You never know who’s there.
Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins