Encouraged by the discovery that the West's problematic relationship to clothing has a damaging environmental and social effect upon the rest of the world, Saskia Lenaerts began to design with a particular consciousness. Recognising the multi-cultural world in which we live, Saskia used her creative pursuits to explore the remnants of colonisation, otherness, the way in which we form our identity.
We caught up with the winner of the Considered Design Showcase Award sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin, to hear more about her plans for a masters degree, her conceptual influences and why winning was a surreal experience. With a determination to reject the current system of seasonal collections, Saskia plans to continue to create pieces that sit in the intersection between art and fashion, designing pieces that endure.
Firstly, a huge congratulations on winning at Graduate Fashion Week 2018! What award did you win?
How did it feel when your name was read out?
It was amazing, I was waiting backstage to go onstage to do the finale with the other finalist. Then they told me backstage that I had won and had to go onstage, accept the award and walk down the catwalk with the models. It was surreal and very unexpected and I felt a bit nervous to walk down the whole runway with the models.
Which university did you attend, and how do you think they prepared you for graduation?
I attended Kingston School of Art. I think at Kingston they are brilliant in finding your niche and helping you discover in what part of the fashion world your work fits. In that sense it prepares you very well for the next step. How to approach applying for jobs and what type of jobs suit you. The tutors go out of their way to support, help, advise and even at times contact industry on their personal time if they feel a certain student suits a certain company.
I was encouraged to apply for CSM MA which I did in February and received a place in May, so this is my next step, MA Menswear at Saint Martins.
Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work.
My graduate collection journey started when I read an article about certain East African countries wanting to ban the import of second hand clothing. I was shocked at the remaining effect our clothes have once we in the West discard them. This article led me to think about our world balance and the remnants of colonisation and decolonisation in Africa. During my research I stumbled upon a tribe from Namibia ‘ the Herero’ who today still wear Victorian style dresses and 1st world war military attire brought over by colonists and early missionaries. They wear these clothes with pride, partly as defiance against their at-the-time coloniser but have now chosen to make them part of their conscious current identity so no one will ever forget the horrors they lived.
My collection is my interpretation of these matters on, colonisation, otherness, identity forming etc and as I believe everyone in this world has become a hybrid in one way or another based on heritage and experiences. Every look in my collection is different in material, shape/silhouette and colour, although as a collection they are united as one. This is my message to the world, yes we are all different but we are united in these differences. As a woman from mixed cultural heritage, this really resonates with me and intrigued me how people form identities and how the consciously or subconsciously decide to take things on into their current identity.
What one thing would you recommend our readers do whilst at the event?
I would recommend to talk to the graduate students and ask them about their concepts and hear about their passion within the field, as they will be the future and their view might be very different than expected.
What do you plan to pursue now, and where do you hope to be in five years time?
I am going to pursue my MA at CSM. In five years time I’m not really sure yet. I want to discover on the MA, how I see my work in the industry and how it could become a commercial and sellable product. I don’t believe in producing different collection per year and I don’t believe in fast fashion. I want to create long lasting products and I believe my work will sit on the intersection between art and fashion. So in 5 years time I would love to have a brand, but what exactly that will entail I still need to discover, all I know is that it will be aimed for All Kind.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in first year, what would it be?
Not to overthink, and be to stressed about the future. Everything happens in its own time and when you are ready. Yes work hard but don’t be disheartened if it all doesn’t come fast enough. It’s about the journey and constantly learning, there is no finish and hence why your talents are limitless.
Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins