With just one day to go before the official launch of the International Fashion Showcase, we spoke to Richard Malone whose graduate collection will be on show at In the Fold. He graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014, where he was awarded the prestigious LVMH Grand Prix scholarship. He's on ID2015 Instagram curation duty today so if you've been following our Instagram feed you'll have seen exclusive images from a new shoot on location in his native Wexford.
From drawing and image-making to film and performance, Richard Malone's sources exist outside of the fashion world, resulting in his own unique fashion language. Based in London but producing in Ireland is vital to Malone’s DNA. His hometown of Wexford seems an unlikely inspiration for his extreme tailoring but his environment is key to his unique direction. He draws upon visual references like school uniforms, work wear, hand-me-downs and religious dress which he merges together to form a ‘typical’ Irish identity. Inspired by the ordinary and the lack of vanity in daily dressing, he reinterprets this in his use of patchwork and embroidery. He mixes skills associated with old age couture, and materiality associated with the working classes. Sustainability underlies each design. His BA graduate collection from Central Saint Martins was sourced entirely from end of roll and unwanted fabrics and he aims to continue to avoid mass production and waste wherever possible, and refuses to compromise on production in favour of fast fashion.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in fashion?
For me it is a means of creating in the same way as sculpture or painting, and I found it hard to choose between the three in the beginning. It's really hard to explain the compulsion to want to create, but I think it is shared between all creative people across all disciplines. Fashion is really exciting because it deals directly with ideas of identity, memory and purpose, which I often explore in my own work. For me I've never seen fashion as just making garments, instead my approach is often cross disciplinary, and has included video work, live and public performance, as well as documenting and drawing. It encompasses all of the things I love to do and allows me to jump between projects and really explore what it is I'm hoping to create. I also love the pace of it, its constant and I really feel compelled to always be creating, which I love. I really enjoy it as contemporary fashion has such a broad spectrum today and it very exciting to be involved with this ever-changing language.
What advice would you have for someone interested in getting into fashion design?
Make sure it is for the right reasons. Fashion design isn't glamorous. It requires a serious amount of passion and it’s already incredibly over subscribed. I think to really make a success of it you need to embrace your own voice, don't try and be anything that you're not. If you have an idea in your head of the 'type' of designer you want to be or a design towards a specific brand I would stop and reconsider, those designers already exist and its not necessary to replicate. If you're in a room with 20 other designers and you look around and you all have the same message, then that’s a problem. Also work really hard, if you're not willing to work at it all day everyday you won't get very far.
What drives you, as a designer?
Creating an original language or narrative. I never search through old books or look at fashion for references for my collections, I prefer to get out there and experience, filming, interviewing, drawing, or just creating on the stand or fitting strange shapes on the body. My practice is really concerned with people, so it’s important that I speak with them, that I ask them about experiences, memories etc.
For me that is the key to originality. I think it’s important to know and to learn about histories or constructions, but having a fresh approach and taking a risk is always the most important part of the design process for me. I am from a very working class background, and spent a long time working on building sites as a laborer and decorator. So my approach to materials is always very different. As a result of my background I've always felt I've had to work very hard for everything. I despise the excesses of this Tumblr/Instagram culture, it makes everything incredibly generic and forgettable - where fashion is just an image to scan over, a reference, there is so much more to it, it is incredibly important to me that people experience the clothes, that they understand the narrative and the ideas.
I think the customer today is also a lot more educated on cut and finishing, they also want to know about the fabrication, where things are from etc. All of my collections are sustainably sourced and often made from end of roll and waste fabrics, it’s not something I go around shouting about but its a conscious decision I've made when establishing this brand. I learned a lot when my collection was in Brown Thomas last year. I went and met with customers and explained all of the processes with them, showing them sketches and research. They responded really well and I was inundated with orders. I think this experience is missing in contemporary fashion, where you meet the designer and have a piece made for you, something really special, a relationship between the designer and the client and an understanding of the underlying ideas of the clothes.
I hope the time of conspicuous consumption is coming to a close.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
That’s really hard to say. I'm inspired by everything and nothing. I would say people. Everyday people and things that many would consider mundane, I think we have a really interesting culture here in Ireland and that really inspires me, this constant flux of identity, of emigration, of 'Irishness', its really interesting as it seems to be constantly evolving but there are those ideals that we always see shared around the world as constructing this view of Ireland. I also just love to make, keeping my hands busy. There is also this sense of just looking at all of the generic things in the world, all the corporate stuff, the grey stuff and thinking 'fuck this, I have to put something creative and interesting out there'. It’s important to me to say something.
What do you think are the most stylish trends for SS15?
I honestly have no idea about trends. There are the very obvious ones like this awful 90s thing, and then it'll be the 00's and so on, its very predictable. I like to think that there are a lot of women out there who aren't concerned by trends, whose choices aren't dictated by what is 'cool'. I think 'cool' is an awful thing and can often be the death of anything creative. I also hate that there are these societal pressures to look a certain way every 6 months, its too much pressure to put on women, especially young girls. There are much more interesting things that we should be talking about.
Follow Richard on Twitter at @richard__malone and Instagram @richardmalone.
In the Fold is on view as part of IFS 2015 from 20th to 24th February: 10am to 6pm at the 3rd Floor Gallery, Brewer Street Car Park, 32 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0LA and is presented by ID2015 in collaboration with fashion exhibition partner Kildare Village, Ireland’s luxury shopping outlet destination.
For more see the IFS 2015 guide or take their Twitter tour on Friday 20th.
Words by Alex Calder.