Cutting edge: Meet the young designers offered a bursary by the power behind Louis Vuitton

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The students of Central Saint Martins are known internationally for their creative wit and ingenuity – and every year, LVMH, the world's leading power in luxury goods (including Louis Vuitton), offers three of them a bursary for the final year of their undergraduate degrees. In an industry driven by a thirst for the new, this scheme aims to nurture and support fledgling designer names. Harriet Walker meets the chosen few.

Tigran Avetisyan

When the designer's models stalked the catwalk wearing ripped and dishevelled toile and calico separates emblazoned with graffiti-ed slogans, there was a knowing ripple of amusement across the audience. Marching to a soundtrack of Pink Floyd's "We Don't Need No Education", the clothes were testament to the modern student existence – not the Bacchanalia it once was, but something much harder. 'Too much pressure', 'No jobs', 'Am I working safely?' were phrases Avetisyan, aged 23, chalked on to his garments.

"Apart from exhibiting your aesthetic taste, a collection has to reflect who you are socially and financially at a given moment," he says from Moscow, where he is currently working for Russian designer Vika Gazinskaya. "Sadly, the economic situation today makes young people anxious to admit they are students. But as a student, one can get away with things big fashion houses can't. It's about turning your disadvantages into advantages."

As the international recipient of LVMH's bursary scheme, Avetisyan was faced with even steeper fees than his home-student peers – but turned his own interpretations of rather precocious penury into a theme of his work, crafting simple workman-style jackets from the sorts of fabrics more usually seen as linings or even on the cutting-room floor.

Inspirations for shapes came also from graduation ceremonies gone by, in the flowing sack-backs of the tunics modelled on traditional academic robes and hoods worn by students. Outsized cuts recalled Victorian school smocks, as well as street urchin garb, while the dingy colour palette was not a little Soviet.

"The starting point was the anarchist film Zero de Conduite by Jean Vigo," Avetisyan explains. "It tells the story of schoolboys who decide to rebel against their repressive teachers. It made sense in the aftermath of cuts in education and student riots in London – there was a general feeling of angst as to what was going to happen next."

For Avetisyan, the next step is an MA course, although he aims to work in the industry for a while first – whether the influence of his rebellious collection on his consciousness or vice versa, he feels the need to be beyond the educational system for a while.

Jessica Mort

"Before my final year started, I got an e-mail from my tutor saying I had to come for an interview with Willie Walters [Central Saint Martins' head of womenswear] and a few members of staff from LVMH. I thought the interview went really badly, because I get really stuck for what to say and I'm not very good at articulating myself. But sometimes I do the worst interviews for internships, and they're actually the ones I get."

Print student Jessica Mort, aged 24, is as modest and unassuming as the clothes she engineered for her final-year collection. Made from a relatively inexpensive polyester fabric, the intricacy of her pieces belies their humble origins. Threads were deliberately snagged and teased out with tweezers byf hand; one swatch of about A3-size took one person an entire day to manipulate into the artfully-distressed finish.

"I started playing around with fabrics," she continues, "pulling the threads out, and I really liked the technique, so I created my own fabrics doing that. I study womenswear and print but I'm actually not very 'printy' – I'd say I'm more textiles."

Being awarded the LVMH bursary meant that Mort was able to give up her weekend job as a shopgirl at Aquascutum, which had seen her through hard times at university but had also eaten into the time she had for designing, pattern-cutting and the rest of her academic workload. She spent half her year in industry interning for the designers Christopher Kane and Diane von Fürstenberg, but then returned home to the Wirral and worked in a boutique for six months, in order to save for her final year and the collection she was about to embark upon. "I spent all that time working when I could have interned, looking back," she says, of the time before she knew she had won the LVMH scholarship.

But, rather than spend her windfall on luxurious fabrics, Mort still chose to work with her pulled polyester. "At Saint Martins, you don't have to buy expensive fabrics, and actually it's more interesting to see what you can do on a small budget. If you can make your cheap piece of fabric look better, there's something special about that really."

Jessica Mort's clothes are clinical in their austere cuts, but feminine and modern in their embellishments, which range from Op Art-esque prints to latticed and interlocking curlicues of sequins, beads and hardware. The frayed polyester takes on an aspect of flapper-ish fringing for a sci-fi era, and camo-print versions add dimension to flat-cut jackets and tops with long, flaring sleeves.

Mort is innovative and inventive; she also has a place on the renowned MA course at Central Saint Martins, which has birthed designers such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan under the watchful eye of tutor and mentor Louise Wilson. "As of yet, I can't afford to do it," admits Mort. "But I'm going to try and find some funding and take that place up in October."

"I'd love to have my own label," she adds. "At the graduation ceremony, Stella McCartney was also there to receive an award. To have even a fifth of the success she has had would be amazing. To see my own label in shops and have my own shows. I just thought 'Gosh, I'd love that'."

Oliver Ward

The 23-year-old’s graduate collection was a confection of frothed and frilled, heavily-constructed gowns. Full-length fishtail skirts, tiered, pleated and rippling tulle, and whorled silk embroidery recalled Pre-Raphaelite beauty and the Age of Decadence, while ostrich feathers and sharp shoulders spoke of a more structured, early-20th-century aesthetic.

“I was really lucky the year before I graduated to go and work for Dior,” explains Ward, from his home in Cheshire. “I worked on couture and they gave me a fair bit of responsibility – I was able to drape for them.”

Ward’s work is unashamedly opulent: his influences are near-cloyingly sweet and feminine (he cites Disney’s Fantasia as one inspiration) but undercut and infused with a knowing sense of showmanship that detracts from any overall Romanticism. For his final collection of his undergraduate career, Ward looked also to the 1945 film Ziegfeld Follies, the biggest musical of its day, which featured costumes inspired by the illustrator Erté.

“I got used to working with a certain standard of cloth and around people at that level,” he says sheepishly of interning at the Dior atelier. “The reality of when you come back and you haven’t got a team of 200 or a budget… It’s quite soul-destroying afterwards to make a dress on a budget of about £20.”

As one of this year’s recipients of the Grand Prix LVMH Scholarship, Ward has been helped immeasurably toward fulfilling his creative dreams. “It was a vast sum of money they gave me,” he continues. “It made me be able to do the best thing I could do. I felt quite down after my year in industry to think that I’d be limited in some ways, but it changed what was possible.”

A state school-educated student from outside the affluent south-east, Ward found Central Saint Martins inspiring but intimidating. His mother suffers from mental illness and was unable to support him herself. Tuition fees were high and textile budgets low, but Ward’s tastes always tended toward the fabulous and flamboyant – something he will be able to exploit in his new role in the workshop of New York red-carpet label, Marchesa.

“In London, there’s a lot of snobbery about reference points,” he explains. “And there are lots of people being overly pretentious about concept, so much so that at the end of the day, they’d designed something that wasn’t actually beautiful. But couture is important – for women to keep dreaming.”

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick