Menswear 2000

The Royal College of Art, traditional hunting-ground of talent scouts, holds its gala show tomorrow. Two graduates with surprisingly practical ideas are hoping to see them in production, courtesy of the Italian design house Ermenegildo Zegna. Tamsin Blanchard reports. Photograph by Nicola Kurtz

This week, another crop of talented young fashion hopefuls will graduate from the Royal College of Art. The gala show, held tomorrow night at the Roundhouse in Camden, is a fixture on the fashion calendar, attended each year by sponsors and prospective employers on the scent of new talent.

Over the past few weeks, the fashion studios at Kensington Gore have been a hunting-ground for the world's biggest names in fashion. Donna Karan, Gianfranco Ferre, Valentino and Levi's are just a few of the names who have sent talent scouts to weigh up the new prospects. Already, ex- RCA students, along with other British graduates from fashion BA courses, form the backbone of the international design teams, including Prada, Versace, Valentino and Gucci in Milan, and Calvin Klein and Donna Karan in New York.

Among the students showing on the catwalk are two finalists of a joint project set up by the International Wool Secretariat and the Italian menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna. James Spreckley, 23, and PJ Kim-Warren, 25, have been chosen as finalists. On top of their own degree collections, they have been working on a capsule collection that could go into production with Zegna as a new concept to take the brand, and men's clothing, into the 21st century. Both have come up with surprisingly realistic collections, with an eye on the existing Zegna customer - a professional working man with upwards of pounds 500 to spare on the price of a suit - and on future innovations in menswear design.

James Spreckley's collection was influenced by the face of a watch - the intricate construction of a tailored garment hidden, like the workings of a clock, behind a clean exterior. "I wanted to push the boundaries between tailoring and sportswear, but keeping in mind the customer who has to juggle family, social time and business. He will wear these clothes to represent an outer calm."

The collection uses traditional Zegna checks and suitings, but in a more unstructured, sporty way. When he graduated from a fashion degree at Ravensbourne two years ago, Spreckley did not have to worry about job hunting after accepting a place at the RCA. But after he leaves this week, he hopes to have a short break before employment. "My ideal job would be to use both tailoring and sportswear," he says. "I wouldn't mind being an anonymous designer for a big company for two or three years, because I want to learn about the business side of things." Eventually, he plans to set up on his own.

Like most of the graduates who will find work with a big company, Spreckley will probably go to work abroad, in Milan or New York. PJ Kim-Warren, who did her BA at Central Saint Martin's, says she is living on hope. "Jobs in fashion are like gold dust," she says. She would like to work abroad, as there simply are not the same opportunities for a menswear designer in London. As far as she can see, Katharine Hamnett is the only company producing exciting menswear in this country.

PJ Kim-Warren's collection for the family-run Italian label is called "2001 - No time for nostalgia". She has geared the collection around the man who will be working at home by the new millennium. "Comfort was the key to the whole concept," she says. There is a cocoon-like silhouette to her knitwear, which has polar fleece linings and padding between layers of wool. Trousers have zips, like track suit bottoms, so that the wearer can unfasten them in the comfort of his own home and zip them up again if he has to go out to a business meeting. PJ Kim-Warren thinks working practices will change, so that soon it will be the norm to be hooked up to a laptop and working from home. Her collection emphasises natural fibres and comfort, as a counterbalance to new technology.

Projects with companies in industry are increasingly encouraged at fashion colleges. They introduce students to the realities of designing a collection with a set market and customer in mind and give design companies such as Zegna a new perspective on their existing collections. As Gildo Zegna, president of the company, stresses: "We aim for a balance between continuity and innovation." The winner, who will be announced on Thursday night, will receive a placement with the label which will no doubt add a spark of fresh thought to the design team. After the project with Zegna, PJ Kim-Warren says, "I'd be happy to do some work with them, but I don't want to build up my hopes too much".

The RCA fashion show is open to the public tonight, 7.15pm for 8pm. Tickets cost pounds 10, to include a glass of champagne. For tickets, ring Margaret Manley (0171-590 4373) or buy a ticket on the door at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden Town, London NW1.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links