Louise Wilson: The indelible legacy of a truly great educator
From Alexander McQueen to Mary Katrantzou, Wilson's tutelage was fundamental to moulding the current wave of London-educated designers
Louise Wilson OBE, the head of Central Saint Martins' MA course and the woman responsible for shaping the careers of so many of British fashion's stars, died in her sleep on Friday night. She was 52 years old.
I met Louise Wilson while a student at Central Saint Martins - but I wasn't taught by her. That was the first question anyone ever asked me when they found out I was a Central Saint Martins graduate: the latest was Diane Von Furstenberg.
I once interviewed Donna Karan, for whom Louise Wilson worked from 1997-1999. I say that, but amidst much PR-polished mumbo-jumbo Karan's words on Louise rang loud and true. "Oh, Louise didn't work for me: we worked for Louise!"
That was a reflection of Wilson's impressive presence, her iron will, her self-assurance and her strident opinions. In short, everything that made her a truly great educator. Wilson was to be feared, avoided, respected and adored. That was roughly the four steps her students went through.
Those adoring students shore up the fashion industry - not only the likes of Louis Vuitton's Kim Jones, or London's Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Jonathan Saunders or Richard Nicoll, but the countless others populating the design studios of houses from Alexander McQueen (another student) to Zara.
In characteristic Wilson fashion, she found fault with much that was written about that: "They always throw in that I taught Hussein - I didn't," she once said. "And then if they get that right, they throw in that I taught Giles. I didn't. But I did teach a lot of the others."
"The others" all agree that Wilson's tutelage was fundamental in moulding them as designers. In 2012, Wilson received the Isabella Blow award for Fashion Creator, recognising her role in shaping the current wave of London-educated designers leading the global fashion industry. Every one of them allotted her a front-row seat, acknowledging her essential role in their success. That success is Louise Wilson's formidable, indelible legacy.
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