We get the lowdown on the latest H&M Design Award winner.
Having your work admired by the likes of Olivier Rousteing and Nick Knight is what young designers can only dream of. For RCA graduate Hannah Jinkins, this became a reality when she won H&M’s 2016 Design Award back in December. Her stapled garments and gender-fluid (yet body-aware) approach to tough fabrics won over the judges with Rousteing praising her “almost poetic, unique vision.”
As Hannah prepares for six months of solid work, we delved further into her collection and got her thoughts on fashion’s current gender obsession, the pressures on young designers and what success really feels like.
Firstly, congratulations on winning the H&M Design Award! How was the experience?
Thank you! The whole process was quite a whirlwind. Meeting all the other designers and hearing them talk was amazing and all the judges were incredibly kind. Having such influential people discussing your work, and something so personal as a graduate collection, was quite a surreal experience but there was such a positive and relaxed atmosphere. It was an incredible few days!
Tell us a bit more about the thoughts and processes behind your collection.
There’s a physicality to the process: cutting, draping and fitting on the body. I spent a lot of time experimenting with men’s workwear garments and new garments of ridiculous proportions.
My work seeks to reveal the beauty in things that have been used, damaged or broken. Through my research into denim and the culture surrounding it, I began looking at Japanese processes and mantras such as Boro and Wabi-Sabi, then exploring Kintsugi — the Japanese art of mending pottery using staples, glue and gold leaf.
The process behind the collection began as a ‘staple-to-fit’ tailoring method. Using both raw and treated denim, I took masculine shapes and rough materials and feminised them to create garments that play with ideas of spontaneity and happy accidents.
I love the term: ‘happy accident’. Why does the idea of spontaneity fascinate you?
Spontaneity allows us to express instinct. Sometimes we overthink design decisions and this can dilute the overall forms created. There’s an honesty in imperfection and I think the collection captures that. And working quickly and roughly is fun — I love going mad with my tools and then standing back and thinking, ‘Where did that come from?’
Your designs seem to throw out traditional gender codes. Is that a conscious decision or something that comes naturally?
The collection is created using traditionally male-oriented workwear shapes which are then adapted through fittings onto various female forms, so naturally it begins to discuss the concept of gender and the blurred line between them. I’ve always been interested how the formal ‘codes’ of gender can be manipulated and I’ll definitely continue to explore it.
So who is the ideal Hannah Jinkins person?
The ideal isn’t a specific person or tribe. I think anyone can wear my designs and it’s more about the way they make the wearer feel. Because of the oversized proportions and tough, rigid fabrics, the pieces create a sense of empowerment. Conversely, the ergonomic inner details provide comfort so the garments actually feel good to wear every day.
Could you see both genders wearing your pieces?
Absolutely. Since graduating, stylists have been borrowing the pieces and shooting them on both girls and boys and it definitely works for both. It’s interesting to see how others interpret the collection in this context.
The current big topic in fashion is time (or lack of it). Do you feel any pressures as a young designer?
I think the schedules for seasons can be a pressure, and deciding whether to show and where if you do is such a huge decision. I want to explore how it could work if you didn’t stick to the traditional seasons. Maybe that’s mad…
LN-CC have already stocked your designs. How does that feel?
When their buyer approached me at the RCA Showrooms, it was amazing… I don’t think I’d considered anything happening so immediately. Producing the collection on a larger scale was a challenge but also hugely educational and rewarding. LN-CC are hugely influential so it’s led to some amazing exposure and to have my graduate collection sat next to some of the labels I most admire is surreal.
What’s next for you?
For the next six months, I’ll be working closely with H&M on the collaboration. I met their design team just before Christmas and now I can’t wait to see some samples. As I mentioned before, everything happened so fast after the RCA so as well as the H&M stuff, I’ll be taking the time to build the label and work on other smaller projects. We’ve got a month-long research trip to Japan booked which will be a great opportunity to build some supplier relationships – and sample the world’s best sushi! We’re also discussing a possible collaborative collection with our first stockist over there. But that’s all top secret for now…
Words: Lauren Sharkey
Photography: Prexa Shrestha
Shoot Director: Dana Ali
Hair and Make up: Natalia Farnaus