Wonderland.

New Threads: Grace Lant

Grace Lant is the Central St Martins knitwear graduate making football culture cool.

After seemingly endless all-nighters and hard work during her time at Central St Martins, (and probably a lot of blood, sweat and tears too) Lant emerged with a knitwear collection fit for both icy, sub-zero arctic explorations and standing on the sidelines of a football match, where the rain is lashing down and all you want to do is get inside the pub. Her exploration of knitwear allowed her to explore the technical aspects of garment construction; prior to starting at CSM, she had barely even picked up a sewing needle, let alone thought she could weave intricate knits that would shield you from the biggest of storms; how times have changed.

Inspired by black and white photography and it’s ability to capture tradition and emotion (colour images just don’t cut it), Lant created a colour palette that forms a light to dark gradient, with her beige tones (which came about as a result of using liquid latex) slotting in between the charcoals, bright whites and the accents of postbox red and bright blue. A minimal colour palette does not mean a minimal collection; Lant’s mantra seems to be more layers is always more.

Looking at the football subculture she grew up with and the laddy group mentality of football fans, Lant’s graduate collection lookbook video, titled “United”, features a group of girls are dressed head to toe in Lant’s designs (with her shoe collaboration with Underground on foot), mimicking the laddish behaviour of middle aged men watching football at the pub. Soundtracked by Town Called Malice by The Jam, the video is equal parts 1994 football match fever, This Is England, and high fashion; Lant got it so right.

What’s your earliest fashion memory?

I remember from a young age I was quite adamant on choosing what I wanted to wear, I definitely came up with some questionable outfits. I really liked purple; one of my favourite top for ages was a purple cord vest with a butterfly hologram on it.

Why did you choose to study knitwear design over normal womenswear design?

Firstly, I like designing both men’s and women’s wear it took me a long time to decide between the two for my final collection, choosing knit allowed me to explore both. Secondly my designs have always started with textiles, throughout school I developed a love for print; digital, screen, applique and embroidery were all incorporated into the work I did. Honestly I always thought I was a print girl until my foundation tutor suggested knit. It ended up being the perfect fit, I have really enjoyed the technical aspect of it, making my own fabrics from scratch and the nature of the textiles suits the aesthetic I’ve developed over the course. Having said that I often find myself going back to print and finding ways of incorporating it with knit, the combination of the two disciplines played a big part in my final collection.

What was your Central St Martins experience like?

I’ve been living the dream for the past five years. Although there were countless all nighters weeks of stress before deadlines, moments when I really questioned whether I was good enough and if it was really wanted to do with my life, I think these things are experienced by the vast majority of fashion students at CSM and are all part of the developing process. Looking back now at the people I’ve met and grown to love dearly, the things I have achieved and how much I have improved as a designer and a person because of these challenges, I wouldn’t change it.

How do you feel you’ve grown as a designer since you started at Central St Martins?

Oh god I’ve just improved so so much. At the beginning of first year I could hardly sew, I’d never even seen a knit machine let alone use one and I hadn’t a clue how to pattern cut. First and second year were a mixture of mistakes and successes a wide variety of projects allowed us to explore different aspects of fashion, I was never really happy with any final outcome. It wasn’t until my year out I ‘found my style’ so to speak. It gave me a chance to step away from my work and evaluate it with a clear mind from a more professional perspective suddenly what I liked and didn’t like became very clear I think that was a big turning point for me.

Your graduate collection was the perfect collection for someone braving Arctic conditions – what was the starting point for the collection?

My starting point was English football. All my family are from Newcastle, which is a really big football city and my dad is a footballer, so growing up supporting Newcastle was just a given. Going to watch them live for the first time was one of most memorable life experiences, the atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. 30,000 people from all walks of life coming together as equals to support one team every weekend is a powerful thing! Anyway I started doing some research in the library, I always like to use photography as a starting point for inspiration and I was really lucky to find a couple of great books documenting football and its fans in the 60’s/70’s in England. The photos really conveyed the traditional values of football that I admire and wanted to reflect in my designs. Sometimes everything just clicks. As for the Artic wear, if anyone has been to a football game in the north of England in the heart of winter it wouldn’t be a stretch to describe it as freezing. I wanted to emulate everyone wrapping up to support their team the oversized aspect also came from me wearing my dad’s old football shirts and jackets.

Your colour scheme has a lot of icy grey, black, pale beige and white – what is it about these tones that drew you to creating a minimal colour palette?

Most of the photos in my research are black and white. There’s something about black and white images; the tradition and emotion conveyed that coloured photos lack. I wanted my collection to have that element for me using wool added to the traditional aspect so I started collection wool in black white and every shade of grey in between, I experimented a lot with mixing different shades together and when you felt them they sort of merge creating that tonal effect. I wanted each look to be different though so I came up with a light to dark gradient, that’s why one looks is mostly white and pale grey, and one look is black and charcoal, the others slot in in between. The beige evolved with my textiles development it happened naturally when I used liquid latex to coat the wool.

What’s your design process like – do you meticulously plan every detail? Or do you let ideas flow and take you down paths you hadn’t thought of?

I am very organised in terms of time management and sticking to a schedule. But when it comes to design I am the opposite to controlling. It’s the nature of knitwear that things turn out differently to how you’ve designed and toiled them once you start making it in the actual textiles, and you come across technical bumps in the road therefore it is important to be flexible and problem solve as you go along. A lot of the time as well I’ll be knitting something on the machine and come up with a really cool idea that I hadn’t thought of before so I just add it in.

You were sponsored by Underground, UPW and Knoll, amongst others. How did their sponsorship help your collection and how were they involved?

I decided on my colour scheme and the yarn fibres I wanted to use very early in the design process, therefore I also knew I couldn’t afford to make what I wanted to (lambs wool, merino wool and cashmere are very expensive) the obvious answer was getting the materials sponsored. I emailed about fifteen yarn companies who had the stock I wanted explaining my collection, hoping just one of them agreed to help. I was amazed with the response and ended up being able to choose from endless fibers, yarn counts, and shades of grey. And I was given more then enough of amazing quality yarn to produce my collection. To be in a position where you don’t have to worry financially really gives you creative freedom, I wasn’t worried about making mistakes or trying new things. I really wanted my own shoes. I knew I wanted them to be classic, leather and very professional to bring all the textiles of the clothes together. I’ve liked Underground for a while and am a fan of their English subculture inspiration, so I emailed them with my designs and research asking to collaborate and they agreed. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot about shoe design.

Talk us through the idea behind your lookbook and collection video? The location and soundtrack have a lot of British subculture references.

A photoshoot or film in my eyes is an opportunity to convey their personality and inspiration of the collection that doesn’t always come across and the catwalk. Having such male orientated inspiration and then making it women’s wear I thought it would be funny to bring it back. The idea behind the shoot is six cool London girls mimicking middle aged men going to watch the game at their local on Saturday afternoon. The Queen’s Head Limehouse is a real gem of a traditional English pub and was the perfect place to shoot it.

Do you feel that the fashion industry is welcoming of graduate/up and coming designers?

I’ve only been finished for about a month so I don’t feel I can answer that with conviction, but I get the general feeling that there is support from the big fashioning bodies out there and they are keen to embrace new talent after all we are the future of the industry. Like anything it is competitive and I fully expect and am prepared to face rejection while I’m finding my way.

You’ve done internships at two very different brands: Alexander McQueen and Shrimps – what was the experience like?

As previously mentioned that year working in industry was so important to me growing as a designer. You really get thrown in the deep and and learn so quickly. I was lucky to experience two very different companies giving me a bigger perspective on the industry and what’s required to make it successful. I learnt things in everything from research to production, you become aware of all the different roles and how much it takes to complete a collection in a very short time frame.

So, what’s next for you?

I want to learn as much as I can, work for different companies and live in different places for the next few years. I then want to apply what I’ve learnt in a masters and see where that takes me.

Fashion
Grace Lant
Video Director
Sam Bassett
Producer
Dylan Flowers
Set Design and Art Direction
Georgia Coleman and Hannah Meri Williams
DOP and Edit
Sam Bassett
1st AC
Dylan Flowers
2nd AC
Phoebe Willison
Hair and Makeup
Hattie Leviston and Yasmin Walsh Munro
Colour
Nedeem Al-Astrabadi
Shoes
Underground
Words
Annabel Lunnon
New Threads: Grace Lant

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