“Bally is a shoe company, so it’s all about a coat, long legs, and a shoe,” Bally Creative Director Michael Herz once said. So for this year’s collaboration between Bally and Central Saint Martins, he and his design partner, Graeme Fidler, asked CSM students to design a ready-to-wear coat, with a shirt and trouser. The winning designs will appear in select Bally stores for Fall-Winter 2012.
CSM student Alice Bastin designed a men’s cream leather coat bonded to navy melton for a subtle graphic effect. Its sleeves were anchored in front, rounded and slightly bent like the arms of a praying mantis. A thicker zip-front opening with guard, popper fastenings and internal pockets added to the coat’s functionality, while topstitching gave the coat a smooth, modern finish. Bastin – who worked at Celine for a year before the MA – also designed a poplin shirt with a big leather dart detail and trouser.
Distorted forms comprised the basis of Mei Lim Cooper’s ribbed women’s coat, which referenced the work of artist Angela de la Cruz. Laid flat, the coat is one series of squares with cutouts. But worn on the body, the coat acquires its own shape (it can be worn several ways). Cooper experimented further, combining leather with knitwear for a surface texture altogether new to Bally. A leather tee and square-leg trousers with strips of white leather completed the idea.
Muuse’s Sophia met up with the designers at the CSM campus to talk about what it’s like to design for a 160-year-old Swiss luxury brand:
Before you were both selected as finalists for the CSM x Bally collaboration, the Bally design team came in and looked at proposals from you and the rest of your peers. How did you feel when your designs were chosen?
MC: It felt really good because we [second-year masters students] were also working on our graduate collections, so we really needed time for that. It was a challenge to really push myself and to do something [new] within that time scale.
AB: I think it was much more exciting than anything. I think I was nervous [at the presentation] during London Fashion Week mainly because our MA Course Director Louise Wilson hadn’t seen it [laughs]. It was like: “What would she think of it?”
Tell me more about what followed. Were you two both involved with the production process thereafter?
MC: We were really involved, actually. We flew out to Italy, to the factory out there, which was amazing. And we did the fittings with Fidler. Both of the creative directors Herz and Fidler embraced our ideas, as did the design team, and helped us to move them forward.
Do you think it’s particularly difficult for young designers who don’t go through design schools to try to successfully launch his/her brand? Are these collaborations really necessary?
AB: Studying on the masters allows you to collaborate with designers and build a portfolio of different skills and pathways. To work with Fidler, Herz, the ready-to-wear designers, suppliers in Italy, visual merchandisers and PR has been a vast experience and insight into the brand and industry, which I think could only be a positive [experience] for anyone looking to start their own brand.
What do you feel you gained through the Bally collaboration?
MC: It was a great way to introduce us into the industry, to see how things work, the time scale of things and the amount of work that goes into it. Learning about the brand, the brand’s identity and how you could fit into the brand and accommodate your own work and ideas is really important if you want to work within one.
You said earlier that you would like to work for a brand upon graduating. Any design houses you have in mind?
MC: I’m just really open. The main thing is to find a team where I’ll be able to grow; that appreciates my work and vice versa.
Unlike Cooper, your graduation date isn’t for another year. But any future plans for you, Bastin?
AB: Oh, I want to move to Paris as soon as I graduate. I’m taking French lessons at the moment. I just want to go there straight away.