Opening the Central Saint Martins graduate show with 15 models marching grumpily to Iggy Azealea’s Fancy, Wexford native Richard Malone has won universal praise for his gutsy collection based on post-recession teenagers. He has been featured in Vogue, Love, and Dazed & Confused, won coveted LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship and the Deutsche Bank Award, and exhibited in the Brown Thomas Irish Designers Create pop-up. Totally Dublin caught up with him before he headed back to his Dad’s shed to produce his next collection.
Talk us through the inspiration behind your graduate collection.
After working in Paris on my internship year out, I didn’t want to go straight back to the chaos of London, so I decided to come home to Wexford to start my research project for final year. I began by filming the town and where I used to go drinking when I was a teenager. There were all of these really grumpy teenagers wearing their uniforms all wrong, like they really didn’t care about them; wearing them too big or too small or all squashed. Girls putting zip-up hoodies under their jumpers just to annoy the teachers and I really liked that kind of spirit. I started drawing them, scribbling and working in the studio to cut and manipulate shapes. I was also researching Irish stereotypes and National Geographic shots of Irish people. The hats are also a nod to leprechauns!
How important is drawing and painting to your work?
It’s the most important thing to me – I need to draw something a hundred times before I can be sure it’s what I want. Usually when I do drawings it’s portraiture, I like to find people I think look interesting, I’d sketch them first and watercolour them later. It led on to the colours in the collection; I wanted them to be opaque school-y colours which are otherwise quite nasty like teal and really heavy gold. I hate fashion researching, so it took a little while to convince my tutors of what I was doing and that I would be spending no time in the Saint Martins library. But I think that’s what makes drawing special, it’s not just another image that rushes past you on Instagram.
What materials did you use?
While I was working for Louis Vuitton in Paris I managed to salvage some silk and scraps of fabric that would have been thrown out, and when I got back to London I wanted to continue to work with upcycled fabric that was cheap so that you didn’t feel afraid of making a mistake when you were trying out the shapes. For the coats I used industrial strength pleather, which I painted with some of my Dad’s left over paint from jobs he was on, and then embroidered on top of. I really liked how it cracked and peeled as the girls walked in the show. Through working at Louis Vuitton, I became a real stickler for finish, and had a lot of practice as a lot of my research was through the making. Many of the garments had to be hand stitched together and then sewn on the machine, but I like that as it makes them sturdier and built to last.
You won both the Deutsche Bank and the LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship – what impact did that have on you?
Well the LVMH prize was given at the start of final year and I didn’t really expect it, Saint Martins is becoming quite an upper-class college now that the fees have gone up to £9,000 per year, and we were the last year on the lower fees. There are a lot of students from working-class backgrounds that can’t afford to go, and I definitely couldn’t have afforded to do my collection without the prize. You’re expected to be in from 8am to 10pm and I couldn’t always do that because I had to work through first and second year. What’s great about London and Saint Martins is that you have loads of people there from very different backgrounds, but because of the fee hike they are starting to lose that.
Originally I had thought that I would just go and get a job as soon as I graduated, and Louis Vuitton had offered me one, which I was due to start about now, but then I thought – what would it be like if I got to produce another collection? So I’m happy that I’m getting to do that now.
What was it like to see your work displayed in Brown Thomas?
When you’re Irish, Brown Thomas is like the biggest thing you can do so I couldn’t believe that people over here were going to see my work. It was such a big display, and I was even more surprised when women wanted to try on the clothes and started to put in orders, but the feedback I have been getting is that people are sick of the same stuff, they want something special and totally different.
What do people of Wexford think of them being your muse?
The reaction has been great, I think they were quite excited as they don’t really see themselves as that fashion-y. A lot of chic people think that they are an inspiration but it’s the slightly tacky people that I love.
Ireland has been much more supportive, and less cut-throat. There’s a smaller market here and people really appreciate the craft of a garment. There aren’t as many designers here so it’s like they’re starved of meeting a designer and getting something made for them. I think that women here really appreciate the time that goes into a garment.
How important is Irishness to your work?
I think that it’s really important as it’s your perspective, it’s where you’re from. Any of the drawings I made, or embroidery or shapes I did all come from here. There are a lot of cultures that really celebrate their identity, but sometimes I feel that Irish people don’t really do that as much, they sort of push it to one side, and what we’ve got here is so unique.
What are you working on now?
I’m doing private client orders, and then I have a top-secret project coming up in England with a magazine over there, and then I’m working on my AW15 for February.
I’m working from my Dad’s shed in Wexford for the next couple of months, it’s so nice as I don’t have to worry about rent and have the freedom to get on with the work. It’s really nice to have a base here and I plan to be over and back between here and London.
Richard Malone’s collection is available made-to-order. You can follow him on Twitter @richie_malone and in Instagram @RICHARDMALONE.
Words: Honor Fitzsimons