LONDON, United Kingdom — The circle of fashion rarely begins and ends and begins again as it did on Friday in London. In the morning, Natalie Massenet and Caroline Rush opened London Fashion Week with the key message that more business acumen is required to scale London's fledgling fashion brands. Then, the fashion community gathered at St Paul's Cathedral to bid farewell to Louise Wilson, the legendary course director of MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins. In the evening, we took in 15 collections from this year's graduating class, the last to study under Wilson who died suddenly last May.
As scores of notable fashion figures attended Friday's ceremony in London, others participated in her memorial online. Her former student Kim Jones, now style director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, posted an Instagram with an illustration by Alex Foxton, another one of Wilson's students, a Vuitton veteran designer of more than ten years.
Louise Wilson became a towering figure in British fashion as teacher and mentor to some of London's most successful young designers, both hailing from Britain — the Scots Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders, menswear hopeful Craig Green and Irish wunderkind Simone Rocha — and around the world, including Greece's Mary Katrantzou, Canada's Thomas Tait and the Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic. Together they have re-energised the London Fashion Week schedule with new ideas and bold creativity, transforming its business potential.
The first time I met Louise it was as a fashion entrepreneur, just starting out. We met in her bright, but sparse office in the rickety old former Central Saint Martins building on Charing Cross Road. She was the professor of the famous fashion school and I was a former management consultant arguing that fashion education needed more basic business training. An unlikely mix. Wilson was sceptical of my ideas, to say the least, and remained so over the years, but she always treated me with courtesy. We learned how to be with each other, and we respected each other.
Although our approaches to fashion were seemingly opposed, over the years I learned that Louise and I shared something very important in common. We both passionately believed that all young people who had creative potential should have access to a good fashion education, regardless of their backgrounds or economic means. And as tuition fees in the United Kingdom skyrocketed in the new era of fiscal austerity, we both worked with Central Saint Martins to establish programmes intended to ensure equal access.
At Friday night's CSM MA show, Louise's last class of designers seemed as obsessed as ever with out-there ideas in textiles, silhouettes and fabrications. When the two winners of the L'Oreal Professionnel Award were named as Beth Postle and Matty Bovan, dean of academic programmes Anne Smith leaned over to me and said that both designers were supported through their education by scholarship funding for low-income students put in place by Louise.
In her memory, Central Saint Martins has created the Louise Wilson MA Fashion Fund. This is a legacy I think we should all support. The circle of fashion depends on it.
Enjoy our top stories for the week gone by:
Fabio Piras Steps into Louise Wilson’s Shoes
As London’s fashion community prepares to remember the late professor Louise Wilson with a memorial service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, BoF speaks to Fabio Piras, her successor, who, last August, took the helm as course director of Central Saint Martins’ Fashion MA programme.
LVMH Unveils Shortlist for Prize
See the full list of twenty-six designers shortlisted for the second annual LVMH Prize, the winner of which will receive €300,000 and a year-long mentorship.
Nike to Launch Collaboration with Chitose Abe’s Sacai
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Navigating a Storm of Currency Volatility
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Sixty-Six Shades of Skin: Tapping the Multicultural Beauty Market
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The Creative Class | Stefan Beckman, Set Designer
On the eve of the Marc Jacobs show, BoF speaks to set designer and longtime Jacobs collaborator Stefan Beckman, the man behind some of fashion’s most elaborate runway sets.
The Creative Class | John Pfeiffer, Casting Director
John Pfeiffer takes BoF inside the business of casting models for some of the industry’s biggest brands and reveals how a legendary 90s party and helping Anna Wintour into a bias-cut dress led him to the top of the field.
And don’t forget to check out BoF Weekly, a week in review published with Flipboard and updated every Saturday.
Imran Amed Founder and Editor-in-Chief