Craig Green's Reimagined Vision of Workwear
Craig Green's Reimagined Vision of Workwear
- Words Andrew Lindsay-Diaz
- Date August 10, 2017
What I wouldn’t give to have been in attendance at Craig Green’s Spring/Summer 2015 runway presentation. The soundtrack was Wim Mertens’ “Struggle for Pleasure”. It’s a minimalist work, with repetitions and beautiful harmonies that have a unique capacity to transfix. The designs—though the simple, monochromatic color schemes may have hinted at such—were anything but minimalist. Some of the models wore shirts containing cut-outs in the torso and shoulder. Others were draped in meticulously affixed panels of quilted fabric, the ties that gave the garments their jacket-like shape in disarray, dangling to the floor, while several models were strapped to wearable banners.
Yet every model was barefoot. This made for a presentation that showcased a collection with primal beauty that was intricate but never forced and arresting but never aggressive. Presented in tandem with the ever-enrapturing soundtrack, it’s no surprise that this show will long be remembered as a “fashion moment;” a moment that fashion critic Tim Blanks, then runway editor at Style.com, described as “a storm of emotion leaving the audience verklemmt and the designer overwhelmed.” That’s a hell of a solo debut, if you ask me.
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Craig Green, though relatively young (he was born in 1986), has already accumulated an impressive amount of critical and institutional acclaim. A graduate of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins (the same college that gave us the likes of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen their rise) he studied under the late Louise Wilson, graduating from the school’s legendary MA course in February 2012 with the L'Oréal Professionnel Creative Award. Green’s shows began to garner attention shortly after finishing school; showing a well-received collection during the Spring/Summer 2013 season of Fashion East's MAN initiative at London Fashion Week.
Since his namesake brand’s inception in 2012, there’s certainly been no shortage of praise from the fashion industry: he was a finalist for the 2015 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers and was named “Emerging Menswear Designer” at 2014’s British Fashion Awards. This already impressive list was capped off at the end of 2016, when the British Fashion Awards named him the “British Menswear Designer” of the year. With an ever-growing list of accolades, along with a fashion film and campaign collaboration with the likes of legendary fashion photographer/SHOWstudio Nick Knight, Green established a reputation as one of London’s best and buzziest. A sign of the British fashion scene’s ability to support emerging talent, Green joins designers like Martine Rose and Grace Wales Bonner to helm one of the most exciting movements in menswear today.
Structure and Deconstruction
Conceptually, Craig Green’s designs pull no punches. The fashion world has always thrived off the work of Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela-types: avant-garde designers who are not afraid to test the limits of how we think about clothing. If anything, call it “deconstruction,” if you must. Green’s deconstructive tendencies (somewhat ironically) appear most notably in his use of...well, structures. His Spring/Summer 2015 runway show nonchalantly integrated model-worn banners made of cloth and wood into the models’ outfits. Even as early as his Fall/Winter 2013 presentation for MAN, Green was sending his models onto the catwalk with jarring plywood sculptures worn as masks. It was a daring move that attracted some early criticism from the less adventurous, including this absurd satire piece from The Daily Mail. While jarring initially, these structural additions have become standard fare for his runway presentations—just look to his Spring/Summer 2018 collection, where the same patterns that make up the garments are folded over planks and “worn” by the models.
The Work Jacket
With such avant-garde tendencies, it’s intriguing that the work jacket has become Craig Green’s “signature piece.” Since his debut, every season has featured a different take on the garment; Spring/Summer 2016 featured perhaps his most popular piece—a quilted work jacket that has since made its way into the permanent collection—while Fall/Winter 2016 added belt-like straps and beautifully textured boucle fabric to his design. Green himself is usually seen wearing one of his own work jackets (in a muted color) with a simple pair of jeans and sneakers.
Yet despite the superfluous details that appear on his conceptual runway shows, his work jackets always retain the details that honor the work jacket’s history as simple, functional garment. For Green, his love of the style can be traced back to his family and upbringing. In an interview with The New Yorker, he explains his working class background as the son of a plumber, and mentions that his first exposure to sewing was when he helped his grandfather reupholster sofas. He carried this ethos to him with Central Saint Martins wearing a blue, Bill Cunningham-esque work jacket to class every day because—in his words, “It made me feel like I was going to work.”
Given his upbringing and personal attraction to the idea of a “uniform,” it’s no surprise that workwear and uniforms have become another recurring theme in his collections. This includes a literal take on the idea of “uniforms,” like Fall/Winter 2016’s references to hazmat suits, and Fall/Winter 2017’s riffs on uniforms of various seafaring folk. Working outside of the typical fashion cycle, Green even designed many of the military uniforms used in the filming of Alien: Covenant. If you look closely enough while watching, you can even see his now-signature vertical quilting.
There’s another, albeit more abstract sense of “uniforms” that flows throughout his collections. It’s a uniformity of humanistic bent—one that’s concerned with the democratic ideas associated with work and a shared human experience. The specifics often shift from collection to collection, while retaining a running theme. According to Green, Spring/Summer 2017 was “initially based around the Scout scarf...That symbolism of ‘belonging’ to something”.
Think back to Spring/Summer 2015 too, with its barefoot models and pure, effortless designs, takes on not-so-subtle religious undertones. Pause on that for a moment: religious officials wear codified uniforms too. It may be difficult to tackle appropriately, but season after season, Craig Green takes them on in effortless fashion, producing collections that always seem to go beyond “just clothes.”
Vogue's Sarah Mower put the overall progression in Green's work into context during her review of his Fall/Winter 2017 show, "Green’s narrative is a continuum from one season to the next. It’s allusive, not literal, always signaling emotional stuff about the plight of masculine identity—aggression versus sensitivity, spirituality versus utilitarianism. His way of abstracting military and religious clothing into planes, his trailing ties, is well known. And all present here again, only this time laden with far more of a sense of foreboding."
Despite the avant-garde nature of his forays into sculpture and the at times intimidating conceptual undertones of his collections, so many of Craig Green’s designs remain eminently wearable. No matter the number of straps, hooks, or ties you affix to it, a chore coat remains a chore coat, and a parka remains a parka. What always sets Green apart from his contemporaries is his uncanny ability to make clothes for the everyman without shying away from the conceptual or abstract. Experimental aesthetics aside, it’s simply ironic that someone can make “work” clothing so...well, unlabored. Green’s label may be less than five years old, but it’s this ambitious redefinition of workwear a fearlessness that has and will continue to serve him well for years to come. When it comes to London, ignore David Gandy—Green is always going to be one to watch.