Ever since launching in 2013, London concept store Machine-A has focused on celebrating emerging talent by becoming a jumping off point for young fashion designers. From Grace Wales Bonner and Kiko Kostadinov to the likes of Bianca Saunders, Camila Damkjear, Arnar Mār Jōnsson and Eftychia in more recent years, Machine-A’s founder Stavros Karelis has given that initial chance to numerous creatives by launching their first commercial collections. He did so via The Graduate Project, Machine-A’s annual initiative that allows designers fresh out of their degree to forego the pressures of the traditional buying schedule and learn about the process step by step. “It’s about working together in a very organic way and building the story together – from the collection and pricing down to the visual aspect of presenting the garments to our audience,” explains Stavros. It’s the designer’s first chance to work with a retailer and allows them to build on what it means to run a brand by having the direct feedback from the customer side.
This year, Karelis has chosen recent Central Saint Martin’s graduates Johanna Parv and Cameron Williams behind the label NUBA. Both representative of totally individual identities, this unique duo once again proved that The Graduate Project isn’t about favouring a singular aesthetic but allowing for true innovation to come through. “The common thread this year is the elements of synchronisation and duality. With Cameron, it’s between the male and female, while with Johanna it’s between fashion and function,” Stavros notes.
For Cameron Williams, NUBA represents a unisex story which collides elements of cultural transcendence and travel. His garments bring together raw, artisanal qualities of traditional dress with contemporary style codes Cameron himself has been surrounded by, having grown up in South London. His AW21 collection, which was picked up by Machine-A, considers the reinterpretation of the meaning of home and explores ideas of belonging beyond geography. “Frugality was the approach for this collection, which is a quality that is carried throughout what I design, research and reuse. The accessories are made with biodegradable Ugandan Bark Cloth, which funds community development in the region of its origin, and many of the pieces are made in-house. The idea of being capable of thriving in austerity, to achieve comfort, and sustained support, is something I'm sure a lot of people can relate to given our recent experience,” explains Cameron.
With Johanna Parv, the magic comes through in her approach to the female form and busting preconceived notions of womenswear. Johanna’s designs reference the cyclists she sees roaming through the city as she reimagines their floating uniforms by introducing couture-like techniques to performance wear. Vintage 1950s bags suspended in the air with straps connecting through the body are the symbol of her ethos as ultra-feminine transform into something ultra-functional. “Growing up in Estonia, I was taught to value what is around us, to not over consume and always reuse. To choose practicality over the decorative – and make the decorative functional instead. This is something that has remained in the spirit of my brand. All the pieces in the collection are meant to add or improve the performance of the existing wardrobe by allowing the movement of the body. It’s about encouraging people to see alternative ways of wearing garments and offering solutions that add value and purpose,” says Johanna.
To celebrate this launch, Machine-A worked with emerging filmmaker and CSM student Macy Kerrigan on capturing the two collections in moving image. The short film unravels both of the brand’s stories through a blend of experimental technology and human touch, showcasing the duality of the narratives. Being an ex-competitive dancer herself, Macy felt inspired by the elements of performance present in Cameron and Johanna’s work. “This multimedia film bridges elements of reality and fantasy through experimental technologies to create an immersive viewing experience. Elements of gender have been explored through performance and movement as vehicles of reflection on its critical themes and the act of cycling is employed to contrast traditional ideas of luxury dress,” Macy notes.
NUBA’S CAMERON WILLIAMS ON WORKING WITH MACHINE-A: “It was an eye-opening experience working on this collection with Machine-A. It feels great to get started with our first stockist, especially a store as flexible and welcoming to emerging designers as Machine-A. There isn't another way to learn about commercial partnerships as a designer in such a clear way, apart from going through the experience yourself. Communication is really the key here, always sharing the ideas and progress of the collection to ensure all necessary transparency and cooperation.”
JOHANNA PARV ON WORKING WITH MACHINE-A: “There are so many new things I learnt – starting from thinking about a collection in the commercial sense and knowing how to present it to a buyer; thinking about grading your designs, realising stock availability and accommodating it with your needs… Down to what kind of washing labels to get and how to cope with the feeling after you have sent your collection away. These are things that you won’t really think about before it happens. Of course, something that is obvious but always good to remember is the importance of good communication skills and honesty.”
Words by Liz Chuck, Agency Eleven.
DIRECTOR: Macy Kerrigan | @macykerrigan
DOP / EDITOR: Tom Oliver | @tom_oliverr
3D DESIGNER: Luigi Abano Acera | @umlui
DANCERS: Ainsley Ricketts & Miranda Chambers | @ainsleyricketts & @mirandajadec
SOUND DESIGNER: Johnny Paradiso | @johnnyinparadise
CHOREOGRAPHER: Claire Wiseman | @clairewisemann
STYLIST: Yiling Zhao | @system_slave
MAKE-UP: Mini Kawck | @kmini.wua
1st AC: Justin Jenson | @jxstinjensen
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Aicha Sommer | @aichasommer