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Milky Way: Exploring the Intersection of Regality and Streetwear with Samuel Slattery
NCO 058
2023-04-20
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N: Hey Samuel, it's great to chat with you! I understand you grew up in Brittany, so I am really curious about your life growing up there and how you ended up getting into fashion and studying at Central Saint Martins. Can you tell me a bit about that?

S: I was raised near Reading but moved to Rennes in Brittany at eleven years old.

It was really formative for me because French schools don't have any uniform, so it introduced me to personal style through clothing from super early on, just from seeing what schoolmates would wear and how they wanted to be seen.

My college in particular was a Catholic school with a very distinctive WASP-y dress sense. Even though I had a knack for drawing and an eye for style from young, I ended up studying Politics for my undergraduate degree in London, but soon after reconnected with my childhood dream of doing fashion. I self-taught, did various pattern-cutting courses, and made two personal collections, then luckily got accepted onto the MA at Central Saint Martins.

N: Your MA collection Milky Way immediately caught my eye with its blend of royalty, tradition, and cross-cultural influences. I definitely noticed elements of British costume, and you mentioned incorporating ermine-like patterns as a nod to Brittany's heraldic symbolism. Please break down your design references for us.

S: I never like to be too obvious with a reference. There's a certain unknowability which is more interesting. And my own background has been pretty eclectic, and so the clothes are too. If you've heard of the term "third-culture kid," that's exactly me. My nomadic upbringing means I cherry-pick references to build a sense of home I never had. I work with classic examples of masculinity, from a businessman, carpenter, or biker, and upend it with hints of kitsch.

For Milky Way, I was deeply inspired by tecktonik, the French electronic dance: teenage boys battling it out wearing bright neon, shiny tops, and huge designer belts. I confronted this with the harshness of military wear, from a mess dress tux to the tunic coat.

N: In your collection, you incorporated precious stone embellishments and brooch accessories. Tell me a bit more about the intention behind that.

S: I like to think of my work as low culture, high craft. I love working with my hands, and the rhinestone appliques and Swarovski brooches add a level of vulnerability and glam to my hyper-masculine boy. The knit neckpieces in particular, hand-stitched with Swarovski crystals and buttons, resemble broken glass when they move, similar to a disco ball you'd find in a club. It's about hedonism and the feeling of being surrounded by dizzying rays. The feeling of limitlessness and of hope.

N: Your garments exude a sense of regality, yet some of your pieces have a utilitarian quality to them. How do streetwear and workwear inform your designs, if at all?

S: My stepdad was a carpenter, so growing up, his garage was full of mechanic tools, motorbike gear, and macho toys. My stepdad lusted over Harley Davidsons and would always wear grubby, easy-to-work-in utilitarian clothes. So that affected my understanding of masculinity.

The sensitivity to street comes from my interest in 90s hip-hop style, the nerve and gutsiness of it. It has a down-tempo street attitude, but with taste and chicness. It's the gestalt of taking something you'd wear to a rave, but making it prince-worthy.

N: Your time at Central Saint Martins is drawing to a close as you prepare to graduate with your master's degree. What special memory will you cherish from your experience as a fashion student, or what aspect of that lifestyle will you miss the most?

S: Honestly, the friends I made and being in the studio every day. The MA was pretty tough at times, and the friendships I developed along the way made it worthwhile.

All images courtesy of Samuel Slattery.
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