Gregory Nicholas is an independent fashion and print designer based in London. Having graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion Print, he is in early stages of launching his eponymous womenswear label. After working with some of the stunning designs from his graduate collection in our latest editorial, we catch up with Greg to discuss all things past, present and future.
Can you start off by telling us how you got started as a designer?
Well I was originally working in retail, which is what I had been doing since I left sixth form. I had ended up working for a high profile cosmetic brand as manager of the counter in a department store. It was quite strange actually because one day I just realised this wasn't what I wanted to do with my life and that I wanted to develop my love of fashion. Within the space of two weeks I had handed in my notice and enrolled on an art foundation, which is what I needed to apply for university. It all happened in a flash! It was whilst doing my foundation that I realised how much I loved print making and when I saw that Central Saint Martins offered the Fashion Print pathway I applied. I was absolutely thrilled to have been accepted and I loved every moment I was there.
What were the inspirations behind your BA collection?
The collection initially developed around the idea of Millet's painting 'Ophelia', using the idea of this ethereal Pre-Raphaelite vision combined with the concept of the death and decay of Ophelia's body in the river. This allowed me to experiment and combine the romantic yet rotten and decayed like prints to the very feminine shapes and silhouettes within the collection.
I also looked closely at the work of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, who is recognised for his use of raw materials to create very dark and wild concepts of painting. These inspired the use of leather in the collection. I wanted something extremely tough and raw to co-exist with the romantic element of the collection so, by using leather which I distressed in a number of ways, I was able to achieve this idea.
The prints I created were originally all made by hand on smaller pieces of fabric. I love to play around with hand dyes, inks and discharging techniques to create quite organic and fluid prints. The prints that featured on the more body con pieces of the collection again originated from hand made samples that were scanned and digitally reworked to create a soft repeat across the fabric. Finally the leather garments were all hand produced using a method of bleach distressing. I love the process of hand printing and dying and the actual physical methods of experimentation and outcomes that can be achieved which is what really excites me.
What is it about print that captivates you as a designer?
Well, I love print in all forms, whether it be screen printing, resist dying or literally experimenting with inks on fabric and manipulating it digitally. I like to keep my prints quite organic even when working digitally. I think a print can really capture an essence of what you're trying to portray within your work and can emphasise the silhouette and shape in subtle ways.
What are you doing now that you have graduated - do you have a new collection in the pipe line?
Well, I'm in the early stages at the moment of establishing my own label but I have been working on some freelance projects for people and some collaborative work which has been rather exciting! I have a limited collection of hand printed silk t-shirts which are being produced. There is a new collection currently being developed at the moment so I don't want to give too much away but I have been watching Aelita: Queen of Mars, which is a silent film directed by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov, released in 1924, and I've also been re-watching Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
How would you describe your work, or your vision of a perfect “Gregory Nicholas” woman?
A romanticist with a modern dark edge.
How do you see your “signature style” progressing?
Print is a primary feature in my work and will be something I continue to use in each collection. I love working with leather too because it creates the modern, dark edge I like my aesthetic to have.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see my self working hard on my label to make it a success!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
To have established myself to the stage of selling my collection or pieces in Selfridges!
Did it feel strange launching into the industry straight after a BA rather than going into an MA, or did it feel natural? What made you chose this decision?
Well to be honest I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take straight after graduating, but luckily working on freelance jobs has helped inspire me to push myself into launching my own label.
How have your experiences post-university differed from your expectations?
It is a tough industry to crack, especially with the economy the way it is at the moment, so I did expect it to be difficult post-university anyway. I appreciate all the work I have done since then and I definitely don't take anything for granted! Every opportunity that comes up you have to make the most of, no matter how big or small.
As an industry, we tend to look to the past for inspiration and reference (which is a key theme this issue) Do you have a favourite “fashion era” or do you tend to look to the now?
I tend to take inspirations from various sources, whether it be from art, culture, film, whatever really. For my graduate collection for example I did take inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite image but it all depends if something catches my eye and gets me thinking. I do actually have a favourite fashion era which would be the 20s. I literally love everything from that period, from the architecture to the fashion. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the BBC TV series 'House of Elliot' and I would love to draw the outfits in the show! I also can't wait for the new re-make of the 'Great Gatsby' directed by Baz Lurhmann.
Finally, what tips would you give to students who are about to launch into the industry?
To have a strong sense of determination and persistence and to believe 100% in what you do.