For a new generation fashion designer, there’s nothing more overwhelming and surreal than acquiring world-renowned status before you’ve even had time to celebrate your graduation.
At just 23 years old, this is exactly what happened to Central Saint Martins graduate, Wilson PK. After the launch of his debut SS15 collection entitled (I’M)Purity, Lady Gaga spotted Wilson’s inimitable flair, snapped up her favourite pieces and had them shipped to her front door. “I felt so blessed”, the Sheffield-born designer gushes when I remind him of his immediate success. He has no more to say on the star’s infatuation with his talent than to modestly mention the fantastic team that he has behind him.
Exploring the presentation space of Wilson PK’s latest design collection, “100% Fragile Human”, it’s not surprising that the designer has already captivated the queen of eccentric style. The clothes showcase a designer who has fearlessly stomped over material conventions and artistic norms. Standing on raised platforms, the models are adorned in swatches of embossed leather, which are then mashed up with ribbed shiny foil and corduroy.
The collection boasts a tantalising team of textures which yearns to be felt by the viewer. Strong lines and a daring experimentation with shape and print represent a far cry from his humble innovative knitwear background.
Let’s not forget that even before graduating, Wilson built up an admirable amount of experience with fashion houses like Alexander Wang and Craig Lawrence, who have visibly had an impact upon his structural and silhouetted designs.
One of the more captivating pieces of his collection was a dress which encased hundreds of hypnotic-blue butterflies under a sheen of clear plastic. From a distance the deceiving design looks like an innocent embossed pattern, but up close the immortalised insects can be seen in divinely grotesque detail. Upon first glance, the dress has the effect of making the viewer slightly squeamish, yet the somewhat barbarous piece is still fascinatingly beautiful. PK explains his intentions behind this phenomenon: “One of my friends collects all sorts of weird animals, and I said to him I’ve always wanted to do this but I was really uncertain of how it would work. He ended up providing me with a lot of butterflies from Cuba and from Thailand. It’s inspired a lot by my first collection, and this collection as well. It’s about how fragile and delicate a human being is. It’s also about eternity.”
I had the chance to work in a public shelter for around five days with a charity called Crisis. After that I got completely inspired.
Not only do his collections reflect his artistic capabilities, but Wilson himself is extremely humble. He emphasises that he wants to make the world a better place by drawing attention to certain aspects of our society through his designs, playing on cultural stereotypes.
It’s clear there is a strong connection between fashion and society in his collections and I ask him to explain more about his influences. He explains: “Last Christmas I had the chance to work in a public shelter for around five days with a charity called Crisis. After that I got completely inspired for this collection. I wanted to acknowledge the social hierarchy and cultural gentrification. When you go to London, you realise it’s such a weird city. There’ll be one street that’s super business and the next street you could get stabbed. This culture really intrigues me and I’ve tried to portray it in an architectural way. You can’t see it in the print labels on the clothes which read, ‘handle with care’ and ‘100% fragile human’, which illustrate how delicate humans are.”
As we browse through the collection, the designer is particularly keen on ensuring every single one of his visitors can not only embrace the aesthetics of the designs, but that it’s a tangible experience too. “I’m genuinely obsessed with creating with new textiles such as rubber and wool, and embossed leather, or even pleated foil.” Showing off the variety of textures, from shiny patent leather to knitted wool, he encourages me to handle the garments and then draws attention to the architectural theme gracing the designs. “Putting this all together I feel mirrors a skyline. The colour palettes I use reflect the tones of scaffolding and piping of the buildings in London.” This effect accumulates to give the collection an extraordinary urban landscape feel.
So what’s next for someone who has come so far so quickly? “I really want to extend the line and then have a catwalk show next time,” he says, beaming excitedly. “But this time I’m doing a presentation because I prefer, at the minute, people being able to see and feel the collection up close. Obviously I want to do more collaboration with the charity Crisis too. This is my debut and I really want to put my foot down as to show what sort of a designer I am and what sort of vision I have.”
He certainly has put his foot down. Taking a glance around the room, it’s clearly filled with potential buyers and clients, all eagerly anticipating what’s next from his thought-provoking designs. We have a feeling that Wilson PK’s collections will be creating their own landscapes across the fashion horizon, shaping many catwalks for seasons to come.