He was picked for ELLE’s Talent Launch Pad, he designs, he illustrates and he writes. Closet Charms speaks to David Longshaw about his latest collection, his muse Maude the mouse and what the future may have in store for fashion’s rising star.
Tora, a wild party-girl has been sent to live with her religious Aunty and Uncle in a small countryside village, in the middle of nowhere. To keep herself out of trouble she must find alternative hobbies to cleanse away her wayward lifestyle, like cross-stitching for prayer mats and painting stain-glassed windows at her local church.
This is the story behind David Longshaw’s a/w 2011 collection, the young designer from Manchester on everybody’s ‘one to watch’ list.
We are lucky to grab even five minutes with Longshaw, walking around the London Fashion week exhibition for the fourth time while he completes yet another interview. By the fifth cycle we even end up outside on the other side of the building, this is followed by a long wait in the cold before Longshaw is ready to pass out the entrance ticket again. He has a very polite manner and apologises countless times, first for over-running, second for leaving us out in the cold for so long, and finally as a pre-sorry if he suddenly needs to nip off to speak to a buyer during the interview.
Longshaw wears jeans, and a t-shirt covered with a black shirt, undescript yet smart and casual. His wavy and unkempt brown hair adds to his laid-back and rock ‘n’ roll persona. However he sits with his hands fixed in his lap, and legs almost swinging under the chair like a child beaming with information, glowing with passion and enthusiasm for their work.
The ladder for success started at Central Saint Martins and then at the Royal College of Art where he studied womenswear. He then went on to receive nominations for international awards and was offered a job with Alberta Ferretti in Italy before his graduation. “I liked the possibilities of what womenswear had to offer, there is more scope and its more theatrical, so it makes for better coverage.” This was followed by a stint at MaxMara, until he came back to the UK in 2009 to focus on his own label. “It was really interesting and informative to see how the big companies operate, and my career highlight so far would definitely have to be these fashion heavyweights like Alberta appreciating my work.”
Even in the label’s early life his collections are stocked all over the world from Japan, to Italy and the UK. In the last two years, Longshaw has received further recognition from Vauxhall Fashion Scout, and London and Paris Fashion Week too, which led a spot in ELLE’s Talent Launch Pad last February.
Although he remains humble about his success so far, growing his label slowly rather than letting it run away from him. “Maybe in ten years time I could start showing on the catwalk, but I don’t have a fixed time for it. When you start the catwalk you can’t really stop, and I want my label to grow steadily.”
The eclectic a/w 2011 collection is a vibrant mix of plum, lilac and red, with a hint of burnt orange, lime and fuchsia. Clean tailoring is given a modern update in layers, pleats and ruffles, providing texture to classic smock dresses and soft separates. Maxi and mini-maxi dresses also heavily feature to bring a sophisticated yet quirky edge to after dark dressing. However it is Longshaw’s signature illustrations that bring the final seal of approval to his original designs.
“My clothes are complicated and feminine. Some are a bit glamorous, and some are supposed to be slightly quirky.”
Like many of his past collections, his inspiration comes from writing short illustrated stories that provide the backdrop to what he designs. It was during a trip to a small town called Chirk in Wales that Longshaw found the idea for his a/w 2011 collection. After visiting a church he began to wonder what sort of girl might end up here and Tora’s story came to life. The mood of the piece was then transformed into colours and shapes, and drawings became prints on his garments.
Longshaw’s illustration of Tora.
“With the a/w 2011 collection I wanted to explore what cross-stitching might look like when Tora does it, so I have dresses with a 3D leopard print pattern, and I have a bird drinking wine on another.”
Longshaw’s love of design goes back to when he was at school, where he would draw teddy bears with logos on them – “I think I had a bit of a Ralph Lauren complex” he laughs. And later, in secondary school, where he found his love for unusual prints after reading about avant garde designers, “I find a lot of design and art interesting, but I think it is the fast-pace, creativity, and the fact that people can actually get hold of items, wear them and interact with the fashion industry that is the most interesting to me.”
However creativity in all its forms seems to be the driving force behind Longshaw’s work, whether it is designing, drawing or writing. His work has been published in Tank magazine, the London Fashion Week newspaper, and he also writes a monthly column for Fashion156. “Writing helps me to balance things in a collection. It almost gives me a bit of an idea about what people are looking for, and what would be good for editorial.”
His imagination even stretches to his style icons and muse, whom he created himself back at CSM, and have gone on to become the faces of the label. While Selnec and her rabbit Harriet interview designers and people from the fashion industry for his Fashion156 column, Maude the mouse has her own online magazine called Maudezine on his website. “You could say they are my alter egos, Maude is far more foul mouthed than I am, and Selnec and Harriet are far more opinionated and feisty.”
Even though he has already started to accomplish a name for himself in fashion, drawing and writing, Longshaw still has a number of steps he wants to climb in the next ten years. From eventually moving onto the catwalk and opening up a store to even bringing out a book and directing a film, “My main aim is to grow my company and make it as big as possible, but I would really love to have a book published with my illustrations and make a film about them too.”
Collaborations are also at the top of his list. He’s already collaborated with Kirsty Ward for jewellery, Heather Blake on shoes and Dominique Mosley with scarves but he wants to take a different angle and collaborate with interior designers on something like a piece of wallpaper. He says: “It would be quite nice to have a wallpaper in a concept store printed with my stories and covered in my illustrations.” Something tells us that time is not very far away for this multi-talented designer.