Kate Clark is the fashion school graduate whose designs have been on tour with Kate Nash – and she’s about to the make the ultimate fashion pilgrimage: moving to Paris to work for Chanel.
Her final collection from Kingston University was about not wanting to grow up. “It’s about merging the princess world with the adult world,” she explains, recalling inspiration.
“All the clothes have got suit details and princess dress elements – it’s for the girl who thought she was a princess and now she has to go to work but she won’t take her dress off so she puts the suit on over the top and they merge together. I’ve always had an interest in childhood and childhood as a theme. I did the same concept for foundation, this final collection is like a graduation of that.
“I was kind of worried people would think the collection was pink and fluffy and not much else. But there is a darker edge to it, and everyone seems to be picking up on it quite well, which I’m happy about.
“Especially with the way the world I at the moment I think everyone thinks it’s falling apart around them, the collection is wanting to return to when you felt safe and everything felt safe. That’s how it went for me. It was how the world made sense when I was 10 and now it’s like ‘oh god’. The whole world seems to be harder now. I think you hold on to what you know best, which is why the clothes are all embroidery and the print is teddies and toys that we used to play with. It’s almost like you’re physically holding onto things whilst also trying to grow up.”
Fitting a syllabus means sometimes you have to suppress your creative instinct. In her first and second years at Kingston, she was working to a brief that wasn’t fully ‘her’. Third year, however, was a different story: “you see everyone pop up and their real personalities come out in their work. Everyone is so different, but the work is so good because it’s them.
“I’ve always been quite content in allowing myself to like what I’ve wanted to like, but I feel like everyone at fashion school is always questioning what you’re doing. I’m just so happy because I feel like I’ve stayed true to myself over the three years no matter what. I was sometimes paranoid I wasn’t the right aesthetic, or that I was too childish, or I wasn’t taking it seriously and people wouldn’t take me seriously because my work isn’t serious. To have my work validated by so many people wanting to see it or borrow it or shoot it, is just great. I feel like people have gone ‘yes, it’s okay – you’ve done yourself and it’s right’”.
The collection itself has had some serious interest, from fashion stylists to high-end magazines (it recently appear in Glamour Brazil), as well as in the form of Kate Nash, with whom it’s just been on tour.
“But that fear of ‘what if I’m too crazy as a designer or too colourful, then how do I get a job?’ is still there sometimes”, Clark continues. “Wondering, ‘Is someone going to employ me?’” Kate needn’t have worried about getting employed, she is making the ultimate fashion pilgrimage, moving to Paris to work in the textiles department of Chanel – some would say it is the ultimate haute-couture journey.
“From what I can gather, I think I’ll be doing a lot of hand embroidering and beading. When they went through my portfolio, they seemed excited about the embroidery samples I had in there. They do a lot of that so I would need to be able to do it. I just love that kind of environment where you can be with a group of people and you can sit and do handwork. You can chat and get on really well. It means you get to know people better if you’re sat down together. I just love that environment.”
And for fitting in with the haute couture powerhouse? Kate says: “Chanel is there, it’s always there, and you always look at it because it’s Chanel. Before I found out I got the job, I got a book out in the library of everything they’d ever done, and some of the stuff is actually really surprising. Sometimes, when I think of Chanel, I think of the Chanel jacket, but if you go back to the 90s and the 70s, it’s more my aesthetic than I ever knew.
“I never even thought Chanel would be an option, I was asking, ‘What brands would suit me?’ and I didn’t even think Chanel was one of those places I would suit, but it just felt so right. It’s pretty crazy really. It just goes to show, you never know what will happen.”
Words by Eliza Frost