In our quest to find out more about CSM and the life inside its walls we started interviewing our tutors. They are an amazing source of knowledge and inspiration for us, they are the heart of the college and people who are making CSM what it is. They push us and help to develop our talents and to believe in ourselves. They give priceless advices. Colin is one of them. He teaches in CSM for over 15 years and counts Phoebe Philo and Stella McCartney as his students. He is also designing for Belstaff.
Why do you teach in CSM?
Purely for the student’s benefit. That’s the only bit I’m interested in, I certainly don’t do it for the money. It’s a kind of two way street, I feel like I’m giving something back and I’m interested in starting them out on their careers. It executes me fresh as well, So it’s not completely unselfish.
What is a good student for you?
Somebody who just turns up and does the work and does the best he can and achieves what the set out to do. Actually trying. My ideal student is someone who brings every ounce that they can out of the college and out of me.
What are the three most valued qualities in a student for you?
Hardwork – first. Because even if you are not talented, but you work hard you will get somewhere.
Probably natural talent – second. Not that necessary all even, to be honest.
Three is the ability to deal with people.
Do you keep in touch with students after they graduate?
Yup, not many, but some. I see some of them socially … And they are friends, they have sort of became friends.
In three months students will be applying for internships, could you give few tips and advice what we should concentrate on?
First of all, focus on where you want to go. That’s probably the most important thing rather than actually approaching it with a “whoever is going to take me, I’ll go there” , but then don’t turn down people who offer you internships, because you don’t think that they are going to be interesting, you can learn from every situation. If you don’t think you’ll learn anything from going to work for the Topshop, rather than Givenchy or other powerful fashion house it’s a complete nonsense. You’ll learn just as much if not possibly more. And it might be more interesting too.
You see so much creativity and ideas within the school walls; were you ever tempted or did you use students’ ideas in your own work?
No, because you’ve seen it… Not to be rude or anything, I’ve been doing this for 15 years, I’ve seen most of it before. It’s lovely to see all the creativity, but I have ideas of my own.
Does students’ work influence you? Not really…no. I mean it is interesting to see their work and people observe a lot of things subconsciously and they come out somewhere further down the line.
What would you change if you were the head of the fashion course? I’d actually make it more difficult to get into the college to begin with. I’d actually make more tuition time; more practical skills: teaching pattern cutting, sewing… things like that, which actually the course probably should be able to afford, but we are more busy subsidizing other courses.
What are the most common mistakes that students do?
Some mistakes are not mistakes anyway, but the patterns of learning. But the biggest mistake that Saint Martins students make is thinking that they are Saint Martins students and they have to be making things in a Saint Martins way. And actually adhering to the so called subversive sort of element, you know, making things, which are really way out and wacky, which some people might like and other members of staff might like. But i’m actually more interested in students developing their own qualities and own handwriting. If they don’t want to be John Galliano, but they want to work for Topshop, it’s fine by me. If they want to work for a high street brand or pregnancy wear or children’s wear or whatever, it’s absolutely fine by me. And they should be. Each student is an individual and should be treated as such.
Do you believe in fashion?
I don’t look at it in a same way as I used to, but then I do menswear. I actually don’t call myself a fashion designer, I design clothing because it’s more lasting. Fashion is something, which is designed to be superfluous and useless after six months and it is of no interest for me. It should last longer than that.
I want to get into Balenciaga, what is your advice?
Make sure you have a really good book to show them, look clean and interesting and turn up if you get an interview.
In your opinion, what is more important: technical skills and talent or social skills and contacts?
The most important thing is ideas. That would be my number one thing in a designer. Practical skills always help, because they help you to develop your ideas, but designer is only ideas, there’s nothing else. It’s not contacts, it’s not this, it’s not that…you are nothing without the original idea. That’s the most important thing.
Some students are more confident than others and can be arrogant at times, do you think it is their flaw or strength?
Depends on a student. I don’t like treating them like sausages, you’re all individuals. Some people are arrogant and that’s fine. But don’t be arrogant with me, because I can be just as arrogant.