Every year graduates from the world-renowned London College of Fashion showcase their final collections to some of the most influential faces in fashion, and one lucky designer wins the prestigious award for the Collection of the Year. The award recognizes talented young designers who go on to do remarkable things within the fashion industry.
This year the award went to 24-year-old Dutch born, Sebastiaan Pieter Groenen for his bespoke tailoring collection.The relaxed tailoring, incorporating sporty details, such as razor cutout suits with raw edging, and thecontrast against sheer overlays in a soft colour palette, earned Groenen his place in LCF history – he is the first ever recipient to win the award for a menswear collection. I was lucky enough to chat to the London-based designer about his achievement and what the future holds.
Firstly, a massive congratulations on winning Collection of the Year, it is such a huge achievement. What was it like to be announced as the first ever recipient of Collection of the Year in bespoke tailoring?
I am still surprised and very honored as there were so many good collections in the show. On top of that it is great to get this recognition from such a big institution such as LCF.
What was the inspiration behind your winning collection?
I started looking at geodes, which are stones that once broken have crystals on the inside. I was interested in all the layers you see when you cut the stone and tried to find a way of translating this into garments.Through cutting the suits up and exposing the layers of fabric I replicatedthe patterns I found in the rocks. On the other hand I was also very inspired by sportswear, it being the complete opposite to tailoring it felt quite refreshing to try and combine the two.
Your coveted collection pushed the boundaries of menswear by incorporating a juxtaposition of both traditional masculine and feminine tailoring as well as texture and colour. Is this something you believe should be seen more in men’s fashion?
What I showed was more a personal exploration of ideas then beliefs I wanted to impose on men. I would love to see men wear more daring clothes, but at the same time I believe your daily outfit shouldn’t overpower you.
Which is your favourite piece from the collection?
The sleeveless black overcoat, probably because it's the most wearable of the coats in the collection. It’s a very comfortable piece and I could see myself doing different versions of it in the future.
Many designers have signature and distinctive looks or pieces, do you feel you have a signature look in your designs?
I don't think I can say so yet, maybe in a couple designing years time when I look back at this collection I will see an element that I've continued with. Right now I am not that worried about signatures and just stick with what I’m interested in.
Before you studied at the London College of Fashion, you were also a student at Central Saint Martins, where alumni include British greats such as, Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen and Giles Deacon. Do you feel any pressure to live up to the success of LCF and CSM alumni?
I remember going to CSM for the first time and being thrilled to sit at tables where these grand names might have worked too, but it did not make me want to be a better designer. In the end I just want to be the best version of me; it’s a personal journey and in a way nobody interferes with that unless you choose to let them.
Previous winners of the Collection of the Year award have included Matteo Molinari and Nova Chiu, who have both recently shown collections in London. Is this something you aim to do also?
I would definitely love to show more of my own collections and doing that during London Fashion Week one day would be amazing, it's a great platform as there is so much eye for young designers.
Which Fashion Week would you most like to show at and why?
After London, there is only one and that is Paris. Paris is still the global core of the luxury fashion business, so that’s the way to go.
What are your career aspirations for the next five years?
Gain more experience as a designer, either on my own or working with menswear brands. And definitely have a try at creating a brand.
Following the success of Paris Men’s Fashion Week, which menswear collections were you most impressed with and why?
I really like what Kim Jones is doing at Louis Vuitton, it's integral to the brand, youthful and easy to wear. On the other hand I'm a massive Rick Owens fan, I believe his vision is one of the most modern in fashion and he can do no wrong with me.
Not only are you now an award winning designer, but you have also had your fair share of internships, as a men’s design intern at Jil Sander and an editorial intern at Fantastic Man magazine. Has this experience enhanced the way in which you view the fashion industry having worked in both design and editorial?
Definitely, my work experiences are of my most valuable possessions. Rather than thinking of brands and companies as individuals, it really showed me how the fashion industry works as a body of companies that support each other with their practices.
What advice would you give to those with aspirations to stand out in the battle to gain work experience within the fashion industry?
This might sound a bit cliché but working hard and staying true to yourself are key. And when you are just starting out keep an open mind of who you want to work for, working for a small start up company can be just as valuable as working for big corporations.
Having been a student yourself, what are your top tips to looking good on a student budget?
Taking good care of your clothes can make a big difference, so buy high quality garments and wear them with care. My other tip would be Uniqlo, it’s actually amazing for affordable high quality basics.
Unlike the stylish sights of LCF, in Loughborough the majority of the male population wear joggers and a pair of flip flops all year round. What do you think of this look, and what advice would you give them to improve on their daily uniform?
Haha well I believe you should wear what you are most comfortable in, but I would also say clothes can be like a business card and depending where you want to go in life it might help to dress accordingly.