James Walker’s collection leapt out at us when we saw it on the catwalk at the UCA Epsom show at GFW this year. Eye-catching, memorable, tongue-in-cheek and quintessentially British. We weren’t surprised when we heard that we was up for the Gold Award. He kindly made some time to speak to us at the show, explaining what inspired him.
Hi James! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us. How are you feeling about GFW so far?
I have hugely enjoyed GFW so far – there’s been no time to absorb everything yet. It’s really good to have your work appreciated by people other than your tutors. My collection was a big risk for my tutors to put forwards – it was such a hard collection to make and there were times when I wanted to jump in front of a train! But now I feel my hard work has been worth it.
Have you had any last minute hitches?
Things have gone wrong all the way, and now finally it has all gone right. It was a very last minute collection. Only in the last three weeks has it all come together. I’ve had a lot of help from everyone at UCA Epsom – the tutors and the technical support.
I also did have a bit of a disaster off-stage just now… The shoulder on the bomber jacket came apart so I had to sew it up. A lot of the pieces only work on the body, as it’s a very three dimensional collection. I have had to think about it from every angle. I tried to think of it like a one man band – I hope that came across.
The collection is based on a man who has been a one man band for thirty years. I was looking for someone who lives outside society but whose happiness lies in the joy they bring to people through their occupation. Vic Ellis is the man my research led me to. I like analysing everyday individuals that inspire me because I think fashion has become quite dehumanised and we don’t know where our clothes come from.
Looking at a travelling musician meant that the idea of luggage also came into play. I wanted to use tweeds with leather, which I think gives my collection a nice contemporary edge, with all British fabrics. I emphasised that by my choice of catwalk music [The Kinks, Wonderboy].
Have you enjoyed the course at UCA Epsom?
I’ve loved my time at Epsom. I’m sad that it’s over but GFW is opening a lot of doors for me already. If things go well I don’t think I’ll have time to be sad about it.
What other work have you produced and been proud of in the past?
I am also proud of the print work I did for McQueen for Spring/Summer 2012 collections. It was quite emotional working for a designer that I’ve loved for so long. I think working for someone else is exciting but it doesn’t quite compare to the satisfaction of creating your own collection that you can put your name on. I imagine that’s how George Foreman feels about his grill…
What are your current plans for the future?
I want to go on to do an MA. I feel I want to develop my practice a bit more. And more internships too. I’m really interested in learning different ways of working. Collaborations with other creative practitioners are part of my philosophy. I think that’s incredibly important to bring a new angle to my work. I enjoy print and design and I enjoy doing my own thing.
I tend to put a lot of work on myself – we all worked very long hours at McQueen. I like working in a high-paced and pressured environment, that’s where I thrive the most. I was working up to the last minute but now it’s just time to enjoy my work I guess.
How do you feel about the fact that your collection is up for the Gold Award? Do you feel confident?
I’m not feeling confident at all, it’s been an incredibly surreal day, I never thought I’d be in the Gala show. I’m interested to see who shines as they’ve got some great collections.
You can view more of James’s work on his website, where you can also find his contact details if you are interested in collaborations.