It has been a whirlwind couple of years for Lancashire-born womenswear designer Carrie-Ann Stein. Upon graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2013, she fell straight into Fashion Scout’s Graduate Showcase, earning her instant attention from the likes of Alexandra Shulman and Jessica Bumpus. Fast-forward to autumn/winter 2014, where Carrie-Ann showcased a kitsch yet forward-thinking collection inspired by the sometimes seedy world of the British seaside town. As one of our young designers to watch, we caught up with her to talk about her roots, using Blackpool as source material, and why her mother was one of her early fashion idols.
Tell us about your background, did you always know you wanted to go into fashion design?
I have always been interested in textiles, partly due to my grandparents who were weavers, and also due to my mother’s love of fabrics. We made rag rugs together when I was little and there were always colourful and tactile throws and blankets around the house. My mother has always had a deep affinity with fabrics. She used to take me to charity shops and pick out interesting garments and explain the design features to me.
Who were your main fashion idols growing up?
I loved Madonna’s powerful, unique style and admired her courage. My mother always looked different from the other mothers at the school gate. She had an urban, grungy, punk-style which has definitely rubbed off on me.
Your graduate collection was selected for London Fashion Scout’s Graduate Showcase. How did that feel?
Being selected for London Fashion Scout’s Graduate Showcase was a very important moment and marked the beginning of my career following college. It led to being selected as a Ones to Watch Designer for LFS. Martyn Roberts at LFS has been a very important part of my development as a designer and I will always be extremely grateful to him for that.
Talk us through the inspiration for the collection. Blackpool isn’t an obvious source material for a fashion line!
My inspiration is drawn from the everyday. I am constantly seeking to simplify my understanding of the world; a world which is becoming increasingly complicated. Art college opened my eyes and helped me to understand myself much better. I needed to come to terms with my upbringing before I could move forward. I had a very working class background which I found difficult to reconcile with my first career as a lawyer. I will always be interested in the tensions of the class system in Britain. I focused on Blackpool for my graduate collection because it was an hour away from where I grew up and was my favourite place to be taken to as a child. I loved the Pleasure Beach, illuminations, the wide open space and buzz of the place. As an adult, I took time to observe the back streets where I saw the real Blackpool. I felt I needed to communicate what I had seen – quiet, grey, deprived – but I wanted to show it using the lights of the Prom to give it a connection to the Blackpool I had loved as a child. The use of postcards seemed very appropriate in view of our modern-day reliance on digital communication.
Moving on from Blackpool, what did you look at for AW’14?
My AW14 collection was about the seedy atmosphere that can exist in British sea-side towns. I focused on the wording and signage of bed and breakfast businesses and gave them a smutty undertone. My degree dissertation was about cheeky British seaside humour and I was able to use this work to inform my first post-graduate collection.
Your shapes are quite unconventional. How would you describe your aesthetic?
My shapes are designed to be as simple as possible so that the emphasis is on the fabric and the print. I’ve used postcards and wall banners as silhouette inspiration because I love the simplicity of squares and the use of social communication tools (which are often square) as the basis for my messages. Simple doesn’t mean easy though. The jackets in my AW14 collection were expertly cut so that the prints matched up against the breast, sleeves and collars. The garments were fully-lined and were cut with concealed button stands and covered buttons.
With critical acclaim from the likes of Alexandra Shulman and Jessica Bumpus, is there any added pressure now?
I am delighted to be on the radar of people like Alexandra Shulman and Jessica Bumpus. It encourages me enormously and drives me on.
Who else in the industry do you rate?
I rate Rei Kawakubo for her pure design ideas and execution. My tutor at Central Saint Martins, Sarah Gresty, believed in my aesthetic before I did. She encouraged me to be real.
What can we expect from you for SS’15?
For SS15, you can expect a strong idea about urban life communicated via knit and print.
Jordan Porteous, Fashion Features Editor