Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins
Graduate menswear designer and Savile Row trained Ross Paul Keenan has proven to be a huge success. His first collection was shown at Graduate Fashion Week and his second chosen to be shown at London Fashion Week. Beginning at The University of East London, thumb studying fashion, this his craftsmanship and attention to unique detailing was spotted at GFW and, as he explains, will be a career-defining highlight.
Firstly, and most importantly, when you heard the news that you would be showing your GFW collection at London Fashion Week, what was your initial feeling? I hear you were in California at the time…
Yeah, that’s right. It was a great feeling to know that I would be showing as part of London Fashion Week. It’s most designers dream to show in London and to be given that opportunity was amazing.
You have mentioned before that your ‘Up To the Nines’ collection was ‘rebelling against traditional tailoring’. Where did you get the inspiration from?
From being on Savile Row, I learned how to use all the cutting and construction methods used in ‘traditional’ menswear and galvanized this with my designs. My design research came from rebelling against tradition and looking into riots. It was a kind of Savile Row tailor goes to a West Ham v. Millwall game. (Laughs) That was where the inspiration began.
Illustration by Darren Fletcher
I loved the black floor-length coat and cropped shirts. What is behind these particular pieces?
It’s still looking into rebelling and questioning the idea of traditions. All of the collection came from my own curiosity… asking why it had to be done that way and what if I did it this way. The white cross over shirt with the braces came from looking into police riot uniforms; protecting the chest and hiding weapons.
I hear there are some famous fans of your creations. How does that make you feel?
It’s nice to get a positive response for what you do; seeing people like your stuff and want to wear it makes it all worthwhile.
Were there any pieces in particular people said they liked?
I got really good positive feedback from all of the collection really. The trench coat with bucket pockets and bias cut waist coat seemed to be a favourite at Graduate Fashion Week and when I showed at the Design Museum, people seemed to like the riot shirt and asymmetric waistcoat- I guess different people like different things. But the overall reaction was really encouraging.
What is your favourite piece from the ‘UTTN’ collection?
It would probably have to be the suit. For me this captured the theme of the collection and what I was trying to achieve, with the inconsistent pinstripes and velvet waistcoat that wrapped over the jacket and flashes of floral pocketing which could be shown outside the trousers as well. The outfit was all made bespoke so the hand craftsmanship could be seen.
What are you planning to do next?
I’m just going to keep going, keeping designing and who knows. I’m not one of these people who make plans. Plans always get changed; if you make a plan you find yourself fighting so hard to stick to it that you are blind to other opportunities that could arise.
Illustration by Cat Palairet
Describe your style in your own words.
I would say stylishly simple, with clean lines and a neutral colour palette works most of the time. My style is quite similar to the kind of person I design for. For me, style is about timeless designs that could be locked in your wardrobe then one day you could decide to bring it out to wear it again. I was always collecting things as a kid and guess I’d like my clothes to become the same.
Who would you say you design for?
Modern gentlemen who want to prevail with confidence. Most men like getting dolled up as much as women, and appreciate a well made garment. After all, what gives you more confidence than walking down the street dressed to the nines?
Are there particular people who you admire in the industry or otherwise?
Lots, it would be too difficult to just pin point one. Everyone… don’t we all? Everyone you meet effects your life and inspires you. We all take inspiration from something but just might not know it. I look to different people for inspiration- my family and friends inspire me, artists, writers and people who can connect and communicate with other people through their work. Everything someone does has a story behind it and everyone that comes across this creates their own interpretation of it. And… oh yeah, I tend to day dream a lot. (Laughs) That’s where the best ideas come from- I drift off into my own little world quite often when I’m out and about.
What piece(s) would you wear from the ‘UTTN’ collection?
I’d wear everything; I’d like to think there is something for everyone in the collection. It’s great to see people using your designs with their own style. I sold two of the bias cut waistcoats a few weeks back; one guy, he wore it over the top of a t-shirt with jeans and I sold one to another guy who wore it with a pair of cords and a tweed jacket. It’s great to see people with different takes on my clothing.
So what’s next for Ross Paul Keenan?
I’m always working on new bits, but at the moment I have been working on a S/S 2011 collection. But it’s all about funding and it’s hard for young designers. The plan is to just keep going with the flow, even if a few bits get produced from the collection that’s all a step in the right direction and then next time a few more… Rome wasn’t built in a day!
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