Craig Green’s Inspirations: Paper Dolls and Art From a London Gay Bar

This is a portrait of me (at top) in Naxos, Greece, taken by my partner [Angelos Tsourapas, also the business director of the Craig Green label] last summer. We’ve been going to the same area for 10 years, and we eat at the same restaurant pretty much every night: It’s a no-surprises kind of holiday — not an adventure at all. When we’re there, we visit Manolis Lybertas’s pottery workshop. They sell plates and bowls, but they also have all the strange experiments that have either failed or aren’t functional, like this piece (above right). You can’t even put flowers in it; it just is what it is. I’ve always thought that if I weren’t doing fashion, maybe I’d do ceramics. I also have a lot of very complex but at the same time beautifully simple work by Richard Porter (above center). He collects mine, and I collect his.

While studying at Central Saint Martins, I tended bar at the Joiners Arms [an East London gay pub that closed in 2015]. A lot of other students worked there, and Stephen Doherty was one of them. He made this drawing (above, background), which hung behind the bar. I love it as an illustration — it’s full of emotion — but it also reminds me of those happy times. Community has always been massively important to me. It’s the reason I got into fashion.

I found this book [ “Making Paper Costumes,” a 1974 manual by Janet Boyes] (above left) in the C.S.M. library, and it’s influenced every collection, in some way, since. (You can tell by the number of Post-its I’ve stuck to it.) I love that it takes a material that’s quite basic and makes a fantasy out of it through construction and manipulation. Some of the looks from my spring 2023 collection recall paper dolls. This jacket (above right) is made from a textile fabric we developed by bonding paper and metallic foil. The way the studio works is that one half is like a traditional fashion atelier, with pattern cutting tables and sewing machines, and the other half is like a workshop where we build sculptures and installations.

From 2015 to 2017, we were part of the Sarabande foundation, a charity that was established by Lee Alexander McQueen’s estate. It has several studio spaces in its building, where artists and designers work alongside one another. That’s where I met Ollie [the British printmaker Oliver McConnie], whose etchings (above center) I’ve collected ever since. I love the process — he’s a real craftsperson — but also the imagery itself. It’s quite grotesque and horrific, but there’s also humor behind it.

The spring 2015 collection (above left) was a turning point for us. It was our first solo show, and it was very different from what we’d done before. The season prior, everything was hand-painted and looked a bit like rugs or stained-glass windows. And then we went into this one, without prints or patterned fabrics. The models were barefoot and completely visible, whereas before, they’d worn hats or wooden structures that obscured the body. It was also the first time we had a classical music soundtrack. There was a freedom, a lightness, to the clothes.

For fall 2022, we wanted things to have a double use. This packable look (second from left and second from right above) turns into a bag. The details of the garment were informed by the limitations of such a transformation. The front of the jacket has two big round pockets, for example, and it’s because they’re the sides of the bag; without it, maybe those pockets wouldn’t exist. These two looks (above center, above right) are my favorites from the spring collection. We do a lot of padding and protection, and much of the brand aesthetic is based on the quilted work jacket, but this was a new pattern for us — chaotic but simple. We painted them by hand on the floor of the studio with huge stencils. It felt a little bit like the old days, when we used to do everything ourselves.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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