Today we sat down with Chris Kelly, the lead tutor on our Fashion Design & Styling Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds residential summer course, as well as an Associate Lecturer on the, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design | Curriculum Area: Fashion & Textiles.
ⓒ Chris Kelly

ⓒ Chris Kelly

What are you most passionate about?

As a designer and maker, my passions almost always resonate with the handmade aspect of my work. Right now I am learning about the process of working with Porcelain. I am learning how to sculpt and mould make. I love to learn a new process.

How did you come to work in your field / discipline?

I have worked as a designer for 18 years and in that time I have worked across many creative fields but it all started with fashion. I studied fashion and worked in the industry for 10 years, in that time I learned how to be adaptable in my work. I wanted to learn every aspect of the industry so that I could launch my own fashion label.

Flower suit ⓒ Chris Kelly

Flower suit ⓒ Chris Kelly

I ran my own label, ‘Theatre de la Mode’, for 8 years; I loved running my own brand and creating a season range. My product was a unisex ready to wear collection that was championed by Japanese clientele. The seasonal presentation of my range was very important to my process and gained great attention in the press and in particular Dazed and Confused.

Each season I created a show that challenged the status quo. I made film, installation and sculpture which all gained great attention and opened a new world to me. This helped me take my career in a new direction, into set design and prop making.

Theatre de la Mode ⓒ Chris Kelly

Theatre de la Mode ⓒ Chris Kelly

Tell us about your work.

My work is a constantly evolving and I’m always embracing a new discipline. The thread that runs through all my work is the hand made process. My latest work is an animation that works with both 2D and 3D processes. I am illustrating a lot these days, but also learning the process of storyboarding and script writing. Because of my need to make, I am realising the characters in 3D and this is where the Porcelain comes in. I am creating each character using the Victorian method of doll making, but the aesthetic of the dolls embraces a stylised contemporary image.

Alongside my animation project I also run my own fashion brand, Christopher Kelly +. I specialise in handmade leather accessories, in particular a range of leather and wooden veneer hats. I am currently working on a new range of accessories for dogs.

ⓒ Chris Kelly

ⓒ Chris Kelly

What courses do you teach and who should attend them?

I teach on the fashion foundation course at Central Saint Martins as well as across various short courses too. I have been teaching at CSM for the past 5 years and love teaching such inspiring and energetic young minds. The Fashion Design & Styling Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds summer school program is one of the most fun courses to teach on because I really get to know the students. The summer program is completely immersive and allows the students to be their true, creative selves.

The right candidates for CSM are those that love to think out of the box, love to challenge themselves and embrace new ways of working. I have taught the summer program over the last 3 years and have seen some of the most dedicated, open minded students progress on to the CSM Foundation courses and the Undergraduate courses. The summer school is a chance to experiment, play and develop your instinctive way of creating.

Student Work, Fashion Design and Styling Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds, ⓒ Chris Kelly

Student Work, Fashion Design and Styling Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds, ⓒ Chris Kelly

Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?

I am a huge fan of the artist Nick Cave (not the musician). He is a performance artist and is most famous for his sound suits. I discovered his work via an amazing book, Doppelganger: Images of the Human Being, by Robert Klanten.

Nick Cave’s work encapsulates everything I love about fashion, art and dance. He brings all these worlds together in a unique and inspiring way.

Name a favourite book, film and song that you would recommend.

My favourite book; Leigh Bowery: The Life and Times of an Icon by Sue Tilley

My favourite Film; always a hard choice! My latest favourite is Gods Own Country by Francis Lee.

My favourite Song; almost impossible to pick, but the song I can always listen to and never get bored of is Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell.

ⓒ Chris Kelly

ⓒ Chris Kelly

What/where is your favourite London discovery?

I am such a big fan of London, even after living here for 18 years. The great thing about this City is that you can keep discovering new things about it. My latest favourite is my new studio location. We are now the neighbours of ‘Gods Own Junkyard’ a fantastic neon paradise. As is often the case in London it is located in an industrial estate tucked between industrial units in Walthamstow.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

My best advice is probably the hardest thing to achieve. It is a quote I heard many years ago and one I believe we all strive towards. ”Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”. Source unknown.

Keep up to date with Christopher’s work via his website and Instagram. We are now accepting bookings on both of our residential summer school programmes for students aged 13 to 16 years old: Fashion Design & Styling Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds and Art and Design Workshops for 13 to 16 Year Olds.