• Publish date: Sunday، 12 December 2021

In the summer of 2020, Alexander McQueen joined up with a group of young people in the valleys of South Wales to start a creative educational project in the country whose rich landscape and crafts, poetry and literature had inspired Sarah Burton to design the Autumn Winter 2020 collection.

Conversations about turning their inspiration into an active community project grew when Sarah Burton was introduced to the work of Charlotte James and Clémentine Schneidermann. They have built a highly original and socially impactful fashion image-making relationship with youth groups in Wales for six years under their project Ffasiwn Stiwdio with school-age children in the communities of South Wales.

Charlotte James is a Welsh creative director and filmmaker whose home town is Merthyr Tydfil, Clémentine Schneidermann is a French documentary photographer, also living in Wales. Over several months last year, they collaborated with Alexander McQueen’s studio, who sent members of their in-house embroidery, studio and education teams to Blaenau Gwent. A series of immersive fashion, photography and embroidery workshops were built encouraging the young people to explore their own vision.

Conceptualised by Charlotte and Clémentine together with the McQueen team and coordinated by youth worker, Michelle Hurter at Blaina Community Centre, the Alexander McQueen project started in June 2020. Fashion, customisation and photography workshops were built and designed to offer hands-on experiences of the ways to make clothes and images. Over months of on-off restrictions, members of the McQueen team travelled to collaborate with the group of twelve-to seventeen-year- olds in Covid-secure sessions and continued remotely when they couldn’t.

The young people’s responses - through their sketches, research with their families, writing, embroidery, photographs and fittings conducted with the McQueen atelier - culminated in a four-day location shoot by Clémentine and Charlotte around locations in Wales such as Brynmawr, Abertillery Park, Blaina, Keeper’s Pond Blaenavon and Ogmore-by-Sea. One year later, Alexander McQueen publishes a book which documents the entire project; a celebration of the creative energy of the young people, the support from families, youth workers in the town neighbourhood, and to Charlotte and Clémentine’s vision of bringing insight into fashion and the creative arts into their community.

The project is a further extension of Sarah Burton’s ongoing commitment to fashion education at Alexander McQueen. Beginning in 2019, it includes open-access installations and study programmes which are extended to school-age, college and university students across the UK, and a scheme to donate and redistribute left-over materials for student collections.

The Wales project was conducted under Covid 19 protocols, or via Zoom calls when lockdown prevented travel.