Saul Nash, fashion designer and choreographer, on a sculpture by Mark Jenkins
GB Tell me why you chose this.
SN I like the way the two bodies balance one another. At first you can’t quite make out that they’re bodies but you still identify with them.
GB Have you seen this piece in real life or just in a photograph?
SN I’ve never seen it in real life. I discovered this picture in a magazine and started to research the artist, so I’ve looked at a lot of his work. I like the way these bodies are dressed, to depict a stereotype.
GB You see them as balancing each other but do you also see the they could be in conflict?
SN Yes, I do see that. His work is open to interpretation. He probably didn’t intend this work to be beautiful but it is to me.
GB Do you find the human body beautiful in itself?
SN Yes, I think that’s what drew me to menswear design. I’m interested in the anatomy of the human body. Actually in this image they’re sculptures made from tape. He tapes a body to make these works. It’s the gesture that I like. He always has his works making these fascinating gestures.
GB You’re from a dance background. Do you find the human body more beautiful when it’s moving?
SN What I’m drawn to is the boundary between the static body and the body in motion. The static body is a facade and the body in motion is a true representation of that figure, telling the story of what it wants to do. That’s why my latest collection is called STATIC|MOTION. I started thinking about this concept when I was looking at the men around me and their status symbols. I worked for Adidas and people would go to the gym every day. Fitness does become a status symbol. But motion can be a way for a human to rid himself of constraints.
GB Is beauty a conscious part of your design process?
SN I think about both beauty and functionality. Sometimes I start with an aesthetic idea for an item of clothing but it always has to function on the human body so there is always this back and forth between the two. I look a lot at the way different cuts move on the body. I hardly ever draw straight lines on the body. Curved lines are the most beautiful way to enable movement. My main interest is in the way people express themselves so my presentations use choreography. There’s beauty in the choreography and also in the clothes.
GB Do you find things like this sculpture beautiful immediately or is the experience more intellectual?
SN Something has to catch me straight away. But this image does draw you in and you start to unpack the meaning of the work.
GB Is your initial response to the work of art the same as when you see a beautiful sunset or mountain?
SN Yes. But I grew up in the city and when I look at this image I immediately relate it to characters I know, whether it’s the story of the image or the way they’re dressed. Maybe other people might not have the same reaction to it. I also start to imagine how these bodies would move in a sequence. It’s an entry point for a story.
GB So you can take inspiration for your choreography from something static?
SN Absolutely. I wouldn’t say this is the most beautiful image in the world but it still inspires me. I usually find objects more beautiful than paintings. I prefer photographs to representational paintings. I take photographs all the time. Today we all have camera phones and constantly capture things, even conversations with friends.
GB How did you make the move from dance to fashion?
SN In fashion, you create something that goes out into society whereas performance is always contextualised in a performance space or theatre. I see fashion as a proposal of a true narrative. I used to be adamant that dancers wear my clothes but now I see other men respond to them and wear them. But I do design with dancers in mind.
GB Do you think people confuse beauty with status symbols nowadays?
SN My branding is the word ‘Saul’ backwards, so people can see it in the mirror. I do think people used to want something beautifully made and today everything is much more instant. We’re not so aware of the quality of things any more but driven by the way they look.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
SN I think it’s something that makes you feel something, that makes you feel happy, but with this work I chose it because it enables me to tell a story. For me, beauty is an entry point to a story. I draw a storyboard for every collection so I can see a beginning and end.
Learn more about Saul Nash here.