One of the brightest stars on the London catwalk, Avsh Alom Gur is the quintessential British designer, combining commercial knowhow with a creative edge. Luxos speaks to him about his vision, his collaborations and the place he calls home.
When did you move to the UK?
I came to London about ten years ago to do a design placement at M&S. It was the first time I lived in London, and it inspired me to go further in the fashion industry. A few years later, after working in television, I came back to do my MA as St Martins College of Art and Design. That was amazing – because here were all these strong characters and personalities from all over the world: weirdos who were obsessed with fashion, just like me. All these highly creative, brilliant people were all in the same building, in the heart of the prostitute district of London. It was a remarkable energy, very refreshing; but at the same time challenging, because while we all may have been the best talent from home, here, in London, in St Martins, the bar was set much higher.
I know you’ve worked with some great designers, including Donna Karan, Nicole Farhi, and you are presently the head designer for the re-launch of Ossie Clarke, what made you decide to start your own line?
After graduating from my MA, I worked as a freelance consultant for some of the biggest fashion houses in Italy, Paris and New York, but after flying around the world on business class and working for some of the largest clothing labels, I decided to take a step back. I moved back to London and took a part-time job dressing at the Royal Opera House, while I set up a studio, designing the clothes I really believed in. It was amazing to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted, to break all the rules I’d been given and set for myself. We started with a really small collection, with an off-schedule show and I applied and won the Topshop New Generation Award in 2005, and three times consecutively after, so it is going better than I hoped.
What inspires you in your design work?
While I may have a certain inspiration for each collection, there are certainly themes that run through all my work. It is an evolution, really, rather than a revolution each season. My design philosophy is very “shape” focussed. I’m intrigued by lots of things: layering is a big element in my collections, as is over-saturated vegetable dyes, meaning that there are deep, rich hues and vibrant colours. I also put a lot of focus on my collaboration with arts and crafts experts, such as knitwear designers Alice Wellbeloved and Kate Wallace, and with print designer Daniel Reynolds. In terms of accessories, I love mixing rich with poor elements, so I’ll have gold mixed with plastic on a brooch, or cashmere yarn with cardboard in a jacket. I love “objet trouvé”, and mixing together items in what can seem like an immature or unsophisticated way, but the results are beautiful.
How does London inspire you?
London either makes or breaks you, especially as a designer. People talk about New York being a cultural melting pot, but I think now, after living in both cities, London is so much more diverse. There is so much energy here, so much contradiction – and I love contradiction. That’s what I love about the East End, where my studio is. I love scruffy urban culture, the street culture, where
people interpret and make their own trends. The East End is all about that vibe – art students live happily next to new immigrants, everyone inspiring one another. Even before Shoreditch, Brick Lane, and Shadwell became such fashionable districts, I loved the feeling of juxtaposition here. Saying that, I live in Belsize Park, North London, which is very leafy, with lots of parks and open spaces. That’s the nice thing about London, how it really is a collection of villages, rather than one big city.
Any recommendations for those visiting London?
The Victoria and Albert Museum - it’s my favourite - and the Saatchi Gallery. Both are inspirational places for me.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in fashion?
(Laughs) There is nothing else I can do. Honestly, I only think in fashion. I just managed to learn the order of the days of the week. Fashion is the only place for me.
For further information visit www.avshalomgur.com
Young French couturier Stephane Rolland