Browns Focus: Saul Nash
From dancer to designer, Saul Nash is a creative who moves seamlessly between disciplines, marrying a conceptual view on fashion with highly-coveted pieces that top the wishlists of dancers and fashion folk alike. In conversation with writer and cultural critic Ashleigh Kane, Nash tells us more about his Browns Focus collection, brought to life by iconic photographer Ewen Spencer.
Designer and choreographer Saul Nash sees the world in motion. Every step, run, and jump uplifted by a poetic weightlessness that comes from his years of training as a dancer. “Dance is just a way of life,” he says. “It’s like my oxygen or water.”
After graduating with a BA in Performance Design at London’s Central Saint Martins in 2016, Nash received a scholarship for an MA in Menswear at the Royal College of Art. “Design wasn’t that far off what I’d been taught in performance. It was embedded in craft and meticulous hours of practice,” Nash recalls. “I was always encouraged to combine the two, and the idea of designing for performance made complete sense."
Nash launched his eponymous label after struggling to find clothes he wanted to dance in. The sporty silhouettes he creates are often pulled from his own coming-of-age in Hackney, East London, where a schoolyard ‘fit could make or break a young man. But while Nash feels at home in sportswear, the stereotypes tacked onto men in tracksuits have always proved uncomfortable.
“The feeling of liberation [in my designs] goes against a lot of what I was told about ‘being a man’,” he explains. Through his work, he unpicks these labels from the rigid fabric of masculinity, setting important conversations in motion.
The theme is present in Nash’s collection for Browns Focus, an iteration of “Flip Side” – his SS21 offering – which taps into a shared yearning for freedom. “It came from the feeling I had when I went to Seven Sisters,” Nash says, recalling a trip he made to the chalky cliffs of East Sussex, England, as quarantine lifted last summer. “[It was inspired by] all the colours of nature and the feeling of escapism after being locked down for a long time,” he reveals.
“Flip Side” culminated in a film, directed by Nash’s partner, Fx Goby, that restaged the emotion Nash felt at that moment. In an evocative performance capturing the joy of movement, dancers, including himself, ran free on the coast’s rolling green hills, backdropped by a piercing blue sky.
For Nash’s Browns Focus collection, the designer returns to this sensation. “My inspiration often comes from a feeling or a memory,” he explains. Browns Focus also sees Nash collaborating with subcultural photographer Ewen Spencer to bring his vision to life. Spencer is best known for documenting the fleeting moments of euphoria experienced on the dance floor, notably in the UK’s garage and grime scenes. “Sometimes you can look at somebody’s work and just know that what they’ll bring will tell the story you’re trying to convey,” Nash says. “There’s a quality and honesty in Ewen’s work, but he also elevates his subjects with how he lights them. I knew that would blend really well with the three-dimensionality I wanted to portray.”
“Sometimes I’ve got a strong design of how I want something to be seen,” Nash continues, describing how he develops his collections. “Other times, it’s what I want the garment to do. So if I’m visualising somebody spinning, I need to cut certain vents into the garments to enable the garment to transform when they spin.”
It’s transformation, both literally and figuratively, that has floated through every collection, collaboration, and film Nash has produced since his groundbreaking debut at London Fashion Week AW19. “When you’re trying to express something, you have to practice it 1,000 times to really understand why you are trying to express it,” Nash muses, “and I’ve always said my work is somewhere between where I come from and where I’m going.”
Ashleigh Kane is a writer and cultural critic, formerly Arts & Culture Editor at Dazed. Her weekly newsletter, eye.spied, spotlights emerging and established talent in the art world.
Discover more from Browns Focus: Series One here.
Creative Director: Saul Nash
Design Intern: Olivia Brown
Photographer: Ewen Spencer
Photography Assistant: Okus Milson
Digital Technician: Neil Bennet
Stylist: Elgar Johnson
Styling Assistant: Oliver Francis
Set Design: Jade Adeyum
Set Design Assistants: Lily Soede and Tolu Oshodi
Movement Direction: Saul Nash
Make-Up Artist: Charlie Murray
Hair: Nat Bury and Rosie Grace Smith
Casting: Ben Totty
Models: Gabriel Goux + Youness El Mouaffaq
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