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Conner Ives x Browns Is Here...

There are a few things you need to know about wunderkind designer Conner Ives. 1. He dressed Adwoa Aboah on the red carpet at the Met Gala. 2. He counts Rihanna as a fan. 3. He's designed a collection of his signature T-shirt dresses exclusively for Browns. 4. He's only 21 years old and still in his second year at Central Saint Martins.

 

If you enjoy the smug feeling of knowing that you're wearing something no one else in the world has (who doesn't) then this is the collection for you – we're talking one-of-a-kind pieces, sourced from vintage stores, spliced and hand-stitched by our favourite overachiever.

 

There's more to come but if you can't wait and you're in town, then head down to our Browns East store in London to shop the full collection.

 

 

On where the T-shirt idea began...

I had my foundation year at Saint Martins and after that I got a bit overwhelmed by it, so I took a year out to work on my portfolio. I went back to the States and I went out to New Mexico for 3 months and shut myself off. I didn't want to look at fashion for at least a solid 6 months. My aunt lives out there in the middle of the desert, in what is called the Earthship – it's completely off the grid, a self-sustainable building made of recycled materials… It’s one of the funkiest cities in America. I just got so inspired out there. One of the first things that I found in my aunts collection of things was this box of t-shirts, but they were all cut down the middle. I just started laying them out in this puzzle way. I didn't do any work when I was out there, but I was formulating things and thinking about them… it turned out to be my first collection. That first t-shirt dress I made in an hour, it was such a natural reaction. It's so simple, it's a t-shirt cut in the middle with another t-shirt sewn to the bottom of it. It spoke to this theory, a way of working, that I was just starting to figure out. Really simplistic and reactionary – see something, do it and then it's done. It contradicted a lot of things that I learned at Saint Martins.

 

 

 

On his favourite t-shirt dress...

For me, the best ones have always been the ones that are taken from all corners of the world. I would have a band t-shirt, then on the other side there is a family reunion t-shirt that someone just discarded in a Goodwill and then a fluorescent tie dye right at the bottom. A part of me hopes that one of those people who used to own the t-shirt, will say, ‘Oh my God, that's my t-shirt!’ I'm waiting for the day that someone comes up and says, ‘That used to be mine!’ Maybe it won't happen, but I'm really holding out. Still hoping.

 

 

On that Adwoa Aboah Met Gala moment...

I did a collection prior to Saint Martins, it was 6 pieces and I put it out there thinking, ‘we will see what comes back from this.’ It quite quickly picked up speed and I met Madeleine Østlie, a casting director, through that whole process and she became a near and dear friend. She picked up the collection and took her liberties with it, sending it out to many different people… This was the first time someone was really responding to the clothes and getting what I was trying to do and having all these ideas of what we had to do with it next. I just loved that and the energy! I made her [Madeleine] a few t-shirt dresses and she had gotten them to some amazing people. She got me introduced to Rihanna and people whom I never dreamed of dressing... One of those people turned out to be Adwoa.

 

Adwoa had sent me an Instagram message of my ‘White Show’, which is your first making project at CSM. Constraints of it are, that it has to be made out of either felt or cotton. She sent me a photo of a duster coat which had a two-meter train with a text saying ‘I love this piece so much. I want to wear it to the Met Gala.’ That was a lot for a 20-year old kid to wrap their head around. I was with friends at the time and I handed them the phone and my hand was shaking. No one would believe back then that it was going to happen, I wouldn't believe that it was going to happen. When it was being made I didn't think it was going to happen… The whole thing I will always describe as a dream.

 

 

On his best vintage find...

I probably have a list of 60 or 70 things that I could pull apart! The most fun I had was for the Met. The bar was set so high that I didn't hold myself back in any way. Being a young designer and having a budget, you have to rein yourself in a lot. There are times when I go into those amazing stores in Portobello Road knowing that the piece I will cut and take apart is more than I would probably charge for the final piece. For the Met project all caution was thrown into the wind: just buy it, it will pay off later. And it did.

 

The mini dress that was underneath, I worked with sequins, taking apart old dresses. I got old art deco trims and beaded fringes… One whole side of it had maybe 400+ hours of hand embroidery. It had all been sewn on by me and my friend sitting down and doing that for weeks… It was so big and glowing, but it was such a personal piece and so much blood, sweat and tears went into it… It will forever be my favourite piece.

 

 

On what drives his creativity...

Everything. Lack of sleep is definitely the main creative drive! There is probably no point of the day when I'm not creatively turned on... This is what I do. I have lists and ideas, which, taken out of context, would probably be the weirdest thing ever, but I think this is how it builds. I would write something down, like recently, when I wrote down: ‘bra made out of friendship bracelets.’ I don't even know what that means or how it's going to translate or evolve within the next few months, but you can only begin to imagine how that is going to go!

 

 

 

 

On what’s so good about fashion…

I love the idea and the spirit of clothes – people can take these things and project memories and sentiments onto that. It sounds romantic and wishy-washy, but it is beautiful. In my experience, whenever I’m talking to someone and ask them about their favourite piece of clothing or something that they feel quite emotional about, you can see that they become almost charged.

 

On his greatest ambition...

Graduating. It sounds crazy and not that ambitious, but throughout this process it has become the most ambitious endeavour. The more I get pulled away from it, the more I just want to go back to it. When I was a kid Saint Martins was like this Emerald City – all my heroes have gone there. Anyone whom I ever valued, had gone through that door. It's such an honour that I forget about regularly. Just to present a really strong show and leave my name there would be the most fulfilling thing I could do now.

 

 

 

Photographer: Jonathan Middleton

Stylist: Chloe Bloch

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