From Australia to London, from London to Madrid: Edward Cuming releases a new A/W collection for his 5-year-old eponymous brand. A collective effort with his long-term stylist, Patricia Villirillo, and his artistic collaborator, Adam Signature, SLASH, SLASH, AND PATCH UNTIL IT FEELS BETTER consolidates Cuming’s visual identity by coming back to his original ideas and pushing them forward.
Indeed, the A/W collection establishes a punchy line that has been creeping into the past collections and presents throughout a thoughtfully complete styling of the new looks by including greatly detailed accessories, and vintage sunglasses sourced by Gafasgalore..
Hello Edward, what a pleasure to talk to you face-to-face, even if through a screen! From where in the world are you taking this call?
I'm in Madrid!
Indeed, you are based in Madrid even if you are originally from Australia and you then graduated in fashion in London! How come you chose Spain as the home for both your professional development and your namesake brand?
It was when I finished studying in the UK. I had already been living in Spain prior to that, just for personal reasons, and then when I graduated it was the only place that I could live with visa essentially so that's why I'm here. I guess that was originally a temporary plan and then the brand started so I've just stayed here and set the brand up in Madrid.
Do you prefer Madrid to a major fashion capital like London or do you ever miss the city’s hectic, inspiring atmosphere?
Madrid is pretty hectic as well, it’s pretty big still. It's quite nice to be outside of a quote unquote fashion capital because it just allows a little bit more focus, but I don’t think I could say if I prefer it. I love London, I love living there but I think for a business, especially a young business, Madrid is a little bit easier to have space to create. It allowed me to able to take the time that I needed to set the brand up in the beginning for sure.
Talking about this, do you have any particular source of inspiration for your designs? Is there any previous fashion icon or couture tradition that you look up to now or that influenced the beginning of your journey?
Not particularly, I do not get obsessed easily with people or things. I think it is really personal where the clothes come from, it’s quite an intuitive process, I look a lot at people in life, and take a lot of images. I think often some of the more nuanced aesthetics inside of the clothes or the finishings can be inspired by something pretty subtle that I see, whether that is something in motion or walking down the street or a piece of clothing I have had for a long time. There’s plenty of people in fashion that I find incredibly talented and inspiring, but I don't think I focused too much on that in my own process.
You launched this eponymous label, Edward Cuming, in 2019. At this point, it was only about menswear but then you started expanding your offer and, season by season, you included womenswear. What was the process of moving from designing mainly menswear, your MA subject, to balancing it out with womenswear?
It was pretty natural the way it progressed that way. When we started the brand, we started it with a few commercial partners, stores that were ordering, and so from a very early stage I had a lot of feedback from the customer and a few stores had mentioned that a lot of the pieces were being bought by women as opposed to men. That’s the first thing that got me thinking that I should expand on that sort of range but really what pushed it to where it is now is just a simple creative progression. Menswear is interesting and is something that comes, just through my own education maybe, naturally but it felt like a great challenge to start looking at female clothes as the breath of where you and what you can design became more exciting. I think the brand started to evolve and to find its voice and it felt limiting to be designing simply shorts and trousers. That is where that happened, it's been happening even since the first or second season, it's been creeping in and now it's definitely a 50/50 almost in terms of design development.
Of relevance, I wanted to point out that despite your significant contribution to menswear, your designs inscribe themselves in the contemporary scene in a unique, atypical way that takes distance from established maisons’ traditional cuts and looks. How would you describe your style?
There is a building block of sort of classic shapes inside the collection. I’m really interested in clothes that people are wearing so that's often where everything begins, the nuances in how we deal with fabrics or how we finish a garment, the decision-making in terms of what is left undone or unfinished, a rejection of the manufacturing process in a mass market sense, subtle ways to imbue this sense of luxury through a decisive rejection of what one would consider finished as a garment. I don't think it's about really trying to reject classic things, I really love classic things, but we offer alternatives, something that feels more touched or personal inside of that world.
This non-stereotypical masculinity is expressed through the fluidity of cuts, shapes, patterns, designs, and colours that are always unconventional but never unsettling. Would you say that this inspires comfort in your male appreciators and is this something you aim for in your design process?
For sure! There is industrialised clothing manufacturing, there are blocks and known rules about fit. What takes a brand out of that world into something maybe a little bit more considered is thinking about how clothes fall on the body and allowing more space, or less space if that's the desired outcome. It's really building on these things and working with the proportions to make it feel totally recognisable but when you're wearing it, it's maybe a little longer than what you're used to wearing or a little bit wider or a detail is not quite in the right place that you would have been accustomed to it being which makes it more of a special experience wearing and interacting with the clothes that are designed in that way.
All this triumphs in your Autumn/Winter 2024 collection. First, congratulations on this achievement! How are you feeling about its launch?
Really good! I think it was a nice collection, it felt more like a sombre colour wise collection for us, but it felt elevated in some of the more technical garments. We've been developing more outerwear recently and that felt like a real achievement, what we came up with and how desirable it felt. There are always a million things you want to change as soon as you show something, but I'm not so concerned about each season arriving at this preconceived idea of what it needs to be, I think it is more of a continuing conversation, each collection connects to the last and will inevitably connect to the future. It felt like a nice consolidating step in the brand and its evolution, but I feel fine about it, I feel good.
The collection is called SLASH, SLASH, AND PATCH UNTIL IT FEELS BETTER. What inspired this name? What does it represent?
The first shirts that I did after finishing school was patched together pieces of washed linings and it became a bit of an identifiable technique in the brand and I called it The Slash Slash and Patch Polo Shirt so this season was really consolidating our visual identity or the wardrobe that we’ve been developing for a long time, it felt like we came back to a lot of old ideas and a lot of all the developments since the beginning and push them forward. I don’t know if it’s closing a chapter, I don’t know if I can say that just yet, but I called it that because I was doing a lot of reflection on the five years of the brand and what people are really kind of engaging with. It was like a mantra maybe to myself because running a young business is really difficult and the industry is really difficult so at times everything can feel quite futile and useless in the grand scheme of things so that was a mantra to reconnect to the process which does make me very happy and hopefully makes others happy too. That’s why I named it that!
The first thing that stands out in this A/W collection and that surely follows its title is the mixing and matching of textures and shapes representative of your experimental styling and subversion of fashion norms. For example, we see elegant, polished tops styled with comfortable, jogger-like bottoms. Can you guide us through your artistic process behind similar looks?
I like collections that feel like diverse in their inspiration: I like this elegant person and I like something that feels very dishevelled. I can't take full credit for that because I've been working since the beginning with a stylist called Patricia Villirillo – who’s Italian as well – and she's a big part of my process, we create collections and often I'll have a few things in mind in terms of full looks but really I try to give her complete freedom to create these characters or these personalities through the styling. I've learned through the seasons that allowing myself and my team to really be as free as possible in taking on new ideas, whether that's a very elegantly draped dress or a pair of really destroyed trousers, to really allow ourselves to go off on these different tangents because I have complete trust in Patty [who] is going to come in and understands that and understands how to unify all of these things together and it just creates a much more convincing idea of the person or the people that we’re dressing.
The fabrics are equally eye-catching with silk bell skirts that recall elegant petal shapes and drapery lines, denim pieces with geometric and kaleidoscopic patterns, and many more linked by a cool colour palette. Is nature with its contrasting but interdependent ecosystem an inspiration for your incredibly varied, yet coherent collection? How do you create such a rich, diverse environment?
Not consciously, I'll be honest. Of course, I think about nature and I'm in it all so perhaps that feeds in, but really, I'm looking more and thinking more about the body and ways in which fabric and shapes can paint that in a new or interesting way or that feels pleasing to me. In referencing that skirt, this is a technique that would usually apply to a shirt and it was sort of a new thing for us to take that down into the middle section of the body and see how it could play out there and what kind of energy or movement that would produce. It was really about simple things like proportion and how colours interact with each other on the body which is really interesting because even though in the reality of a collection and the reality of producing it and selling it and then having people buy that, you are not often buying looks, you're buying pieces so those pieces will eventually start interacting with stuff that I have no control or idea about. When we present the season, it's the only opportunity we have to give our opinion on how things can work and often a colour for me can be quite underwhelming on its own but as soon as I see that with another colour or texture on the one silhouette, then it comes alive. And by no means do I think that the colour I choose or the texture I choose is the only texture or colour that will work, but it's giving people propositions for unexpected combinations, an invitation for people to understand how we think about clothes and perhaps apply that into their own lives unless they are already doing so which so many of our customers do.
There is also a sense of humour in the hidden pun embroidered on the trousers with the first letters of your surname. Tell us more about it, please!
The CUM Jeans line is very much a permanent thing, it was creeping into the collections for a while and now we have given it its own name. It’s my name and it's a name that obviously people will comment on, the spelling is what it is, so I just wanted to lean into it, I think it's punchy, I think it's fun. When you look at it inside the context of the brand, I did worry that it could feel cheap, or it could feel gimmicky but at the end of the day it's a claiming of your own name and I think it makes perfect sense for the brand to shorten it. There's a bit of humour in there for sure, it's tongue in cheek and it's definitely something that's winking at you but in a subtle way, especially in the way that we communicate our brand, it's not so obvious. We could do something very obvious, but I make sure that we don't so that it doesn't draw away from the fact that it's actually a very nice product and it's very well made, and it's been very considered.
No look would be complete without some accessories and as usual, your collection distinguishes itself for the collaborative work behind these complementary pieces! What is your partnership with fellow Madrid-based Gafasgalore and with Reggio Emilia-based Adam Signature like?
Those two things are very different. Gafasgalore is a dear friend of mine who lives here, who has a shop, and she sources vintage sunglasses all over Europe. It's not really a collaboration in the sense that we're selling anything, we wanted to see this full look of the Edward Cuming woman or man for a while. It was the perfect opportunity when I told my stylist Patty about her and her space and they met and she was so excited because we've always been thinking what sunglasses or eyewear range [would go] so it felt nice to give that personality layer to the people in the photographs and really kind of complete the look, especially because they're vintage, it felt more real and more believable as opposed to using a current brand or something on trend. It was a one-time thing.
On the other side is the shoes. The collaboration with Adam Signature has been happening for quite a few seasons now and it is a wonderful collaboration, he's such a talented shoemaker. It's really nice to collaborate with someone where you respect their vision so much and it feels reciprocated at the same time, there's a really nice synergy between the two of us and his work on his own is quite intense and it's beautiful and he's been really good at allowing me to adapt that to what I think is this brand. It's nothing short of a joy really.
Apart from the incredible hand-sourced vintage sunglasses and handmade shoes, there are other eye-catching details like the multi-ribbon brooch, almost cockade-shaped decorations, and the colourful crocheted pieces. How did you come up with these unique items and what is the styling process like when you incorporate them into your looks?
We were looking at cow rosettes, the ribbons you get in a fair for cows, winning badges and these ceremonial type things. We had done a lot of sourcing of all these fun ribbons and materials that when put together it felt kind of free and interesting. Styling them we felt in the same way that I was mentioning before – how when a colour sort of interacts with another colour or another texture in one look everything starts to feel new –and I think those sort of pins or the cumberbund belty things did that, they provided another layer, they added another dimension to the look and suddenly elevated a lot of things. And they are just fun, strange, little accessories that are kind of titillating.
Once again, congratulations on this incredible collection! Is there something you already have in store for the future that you can share with us?
I hate to be so boring but no, nothing I could share right now, but stay tuned!