It is scary, beautiful, romantic, dark; it is mainly inspired by the demonized female archetypes mostly from Italian horror movies from the 1970s. We are talking about a collection of a new fashion talent, freshly out of the Royal College of Art in London. Fabian Kis-Juhasz will make chills of both pleasure and fear run down your spine when seeing his graduate collection, titled Damsel in Distress, photographed by the spectacular lens of Wanda Martin. Get ready for some elevated heartbeat.
Hello Fabian. Could you tell us who you are, where do you come from, where are you now and what is occupying your hands and mind?
My name is Fabian Kis-Juhasz. I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Budapest (Hungary). I came to London straight after finishing high school to study fashion and went from doing a BA at the London College of Fashion to an MA at the Royal College of Art. Right now my hands are busy writing emails, sketching ideas and making new pieces to further develop the products and techniques I created for my MA collection. My mind is overwhelmed with ideas and expectations of what the coming year will look like and how I can keep on doing what I love doing while earning enough money to sustain myself.
Why do you do what you do, and what do you like the most about doing it?
I like movies, I like escapism and the process of creation. I like things that are fictional but somehow rooted in reality. I like cultural commentary and self-expression. I do fashion because it encompasses all of these things. In the last two years I was preoccupied with the political aspects of my work and how could I convey a message in a garment or make a powerful statement, but recently I rediscovered my love for creating things and perfecting them. I miss taking my time to contemplate over the placement of a cut for days and then move it by a millimetre.
Your collection is very romantic, yet with a touch of darkness of some kind. Could you describe the collection as if you were describing it to somebody who is blind?
It is beautiful but grotesque; it feels like familiar articles of clothing but stretched over protruding monstrous bodies. Sometimes it feels soft and seamless like satin and sometimes it feels rough and scaled like old paint on a wall. It has layers of soft tulle with delicate embroideries in the shapes of little hearts, ribbons and bugs adorning the edges, and huge moulded elements made of hand-painted leather and aged cotton.
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Could you share the sources of your inspiration for these pieces and introduce the story behind your garments?
I wanted to question the relationship between womanhood and femininity. I’m fascinated by the aesthetics of horror, especially in Italian horror movies from the ‘70s. The books The Powers of Horror by Julia Kristeva and The Monstrous Feminine by Barbara Creed were the perfect combination of my interests so they had a huge influence on the collection. I started out by focusing on the body inside the garment and the expectations we set for that.
Kristeva talks about the idea of the monstrous body and the border we create to separate ourselves from the abject and horrific, which really inspired my process. I wanted to take her concept and use the garments as the border that separates and confines the horrific body. In terms of the structure of the collection, I decided to look at demonized female archetypes – mostly from horror movies with whom I am obsessed – and create a look around and based on each of them. I’m drawn to women who are the antagonists of socially accepted femininity.
Some of these characters were more general, like the vengeful bride, the innocent young maiden, or the she-devil, and some of them were more specific, like Faye Dunaway’s campy depiction of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. I tried to emphasise so with diverse and personal casting choices – one of the models in my graduate show was my actual mom.
While working on the collection, was there a moment when things went wrong in a beneficial way?
 I worked quite organically and didn’t really sketch down any designs so I arrived at solutions through trial and error. I spent my first year working on the concept of monstrous bodies and really studied the shapes and details I wanted to accentuate so I already had those in my hands; then, I just started creating forms from padding on the mannequin that felt right and then figured out a way to turn them into garments. To make the moulded pieces as smooth and seamless as possible was really challenging though, so I kept an open mind and tried to incorporate any mistakes if possible.
What role do you think a fashion designer has in society?
Since fashion deals with people’s bodies and topics such as gender, race, age and size, I think it is inherently political because they are factors that you have to consider and be conscious about. It’s great to see people using fashion to champion issues or to be advocates to people, but at the end of the day, it’s just clothing and we shouldn’t trivialise or exploit important things with statement pieces like feminist slogan T-shirts.
“Since fashion deals with people’s bodies and topics such as gender, race, age and size, I think it is inherently political.”
Is there something you essentially dislike about working in the fashion field?
I don’t know if this is unique to fashion, but sometimes I feel like good networking and getting to know the right people can get you further than producing strong and original work. At this point it’s very easy to scout young talents from social media and through all the great fashion colleges, yet it feels like being at the right launch party at the right time all dolled up is more effective. Don’t get me wrong, being social and making an effort to present yourself in a way that resonates with your work is really important but it shouldn’t substitute the effort you put in your work.
You have done quite some collaborations with the talented photographer and filmmaker Wanda Martin, how did this union happen? How do you enjoy working with her?
It’s funny because although we are both from Hungary and the fashion scene over there is pretty small, the first time we met was in London when I was doing my BA at London College of Fashion. She was new in town and asked me to style an editorial for her and ever since then we are inseparable and work together regularly – we live together too (laughs).
I love working with her because we agree and disagree equally, which makes for great arguments and interesting work. We both love beauty and there is a strong overlap in our aesthetics but Wanda likes things to be polished where I like them to be rough, it’s an interesting dynamic. We are actually working on a new project at the moment and we never agreed this much on anything before, so I’m excited to see the outcome!
Memorable moments? There are a lot actually, being young and trying to make ends meet to produce the best work possible always make for great stories. We’ve been to many hilarious location scouting trips where we knew from the moment we arrived that we could never afford to rent the place but we still had to go through it and pretend that we are super interested.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
To question everything. Critical thinking is very important, I would have never arrived at the same conclusions about my work and life in general if I would have taken everything that has been normalised around us as a given.
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 13.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 14.jpg
You freshly graduated from the Royal College of Art. I know that the life out of institution can be pretty tough sometimes. How are you dealing with the postgraduate issues? Working for food delivery while still trying to make it in fashion? Or are you one of the lucky ones and this scenario is not your case?
Yes, the reality of life after graduation is pretty daunting. There are a lot of graduates and not enough jobs, and if you have a very specific aesthetic like me it’s hard to find a brand that would take you on board. Starting my own brand is the dream, but that takes a lot of money and support, and a nine-to-five job sounds so much easier. It’s a very bipolar experience.
Where is the future going to run? Are you considering continuing your studies?
I would love to do a PhD in the future and continue with the subject of my MA dissertation, but for the moment I want to earn some more industry experience by starting my own brand and build that up and/or work for other brands as a freelancer (or maybe full-time for a little while).
And a silly final one: What is your favourite food? What food would you consider inspirational? (Red wine is not a food!) 
I don’t really have a favourite food or dish. I stopped eating meat about eleven months ago to see if it would change my eating habits and I think that’s the most inspirational experience I’ve had with food. Eating consciously and preparing food that makes you happy both mentally and physically can inspire you to be more thoughtful in other aspects of your life.
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Fabian Kis Juhasz Metalmagazine 7.jpg