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The Exclusive

Meet Mr Craig Green: The Maverick Of British Fashion

The rising star to add to your wardrobe – new to MR PORTER

Mr Craig Green has won himself plenty of well-wishers since launching his eponymous brand in 2012. The Business of Fashion’s Mr Tim Blanks has called him “a fiercely, fearlessly original thinker”. Mr Alexander Fury, writing for vogue.com, has described his clothes as “utterly exceptional and unique”. He has been showered with awards (most recently, the BFC/GQ Menswear Fund prize 2016 and British Menswear Designer of the Year at the 2016 Fashion Awards), and he’s had his campaigns shot by legends such as Mr Nick Knight. His runway shows have not only been universally well received (beyond the Daily Mail, that is – the tabloid had a problem with the wooden face masks Mr Green fielded for his MAN debut in 2012), but also moved people to the point of tears (check out the somewhat misty-eyed reviews of his SS15 solo debut). Undoubtedly, then, he’s something of a wunderkind. On top of all this, he’s a nice chap to boot.

MR PORTER met Mr Green in Berlin. Actually, we went there together, to take part in a panel discussion about his work at Soho House. Unfortunately, it turns out, he hates public speaking; it’s nothing less than his “worst nightmare”, and has been ever since school. (When it was his turn to read out a book in his English lesson, he’d pull a sickie.) He is, however, being rather gracious about the whole thing. Despite the austere designer uniform – an all-black ensemble of his own creations – he’s an easy-going presence. He laughs a lot, and tends to do hugs instead of handshakes.

Mr Green is most definitely a man with a grand vision. His work, which is a homage to and deconstruction of classic utilitarian and military clothing, is not just well referenced, it is beautifully constructed, the kind of clothing that is as impressive on the runway as it is wearable off it. This is thanks largely to the ingenious way in which it is constructed, with laced seams allowing each complex piece to be draped and reconfigured as the wearer sees fit. Beyond that, what’s really striking about his collections are the details, from layered pockets to double collars, oversized knotted belts and graphic bands of appliqued cotton webbing. Though some of this might seem a little avant garde, most of it is simply recontextualised elements of classic menswear. A case in point is AW17’s fringed cardigan – its asymmetric fastening is not a wilfully oblique design detail, but a tribute to a military bandolier. (As in, the diagonal strap that holds bullets and/or grenades. This, surely, is a knitwear first.) “Everything is always taken from tradition in the beginning,” says Mr Green. “I always think, especially with menswear, you can’t have forward thinking without the tradition to twist.”

At the heart of every Craig Green collection is the quilted worker jacket (“The first thing that I ever made,” he says). Each season, this simple shape, cut boxy, with a horizontal back yoke, becomes a starting point for a different and engrossing flight of fancy. AW16 featured hazmat suits and armorial leather doublets – offering protection in a troubling world, perhaps. AW17, which launches on MR PORTER this month, is a meditation on facing the unknown, incorporating references to classic maritime garments as well as South Asian-inspired prints, which appear in various forms in the collection’s standout outerwear pieces. Each seasonal offering is both multivalent and intricately put together, a reflection perhaps of Mr Green’s working methods. “Things can feel right and not right in different seasons,” he says. “But there’s lots of trial and error in the studio. Lots of making and cutting up and remaking, and starting again, and throwing that away.”

Launching alongside the runway selection on MR PORTER this month is what Mr Green refers to as “core” items – that is, his own unique take on menswear staples such as the hooded parka, the shirt, the white tee and the denim jacket. These understated pieces are packed with the details – oversized lace ties and double pocket constructions – that characterise Mr Green’s runway collections, but are designed more as everyday essentials, a series of future classics. “It’s based around the idea of all the men I know and the way that they dress,” he says. “They’re creatures of habit. All my friends, they wear the same pair of trainers, and when they buy those trainers, they wear them out and then they buy them again. So it’s that idea of building a uniform, or wardrobe for our customer.”

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“Uniform” is a particularly important word for Mr Green. His love of uniform means that he designs his collections in small sections of five or six similar looks, and tends also to focus on depicting groups in his seasonal campaigns. “That idea of bringing a group together through dress or uniform is something you don’t really see very much anymore,” he says. “It’s because of the change in how our subcultures are structured, and how the way people work is different. Not many people wear uniforms to work. Now, there’s something slightly romantic about that idea, because it’s not so everyday.”

Of course, that’s not to say Mr Green’s clothes couldn’t also end up as essentials. In the shoot that accompanies this article, which he styled to launch his collection on MR PORTER, he offers up a lesson in how to pair Craig Green clothing with pieces that are considered to be at the core of the male wardrobe. “We chose from other brands on MR PORTER that are known for a particular piece – a good white T-shirt, say, or jeans. Those kind of continuous aesthetic brands. I guess our aim ultimately is that, if you wanted to buy a workwear jacket, you’d buy a Craig Green one over any other brand. It’s ambitious, I know,” he says. Then, smiling, “But we all need ambition.”