Designer Focus: Shashamani Jackson
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to fashion design?
My name is Shashamani, I’m 21 and currently studying fashion with knitwear design at Central st Martins. What brought me to fashion originally wasn’t the exclusivity of the labels, the great designer names or fashion shows. It was the people. fashion design synergised with film is my chosen form of storytelling, my way of connecting to others and sharing my experiences. Each piece begins a visual conversation and there are so many narratives (my own and others) yet to be explored. When I design, I focus on the narrative and feeling I want the person to have when they are wearing my clothes, clothes designed with them in mind. Essentially, I design for people to feel something, whether its joy, confidence, or acceptance. In my recent work I wanted to delve deeper into the heightened emotion of uncertainty that was surrounding the Black community this year, which led to two projects, a mask that dwelt on it and a film ‘Knot’ that I directed and produced in collaboration with a look into, to celebrate the joy and vitality of sisterhood.
Image from 'Knot' Editorial
Who and where do you draw creative inspiration from?
I grew up in a small city with limited fashion, so I began to look closer at home--to the 90s styles and influences my parents had, in particular the mutli-coloured suits my Dad would wear daily and the pride they took in creating new, daring outfits that the people in my city weren’t currently wearing. In fact, with the way my dad dresses I don’t think anyone anywhere was wearing what he was, which made me think more about the designs I wanted to make and the boundaries I could push further. As I got older, I began to gain a deeper appreciation for my parent’s extensive vintage wardrobe and the fact that each item told a story or had a special moment attached to it. It felt like each piece held a purpose of its own. It’s this purpose I am constantly chasing in my designs and films, creating with intent.
What is the intent/inspiration behind your recent film ‘Knot’?
‘Knot’ was inspired by a desire I had to take the negativity that I was consuming in the media from the deaths of Belly Mujinga and Oluwatoyin Salau and the need for a sense of community. A way to turn the darkness into light. I was blessed enough to be able to collaborate with an amazing team of young creators and Black performers to share this message of people, communities coming together on screen and off. That there are still elements of beauty in this world and people to share it with. The film was produced with A look Into a small publication and production company aiming to showcase young, under represented work across the creative spectrum led by Ophelia O’sullivan (producer) and Asia Ahmed (photographer).
My younger brother was involved in a tv production during lockdown, and due to the pandemic the tv company sent us all this really fancy film equipment and we ended up filming it ourselves at home. From there I really wanted to direct my own feature project and through a lot of planning, working with the ever changing lockdown guidelines, we were able to create Knot, a collaborative project seeking to spread joy of Black sisterhood that I am so immensely proud of.
As an emerging designer, what changes would you like to see in the fashion industry and why?
I think change is already occurring and I’m excited to see how it develops. The exclusivity of fashion is a change I’d like to see, making fashion and the creative arts more accessible for all backgrounds. As everyone has a right to create.
How can the fashion industry promote racial justice and in what ways do you see it lack racial inclusivity today?
I think it is important for every designer to reflect on their brand and the impact they are having. Being intentional in who you hire, the message you send out and the steps that need to be taken to improve the future and who is the best person to do this. It’s great when brands put Black models and faces on the cover or on the runway, but it’s also just as or even more important about the Black faces behind the looks, in the board meetings, the ones making the decisions. Edward Eninnful’s new role as Europe’s editorial director is an inspiring and great step forward for the industry. Representation and true inclusivity matters in all aspects of the fashion industry. Brands like Pyer Moss who blur the line between a fashionable statement and a political statement I think are the future, as the lines have always been blurred as fashion does not exist in a vacuum.
What messages do you seek to convey through your work?
Life. The power in living. That your lived experiences are important, worthy of being seen and your story- the way you view life is relevant. There is power in being joyful when the world wants you to be sad or cast down. There is power in being confident, bold and genuine even when others are not. The message I seek to convey is through my work whether it’s through my films or garments, I want the person who is experiencing my work to know they are powerful to do all things.
Image from 'Shadows,' photographed by Carla Abreu (@carlas.abreu), Dani Chukwuezi (ubercapitalistdeathtrade). Modeled by Owiny (@glowiny)
Can you share some characteristics of your designs that highlight your authentic creative style?
My designs always have a sense of hand in them, whether it is a hand stitched finish, embroidery or a final flourish. I like my garments to look as if they were made by person who showed their love and investment through each design. Rather than it having a mass produced, impersonal feel.
A staple characteristic of my work is the colourful textures I use in my designs, for the Knot collection I made a tapestry of braids and beads inspired by my own hairstyles, interwoven into fabric and structure of the garments. I like to mix a lot of genres and materials together as I am continuously exploring new practises of doing things, so each project I take on I aim to do something different, something I haven’t seen done or attempted before, so I like to think there is a freshness about my work. Because how can something be boring/tired if it’s not been conceived yet.
This is true for my approach to the final visual process, my designs can take the final form of what is needed in the moment or where I feel the project is leading me it could be a film, a photoshoot, a collection, or performance. Each project has its own energy, and that energy deserves to be explored fully.
Image from 'Knot' Editorial
How do you incorporate sustainability into your practice?
Sustainability is incorporated through the use of my materials I use a lot of second-hand fabrics/clothes and yarns that in my most recent project dyed with plants. In a firm believer in using what you have to hand and breathing a new sense of life into objects you wouldn’t even think could be used. In some of my more experimental knits I used braids from my own head and leftover hair to create new textures and colour ways. I’m always looking for the next thing I can get my hands on to experiment further.
Image from 'Knot' Editorial
How have the events of 2020 influenced your creativity?
2020 has made me a lot more self-reliant and resilient in my creative practise. For the first 6 months I was working from home, planning and directing my own shoots and tester films with the help of my family. Honestly my neighbours must of thought I was mad, a girl with bright green hair running around the countryside with a camera in fantastically loud outfits. But this process taught me a lot and developed so many new skills, I was doing styling shoots over FaceTime, I learnt how to edit film, use a lot more digital practises like animation to really set my designs apart and how to make the best of what life gives you. 2020 has definitely broadened my interest in a range of things that I would like to continue to explore as it was quite a freeing experience working for yourself in your own space and time.
What is one of the largest obstacles you’ve faced as an emerging designer?
Like most emerging designer a big obstacle is just that emerging. Trying to carve out your space and also find your community. I think with my generation with so much emphasis on Instagram it can feel like you have to wear multiple hats. Right now I’m focusing on building my own narrative of work and finding likeminded creatives interested in collaborating. Issa Rae said to work across not up and I think there’s a lot of truth in that.
At this point in your career, what is the greatest lesson or epiphany you’d like to share? How have your unique experiences shaped your style and brand?
The Greatest lesson I have learnt is to be confident, even when you don’t feel it. It’s about being confident in your work even if no one else understands it as you’ll eventually find your own community who completely get it. But whilst your waiting for that community, you have to be confident that your designs and visions matter and have a place in this industry.
My style is a summary of the life I have lived and the culture that surrounds me. I was raised on music, attending concerts and places of people coming together. In my designs I aim to create that same synergy of people, moments and harmony. The energy and passion I feel comes out in the boldness of my colours I use as I want people to see the garments and get a sense that something else, something bigger and joyous is at foot. I also reflect on elements of Black culture like braiding and the ways we adorn ourselves for special occasions and use this as inspiration for texture.
Image from 'Knot' Editorial
Are you currently working on any projects that you’d like to share a bit about?
In 2021 I’m honing in on fashion through film and visual storytelling, so more short features telling mine and others lived experience. Enabling each individual to take control and truly own their narrative. I’ve also been working on a group campaign for Chelsea FC x Nike and this performance piece commission I’m excited for.
At the start of lockdown, in light of the issues that were being raised and the need for meaningful talks around race. I developed with the support of other students, 4ourthspace (@4ourthspace) an online safe space for people to discuss race, culture and their lived experiences. We are helping students through feelings of isolation they may be facing during the pandemic and roots for networking.
Photographed by Lily Chang (@ly.flux) for a Central st Martins collaboration with Chelsea X Nike X Fashion East.