In conversation with Kingston School of Art's MA Fashion Course Leader, Richard Sorger.
Following our invitation to attend Kingston Universities’ 11th MA catwalk show, we were fortunate enough to speak to the Associate Professor and Course Leader for MA Fashion at Kingston, Richard Sorger. Richard has an extremely impressive and vast expertise within the fashion industry. From teaching, designing, co-authoring; Richard has done it all.
Richard began his teaching immediately after graduating, having taught all levels of fashion education from undergraduate to postgraduate at an extensive list of renowned universities including Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and of course, Kingston University. “[After graduating] I landed a job teaching at a fashion school in Milan even though I didn’t speak any Italian! I’ve been teaching for over twenty-five years, but this is the first role where I have been full time.
In addition to the education side of the fashion industry, between 2006-2011 Richard designed and produced his eponymous ready-to-wear fashion label. After showcasing his designers on catwalks including London Fashion Week and exhibiting his collections at fashion capitals; Milan, Paris and London, his collection sold globally. Richard attracted an impressive host of celebrity clientele including; Courtney Love, Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, Kate Beckinsale, Heidi Klum and more. Following the success of his eponymous label, in 2011 he stopped producing collections after deciding to focus on teaching, academic research and freelance design consultancy. With the ever-changing fashion industry evolving, Richard believes the industry “changes yet stays the same”. However, today he notices further emphasis on employability. His extensive knowledge and experience within the fashion industry provides first-hand experience for his students with in-depth knowledge and advice, “I think my teaching style has changed the most and I have a stronger sense of self and what I believe needs to be delivered in my teaching that will benefit the student.”
In regards to Kingston’s annual MA catwalk show, Richard describes how his intention and vision for the show was for it to “not look like a student show”. Located in the luxurious St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, the interior exuded ostentatiousness and elegance. Richard details his vision for the 11th MA catwalk, “The space at The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel was very impressive to begin with, and because of its location we had a loose theme of travel which we used to start the research for the soundtrack. The graphics for the show were obviously the number 11, but it also references the old British Railways logo, which I very much associate with when I first came to London.”
With throwaway fashion becoming a problematic issue within the industry, Richard discusses a focus on sustainability, “When we talk about sustainability, the focus is much more on the longevity of an idea and a garment; if the idea and the garment are executed well, they will last a long time both physically and in the emotional life in the customer. We are designing clothes that are expensive and so they cannot be faddy or throwaway.” MA graduate menswear fashion designer, Sophie Bailey debuted a sustainable collection at the MA catwalk with garments emblazoned with graphics such as ‘Throwaway Society’ and ‘This Is All a Waste’, highlighting the importance of change within the fashion industry. In addition to the importance of sustainability, Richard highlights a focus on diversity, “we have focussed on issues such as diversity and emotional intelligence in the fashion industry and how to read images.” Diversity was a prevalent aspect of the MA show, with an array of nationalities prominent in both designers showcasing and models participating. Richard believes a wide range of nationalities adds to a more remarkable and diverse show, stating “we all learn from each other”.
Since joining Kingston’s academic team over a year ago, his second year as course leader has seen the introduction of thinking through making as a methodology. Richard describes how the teaching staff encourage students “not only test ideas in 3D, but to also initiate their ideas in 3D then take them onto paper for further development.” Through this approach, he believes “students become more expert and observant about how garments are constructed and I think this is evident in the quality and resolution of the collections in the show. They become better designers because they understand the craft of clothing.”
Following an impressive and well-received catwalk show, Richard sums up his hopes and plans for the future of Kingston’s catwalks with “to continue to strive for excellence”. After guiding young graduates to become emerging designers who demonstrate their flair and originality. It is assured that Richard’s passion for fashion paired with his love of teaching; has provided the students with intensive knowledge and guidance to prepare them for their future within the fashion industry.