Tod’s Legacy: Central Saint Martins students interpret iconic Tod’s pieces
By: Zaneta Cheng
May 3, 2021
In spite of the pandemic, Italian luxury brand Tod’s and prestigious art and design school Central Saint Martins were able to come together on a new project that connects established creatives with fashion students. Tod’s Legacy mentor Lucien Pages and mentee Horace Page reconvene over Zoom in a dialogue with Zaneta Cheng on how young people conceive fashion today and why focusing on more than sellability is crucial to good design
Last year, while much of the world was in tumult, Tod’s was looking to the future. The storied leather accessories house devised Tod’s Legacy, a project conceived by its ideas lab Tod’s Academy, that engaged 35 young designers from around the world chosen by Central Saint Martins to reconceive and revise Tod’s codes. Each student was asked to take signature Tod’s items such as the D Bag, Gommino and T Timeless loafers and create a final proposal based on his or her interpretation.
Coordinated by Fabio Piras, course director of the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Course, the nonpareil roster of mentors includes fashion heavyweights such as Hamish Bowles, Simone Rocha, Roksanda Ilincic, Sarah Anderson, Carla Sozzani and Lucien Pages, among others.
In a series of short videos, snippets of conversation can be seen between mentors and mentees such as designer Simone Rocha and Andrej Gronau, whose collection was based around Nina Hagen. The collection saw Gronau’s love for colour come to life in a series of socks and stockings that he added to the product line. Gronau’s interpretation of the Tod’s shoes saw a change in the closure and added platform.
“I can see an incredible, really thought-out process from beginning to end with your identity and they’re so well done,” Rocha says in the video. Other students like Ranura Edirisinghe drew inspiration from the Italian town of Spoleto, while Horace Page, whose mentor was communications professional Lucien Pages, took inspiration from previous work experience at a leather factory.
In a Zoom call between Pages and Page, one in Paris and the other in London, the rapport between the two remains apparent. Despite the fact that the mentorship took place in one prolonged session, we speak to both to see how the experience shaped Page’s final presentation and how the relationship between the two has developed.
Lucien, what compelled you to take on this mentorship? How did you approach it and what kind of advice did you share?
Lucien: Long story short, Fabio Piras from Central Saint Martins approached me to ask me to mentor one of the students from the master’s programme. I love Fabio and I’m not working with Tod’s, actually, though I do work with Diego Dell Valle’s other brands Schiaparelli and Roger Vivier. I know him well and I appreciate his dedication. He’s a gentleman, a businessman and he’s someone who loves and supports creation, so there was no reason to say no.
I was just a bit concerned because even though I studied fashion at the L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne a long time ago, I did think that my experience might not be relevant to help a student on the creative side even though my job is to work with creatives. I was a little concerned about being really relevant to the student on the creation aspect and I didn’t want to steer him the wrong way or just think based on my communications experience.
After they introduced me to Horace, the mentoring process wasn’t multi-step, it was just one moment when we met online a year ago. I remember being at home and doing this in lockdown. We went through his project and my advice was really to create with a global vision.
Horace: I actually thought Lucien’s advice even on the design elements was useful. I had certain ideas and concepts about the project at the time, which I thought worked and I was probably keeping them there because I thought they were good ideas but probably were not.
In what way?
Horace: I had a bag which had rubber pellets on the base of it, with the idea that if you were to plant the bag on the beach, when you lifted it up, there would be a chess board on the sand to play with. It’s one of those things when you like the idea and you keep it in the project but it throws things off a bit and Lucien was just like, “This is messy and it doesn’t tell the story you’re telling,” and it was completely true. That type of advice is always the best thing for me. Someone who has a fresh perspective and can see something like that without being in your head. I find that useful.
Lucien: I remember one very strong idea. It was the Gommino shoe, which is a very iconic Tod’s shoe and Horace made it with raw leather. It brought an edge and I think it kept the “It” quality of the Tod’s show but renewed it. It’s simple but it works perfectly because it merges edge and craft.
Did you find that you were there to help Horace strike that balance between creativity and practicality?
Lucien: No, the challenge for me was to get Horace to focus his ideas because as a young designer he has a lot of ideas and he wants to express all of them so it was more to focus him to go with one idea, develop it well and make something strong. Otherwise it gets messy.
But to your question, I think this new generation is a consumer generation. They consume fashion and they love fashion, so they know what a good product is because they buy it. They’re super informed and they have opinions as well on how it’s done, how much it should cost, purely by their own experience.
In my generation – I’m in my 40s – people were less careful with the commercial aspect. They were all about creativity because they weren’t that informed and fashion was not an industry at the time. It was just designers working on their own ideas and much later did it become the fashion industry. So I think this generation grew up with the business and commercial aspect quite strongly in their mind. Horace, would you agree?
Horace: I would definitely agree. I’ve recently been thinking about the sellability of something, the desirability of something. When I started at Central Saint Martins, I was about doing crazy ideas, but after a while, what I find the most interesting or challenging is doing something as creative as possible but with this desirable element to it – a middle ground you have to reach between all these things rather than thinking, “What’s the craziest thing I can do?” or “What’s the easiest?” I guess that’s what a good designer is able to do. I have been trying, more recently, to think about the selling point and desirability of an object while being as creative as possible.
So what were those elements in your design for Tod’s?
Horace: I kept it very close to the shoe that existed, just in my understanding of them as a brand. If it was a different brand, I would have probably drifted farther away. I was thinking, what is something realistically you can imagine in the store, or someone who is necessarily not going to care about this story but still have some desire for the shoe itself. I kept the features and the main constructions identical and changed some proportions but I kept it close to the original shoe.
I think having the thing you can identify is really important. Whatever it is, even your own work, people need to connect to something in what they’re looking at. You can’t show someone something they’ve never seen before.
And how did the mentorship work?
Lucien: It was just the one discussion we had after they presented the project but that discussion was long and intense. We did take the time to do it well. Because it was just one shot, it wasn’t such an involvement but in that session we really dove deep into the fine details and we really got into discussion. And since then, we’ve kept contact. We follow each other on Instagram. I saw his new collection and Horace asked me for my thoughts. I asked him whether he was looking for a job and he gave me the list of brands he’s interested to work with and if I can pass along his resume. I would do it with pleasure so I would say the mentorship has moved to a kind of friendship.