Vogue meets Fredrik Tjærandsen, Central Saint Martins’ designer of the moment
Image credits: Niall McInerney
Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion course is no stranger to groundbreaking talent, with the hallowed institution counting Molly Goddard, Grace Wales Bonner and Richard Quinn among its recent alumni. For 2019, there’s a new name to note: Norwegian designer Fredrik Tjærandsen, the mastermind behind the performative rubber dresses that have gone viral via Instagram.
Hailing from Bodø, a small town in northern Norway, Tjærandsen arrived in London fresh out of high school. The idea for the “bubbles” (his nickname for the dresses) came to him early on in his studies at CSM.
“I was inspired by my own early childhood memories. I wanted to recreate the fogginess and the ‘mist’ of the memories themselves,” Tjærandsen tells . “The inflated bubbles are about being able to wear an unclear memory. When the bubble emerges onto the catwalk, it’s the dream. The deflation of the bubble visualises the moment when we realise we have a consciousness.”
Today the designer has woken up from a different kind of dream. Overnight he’s gained more than 25,000 new Instagram followers after videos of the dresses deflating (soundtracked by Mica Levi’s film score) were shared by artists, editors and celebrities worldwide. “It is surreal. I had to screenshot a comment from Lindsay Lohan on a video to send to my friends back home.”
The process of creating the dresses has been one of self-experimentation. “I’ve tested all the bubbles on myself for health and safety reasons,” he says. “There’s been three occasions when I’ve been inside and it’s burst, which is like a very big balloon popping.” Complete with a “very loud noise.”
Each bubble is made from natural rubber, with roughly five metres of rubber needed to create each dress. “The company I work with source the rubber from Sri Lanka, working with local rubber growers; and the pieces are made as much as possible from plants,” Tjærandsen says. “It was a craft that I had to teach myself. I’ve really tried to push the material to the limits in terms of the draping and the stretching.”
Crucially, the dresses are re-wearable. Once the bubble is released from the inside (Tjærandsen has designed a latch system which enables the model to activate deflation) the dress can be re-inflated and re-worn both in ‘bubble’ or dress mode.
For the CSM BA Fashion show, Tjærandsen went to great lengths to secure models and performers who do not get claustrophobic. And, yes, there’s a generous air supply inside each bubble. “It’s filled with oxygen, so there’s about two to three thousand litres of oxygen inside. A human breathes 480 litres of oxygen an hour, so you’ve got roughly three hours in the dress,” the designer revealed. “I started inflating the dresses after the show started, so the models are not in the bubble for more than 30 minutes.”
In the midst of an internet sensation, Tjærandsen is keen not to reveal too much. “I would like to keep it quite ambiguous,” he says. “Maybe the moment of deflation could be interpreted as a moment of clarity.”Click Here: Celtic Football Shirts