Meet Christabel: Art student at Central St Martins London

As a talent scout for many years I am always curious about special young people that are pursuing their dreams and about what lies behind their motivations.  I met the art student Christabel MacGreevy a while back and have been following her itinerary with a lot of curiosity and admiration. This is an interview I did over a year ago when she was studying art in London.
I look forward to interviewing her again in a near future and write about her many accomplishments since.

1/ Who are you?  Describe yourself. Christabel MacGreevy, 23. Final year student at Central St Martins.

BLOG: christabelmacgreevy.com     INSTAGRAM: christabitch

Above: Christabel MacGreevy in 2013. Portrait by Rowan Vyvyan

I study fine art at Central St Martins, but fashion has always been a part of my life. I see the two as totally interconnected, two different strands of a base creative energy. I chose St Martins aware of the fashion emphasis there-even if I am totally absorbed in making art, fashion has a place closely linked.
I love London and it has always been my home, but when I got  the opportunity to live and work elsewhere on my year out I was very keen to travel. I moved to Paris for nine months where I worked for two designers, assisted an artist, and did a transfer term at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. I also worked in a seedy bar in the 11th, got much better at French, moved apartment three times, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Then I moved to New York for three months, quit smoking, ate a lot of sushi, and had a few different jobs – one assisting a designer, another working in fashion PR and another assisting a stylist.
When I was in Paris one of my favorite jobs was with designer Emilio de la Morena. He is the best. I was helping out in his showroom in the aftermath of his LFW catwalk. Emilio named one of the dresses in his collection the Christabel dress and Saoirse Ronan wore it in a shoot for Vogue. He payed me in clothes and one of the things he gave me was an amazing dress which has a kind of flamenco feel to it – I ♥ it.

christabel Mcgreevy by Kate Bellm

Above: Christabel MacGreevy by Kate Bellm.

2/What is your preferred form of self expression as a hobby ?  Do you want to make a living out of it ? What are your goals ? I draw a lot, and take photographs all the time. I love photography, it is such an immediate way to visualize an idea. I know I want to go into design in some way, at the luxury end of the market, but I need a few years experience working for other people to give me time to develop my ideas. Ultimately I want to run my own company.
3/Why are you studying art ? What are you majoring in ? Why did you choose Central Saint Martins ?  I wanted to go to St Martins from the age of thirteen or fourteen because it sounded unreal, this crazy, exciting place stuffed with talented and creative people. I knew a couple of people who went there and I thought they were so lucky.  Where I was at school not many people went on from there to art college, and the few that did told me St Martins had a reputation for leaving students to their own devices with little instruction or teaching. At this stage I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to read English or study Art, but I figured if I spent a year doing a Foundation Course then I would work it out.

St Martins Foundation was big and incredibly disorganized but so much fun. I don’t think I learnt very much but I felt like I was at a party everyday. In the lunch break everyone was on the hill outside, chatting on the pavement and watching the catwalk of showoffs sauntering up and down.

Fine Art disappointed me at certain points of the degree because of the lack of technical skills available. At certain points I felt  I could have chosen textiles or fashion. Ultimately though it has been good; it’s so broad that I have been able to incorporate all my interests together, and hone an aesthetic I would never have had the time to think about otherwise. I love pattern, color, fabric, thick spongy textures, floral motifs, religious icons and Mexican folk art. Generally I do printmaking, collage and photography, but my course, XD (or Cross Disciplinary), gives me liberty to change tack at any moment. For example, this week I am making some new sculptures out of soft plastic sheeting which I bought at Borowiks in Berwick St. and then melted in the oven at home before condensing the bits together in a wooden framework.

Christabel by Flora MacGreevy

Above: Christabel MacGreevy by Flora MacGreevy


4/Describe a typical day or week at your school and courses you take. Are they hard ? What is the standard? I hang out in the studio pretty much Monday to Friday from 10am till I go home at dinner time. I am so happy to be back in the university structure after my year out, with free and easy access to a library, workshops, technical facilities and studio space.  Because I’m in my last year and everything is now leading towards the degree show, it is very undirected, and we just get on with our own thing all the time.

In first year and second year there were some group projects, different classes in art theory and a unit where we chose an outside institution to collaborate with. The standard varies greatly student to student. It’s tricky for people who struggle to motivate themselves, because the course is structured for the students to fill the time as suits them. The art theory classes were a bit stressful, some people were totally lost and silent, and other people dominated the sessions. This year we haven’t had to do them, instead we were researching for and writing our dissertations.

5/How many people in your classes ? What is the overall standard of your classmates ? Are they driven and focused?  Are you inspired by your classmates ?  Do you think there are any future stars in your class ? One of the best things about working in the studio at university is having all the other people there to talk to and share ideas with. We sit round one table in our studio together during lunch and talk. Everyone is from all over the place, and its really interesting and inspiring seeing what people are up to and what they are looking at, or have been to see recently. There is a core group of students who are there every day – who all care about their practice and are keen to work.  I will definitely miss it.

christabel MacGreevy by Grace Pickering..

Above: Christabel MacGreevy by Grace Pickering.
6/ Which designer do you most admire right now ? And which photographer ? I really love Meadham Kirchhoff. I went to see the Fashion In Motion catwalk presentation at the V+A museum which was a mixture of past seasons collections put on as a live event, and seeing their clothes in the flesh like that all together was totally magical. The detail and embellishment of every look is phenomenal and just so fabulous.

Also Yang Li and Ryan Lo…drool. I love Kenzo, the store at La Madeleine in Paris is a favorite.  Other shops which put me in a good mood are Opening Ceremony, Kokon to Zai in Greek St, Other Shop in Kingly St and Tabio the sock shop.

I like Walter Van Beirendonck,  and visited his store in Antwerp when I was there for the weekend recently. Antwerp is very cool, a mix of Gothic and Baroque topsy turvy twisting buildings and alleyways. I also visited the fashion college there, which is such an inspiring place to be studying at the moment, full of energy and dynamism. Of the other Antwerp designers Ann Demeulemeester rocks.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.11.06 AM

Above: photograph by Christabel MacGreevy

When I was in New York last summer I did a month interning at Karla Otto. I had more creative aspirations and was initially dubious, but actually I had such a funny time with the huge army of interns there, a diverse  cross-section revealing the spice and variety in America. They were hilarious. I was allocated to work on Jil Sander and the french brand L’Agence. I got to know the collections inside out, I think Jil Sander is the coolest. I would love to be dressed top to toe in Jil Sander.

Some of my favorite photographers…. Araki, Sugimoto, Sarah Moon, Seydou Keita, Slim Aarons and Miles Aldridge. Also Henri Cartier Bresson, there is a great show at the Pompidou Centre on at the moment, which I saw when I was in Paris recently visiting during fashion week.

7/What piece of advice would you give to a future fashion student ?  St Martins is a good place to study because of the opportunities it provides. A friend of mine did the jewelry design course here, and was scouted from her work on display at the degree show for a job at Alexander McQueen where she now works in the jewelry design team. She gave me this ring that she made for my birthday and I love it.


Above: Ring by Naomi Brown  

8/when you major, will you continue your studies elsewhere ? Or will you feel prepared to start working ?  Do you take/will you take  business courses too ? Because of the ‘Year Out in Industry’ I took between second and third year I feel pretty ready to get on with it and start work. I’m applying for MAs too, just keeping my options open so hopefully something will work out.  I have done a lot of different internships over the years, a lot of them unpaid, and I really feel now that if I’m going to be someone’s bitch then they definitely have to pay me!
I have never taken a business course…sounds practical though. Just by working for other people you pick up things as you go along though. When I was working with Jane Pendry in Paris I saw a savvy and organized business woman at the beginning of a new project. She had a long history in the fashion industry, and lots of hilarious stories from her time at Yves St Laurent and Givenchy, and has now started a line of simple and chic shirts and dresses. I think she is very clever, and found her very interesting to work for.
9/do you spend a lot of time dressing up in the mornings because duh ! I am at fashion school ? Or don’t you really care ?  If you’re in the canteen at St Martins or from the piazza outside, the people watching is absolutely amazing; you have some of the best dressed people in London coming and going in front of you. I absolutely love it, and on Foundation and in first and second year I definitely enjoyed dressing for school – there is a performative element to all these visual people parading and observing each other in equal measure around the building.
Now I’m more practical, and dress to get things done in the studio. I study Fine Art, not Fashion, and fiddle around with paint and ink most days as well as in the workshops for wood, metal, or casting. I need clothes I can make a mess in.

Above: Collage by Christabel MacGreevy.

Christabel MacGreevy in Itsy Bitsy Scratchy

Above and below: Christabel MacGreevy in her jacket decorated with Itchy Scratchy Patchys, a brand she set up with her friend, model Edie Campbell. So far Itchy Scratchy Patchy has designed two collections of limited edition characters, varying from sumo wrestlers to body builders to a pole dancer and a show girl. They are available online at itchyscratchypatchy.com

christabel macgreevy in itchy scratchy patches

All images courtesy of Christabel MacGreevy except where specified.

BLOG:  christabelmacgreevy.com           INSTAGRAM: christabitch


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