William Stone is a busy man. I arrive at the East London venue for Stone’s debut London Collections: Men show three hours early expecting chaos, yet finding serenity. Against the cracked tiles and velvet chairs the models lounge whilst in the room’s center a man ties wild flowers to an industrial pillar, candlelight flicks shadows across the floor. William rushes past, apologetic and delightful, “I’m so sorry; I’ll be with you in no time.” Fine by me, I’ll stand by the buffet table and make eyes at the models.
If this show is the next step on Stone’s ascent to success, then it is well earned. A London boy through and through, Stone was first a student of the Royal College of Art and then undertook a bespoke tailoring course on prestigious Saville Row. Known the world-over as ‘the golden mile of tailoring’, it was here Stone would sit for six, eight, ten hours at a time familiarizing himself with the intricacies of a bespoke suit, “I would sit all day honing in on these techniques, it was my therapy.” His surroundings weren’t all suits and garment cutting though, “I grew up in the nineties amongst that whole sporty look, but as I got older I wanted to refine it.”
Once you’ve learnt how to make a bespoke jacket, anything else seems easy. There is no hiding with a bespoke suit.
And refine it he did. From his graduate collection Voyage in 2013 to now, Stone’s collections have seen the influence of his nineties active-wear heritage creep in. His Fall/Winter 2015 collection Digital Noise illustrates a conscious move to test his skill set and branch out, showcasing – unusually nestled amongst his signature made-to-measure suits – a bomber jacket, sweaters, and even a tracksuit. Was it difficult to wrench your brain from its Saville Row indoctrination and take a more casual approach? “To be honest, once you’ve learnt how to make a bespoke jacket, anything else seems easy,” he laughs, “there is no hiding with a bespoke suit.”
Stone has found a way to reconcile the modern with the past; expanding his surreal digital prints’ territory onto the bespoke suits he is known for. He is paradoxical, proving time and time again his hypothesis that menswear doesn’t have to be rigid; modern cuts combine with centuries old UK-sourced fabrics, t-shirts screened with photomontages of the beautiful and damned Marilyn Monroe and Michelangelo’s peerless David, hypnotic prints blown up from photographs of the host cells of viruses. Riccardo Tisci and his use of heraldry and iconography at Givenchy is an obvious point of reference, but Stone cites Dries Van Noten as another influence. Noten’s floral suits have echoes of Stone’s digital prints and his is a career Stone wouldn’t mind emulating, “However, I love biology; if I didn’t do this I’d probably be a science teacher or something.”
The clash of the natural and the manmade was a starting point for Digital Noise; “You know when you’re on your phone looking at things you probably shouldn’t, like Instagram? I just noticed that there’s so much information available now and it’s so noisy that we can no longer distinguish what’s important.” For Mr. Stone the natural is the antithesis of this noise; nature offers a starting point for forms, colors and symmetry minus the feeds of redundant information. “I also looked at beauty and mortality. Some of the prints are actually of pneumonia and terrifying things like that, so I wondered, would you class this as a beautiful print knowing what it is?”
“A movement that also used nature as its personal treasure trove was Surrealism. As its founder André Breton once wrote, “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all.”
William Stone has collaborated with Obar outerwear to produce a range of accessories in his signature prints.
Written by Ms. Harriet May de Vere