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David Longshaw & The World of Maude

When there's talk of womenswear designer David Longshaw or Maude the Mouse, their names pretty much go hand in hand as you can't ever mention one name without thinking of the other.

The two names are synonymous now but having a fictional counterpart was not some marketing idea plucked from thin air. David was always influenced by film and literature and naturally vented his love for the theatrical into writing his own short stories. The character Maude the Mouse was eventually realised in David's final collection for his womenswear BA at Central Saint Martins. Maude was translated onto the models' heads as well as featuring on the final garments as printed illustrations, much like the recent Spring Summer 2012 collection 'Father Said'.

It's an intriguing story behind the young fashion label, because not only is the well-dressed illustrated mouse David's muse, but is also the 'Editor in Chief' of her own online magazine Maudezine. David frequently illustrates Maude interviewing fashion heavyweights including Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Donatella Versace and more. Maude is not David's alter-ego nor is David Maude's puppeteer.

We meet David Longshaw to talk about the fantastical world of Maude.

When did you start writing stories and drawing characters?

It was during my BA Womenswear at Central Saint Martins, and Howard Tangye was the head of womenswear, but is also quite a famous illustrator. He taught people like Julie Verhoeven, and he was the one who encouraged me to explore the characters I was coming up with, through my drawings. I was influenced by some sort of film or book, so I would draw my own characters inspired by them. And Howard said, "Why don't you start to write your own little story. Then I came up with Maude the Mouse for my final collection at Saint Martins, and she was in the heads of all the models, as well as illustrating directly onto the garments.

After Saint Martins I got a place at the RCA, but the summer before, I won a few prizes for my final CSM collection, one of them was for my illustration and the other was for my collection. They gave me a cash prize and also an artist residency in Cove in Scotland. The idea was to stay there in the summer for a month before I started at the RCA. So I went there with Maude, and started a sketchbook (shows a sketchbook full of photos of Maude in different scenarios. I was taking photos of Maude having an adventure, trying to find a home.

How did you decide Maude was to be a mouse?

It came from a really long winded story, when Nigel, one of my other characters, started to detach himself from the world, he discovered all sorts of animals and inanimate objects started to talk to him, and Maude was one of these. I think Maude started originally when Nigel went to the Lake District to stay in a shabby cottage, and as he opened the bread bin, there was a real mouse. And then within my stories, the real mouse starting morphing into a Maude, who's made out of cashmere suiting, that was given by Richard James, the savile row tailor.

And how did Maudezine come about?

I used Maude throughout my collections at CSM and the RCA, and whilst I was at the RCA, thought it would be amusing if she was a fashion journalist herself. It's also where the other characters like Mildred the penguin came from, she's the agony aunt of Maudezine. Maude's got her own blog and twitter account too. I've been interviewing designers through Maude as well as producing illustrations of Maude for different publications.

What was it like working at Alberta Ferretti

I always wanted to start my own label, but I thought it would be good to get experience working for a big label abroad. I made a shortlist of the designers I wanted to work for and Alberta Ferretti was one of them. There's a feminine element to my collection but still very different to Alberta, so I thought I could learn a lot there. I didn't want to work for a label that was 'exactly my style', I wanted to learn about a different take on womenswear. She approached one of my tutors at the RCA and I ended up getting the job and moved to Italy the day after I graduated. Having worked at Alberta Ferretti and Maxmara reconfirmed that what I really wanted to do was to start my own label. I knew I wanted my pieces to be more fun, to be able to change things around and obviously integrate my illustrations into it.

Are there any illustrators/artists that you admire?

I really like Julie Verhoeven and Grayson Perry. I like Tim Burton's character design. I quite people who use 3D animation and think it almosts influences by 2D illustrations more than conventional illustration, I quite Where The Wild Things Are, and I like aspects of Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Are there any labels/independent fashion designers you like?

I really like Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, even though there is pretty much no connection to my collections. I really like the darkness of it all, but then also the beauty and the craft behind it. I prefer his couture to his ready to wear collections. I just love the intricacy of it, the ideas behind it, the silhouettes. I think the designers that I like are the ones that have little similarity to my work, such as Prada and Miu Miu. I love Miuccia's vision and how Prada collaborates with a range of interesting creatives. I like that Prada don't just think about the clothes. I like everything that Marc Jacobs does. I like the idea of Karl Lagerfeld, I don't necessarily love everything he does, but with some of the stuff he does for Chanel, I really appreciate the craftsmanship behind it and the fact he's tried to keep the heritage of the brand going. There's a real beauty to what he does.

From newer designers, I have to say Kirsty Ward, but then I have to because she's my girlfriend. I like that her stuff is more masculine than mine, also she does the jewellery for me which I think works quite well because it adds more of an edge to a lot of my pieces which can be very feminine.

Thank you to David for bringing Maude, Mildred, Nigel and for showing his amazing sketchbooks to us! David Longshaw will be exhibiting in Paris during Paris Fashion Week. Maude continues to edit Maudezine.

Louisa Lau
13:41 - 16/02/12