Charlie Constantinou Opens Up on His Otherworldly Outerwear

After making his London Fashion Week debut, the British-Cypriot designer speaks with Hypebeast about the futurism and functionality fused into his SEASON 3 collection.

Fashion 
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In a market oversaturated with brands creating outdoor apparel, London-based designer Charlie Constantinou is in a world of his own. 

When you lay your eyes on the British-Cypriot designer’s garments, you’re instantly transported to another planet. Inspired as much by his North London roots as Iceland’s awe-inspiring landscapes, Constantinou has breathed new life into London’s fashion scene with ethereal designs that build a bridge between the avant-garde and utilitarian.

Having only graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in fashion design in 2022, Constantinou has already been recognised by the industry as he won the International Talent Support Contest the same year before becoming a LVMH prize semi-finalist in 2023. Constantinou has now presented SEASON 3, his debut at London Fashion Week, earlier this month; a range that cemented his status as one of the country’s most exciting designers.

Constantinou’s clothing is the definition of fluid. SEASON 3 presented technical jackets crafted from bulbous nylon, knitted tops came complete with detachable sleeves and paired with expandable quilted messenger bags, while trousers arrive with adjustable fit zips and O-ring pulls. Everything from the collection can be pulled and rearranged into different shapes and sizes, giving his garments a malleable, metamorphic look and feel.

Constantinou’s use of deadstock fabric, dyeing (all original colours), and beautiful quilted nylon garment construction is straight from the future, while simultaneously steeped in vast historical research. While the rest of his work is made in his North London studio, Constantinou has worked with 66°North to craft two seasons of collaborations, with the proud Icelandic brand’s vast technical prowess and spirit for innovation giving him the tools to experiment even further with his designs. 

Inspired by archives from greats such as Junya Watanabe, Undercover, and Margiela, Constantinou channels his plethora of references into actual objects, where he fuses natural elements with manmade, functional apparel.

Hypebeast caught up with the rising designers from his studio in London to talk through his debut runway collection, how the polarising universes of London and Iceland inspire his clothing, and his unique approach to design.

Shop Charlie Constantinou x 66°North’s latest collection here

Hypebeast: How are you feeling after your LFW debut?

Charlie Constantinou: I had my first lie-in for probably like two or three months after the show. I was really happy with how it came out in the end, despite a couple of little technical difficulties we had before the show. The hair and makeup teams were amazing, and the the production crew turned everything around so quickly. I’m really grateful for everyone involved.

What were your first routes into fashion before heading to CSM?

Fashion was more of an interest than something I saw as a career in. But my entry point into fashion was through footwear, actually. Being really into trainers led me to discover streetwear, and from there I started to look at fashion as something I wanted to pursue. I continued to discover brands that really got me excited, like Undercover, Maison Margiela, Junya… Those labels inspired me to try and do something myself.

I’ve always thought of Undercover as one of my favourite brands; it was the first label that really blew me away, especially when I discovered all of its previous work. I discover all of these things for the first time, and I wanted to know everything about them from that point on – before moving to the next brand. That’s how the whole fashion knowledge was built for me – through archival research in books and looking through the runway shots. It gave me the idea of what kind of brand I want to be and where I see myself within fashion.

How much does the UK – and London in particular – inspire your creative approach?

With London, especially being born and raised in North London where my studio is now, growing up in a diverse place with a wide variety of people was hugely beneficial to me. The same can be said for the London fashion scene as well. It’s so broad in terms of the types of work people are doing, and where people are coming from and basing themselves here.

It’s super inspiring because of the sheer variety of perspectives. I think London, especially post-COVID, has become a hotbed of talent again – and I feel like last Fashion Week really spotlighted how the attention is back on London.

Iceland is also a huge inspiration for you, having been central to all your collections so far. What in particular makes Iceland influential to your work?

I still get the feeling I had from the very first time I visited. That drive from headquarters, where you see miles and miles of crazy landscapes, it just blows you away. There’s still so much of Iceland I haven’t seen, and so much I want to explore, but the kind of places we’ve had a chance to visit outside have really inspired my work; all of the natural colours and the formation of nature is very inspiring.

There is definitely that otherworldly aspect you see in Iceland that I apply to my work. There’s always a sense of nostalgia, whether it’s sci-fi or something else. There’s an alien feeling to it, but then there’s also a really strong focus on functionality – so while it looks otherworldly, it’s also practical for reality.”

It also made the 66°North partnership very natural. How did that partnership come about?

Being able to use their facilities when we produce clothing together has been fundamental to my output, especially this season. We’ve created new silhouettes, made in London, and then we take everything over to Iceland. It gives us a huge benefit because even if there’s something we can sample here, we give it to 66°North and their team and find a way to produce it in the best possible way.

66°North has years of experience in creating clothing that withstands the elements – I think something like 96% of the population of Iceland has owned a piece of clothing from them. The focus on functionality you see in their mainline is more for the actual everyday, but we provide this more ethereal aspect. It’s a perfect balance because we both have that connection of functionality, but from different perspectives.

You’ve worked with the guys from Orienteer Magazine a lot during your journey as a young designer. How have helped you out in your career so far?

I first got introduced first to Orienteer Magazine through one of my other friends who really knew them, and then from Rory (Griffin), I met Jack (West). I think the first time we worked together was their second issue, where we lent some pieces and then after that, it became a thing of us kind of really collaborating on other projects.

When I work on other projects, I want to step into a different world. But our main body of work together is the 66°North campaigns and then our main line. Working with them is always really hands-on, which I really like, so, from location to casting and then the actual image making. It’s all really considered, which I really appreciate from them – and I think the end results are always more than we expect them to be.

You’re creating some of the most intricate menswear and womenswear in the UK at the moment. How long does it take to create each coat, vest, jacket or bag?

I would say this season, we probably began production in mid to late November. We had to specifically do all of our menswear first because of Paris Fashion Week showing in January, and then focus on ten looks of womenswear after Paris. So those three weeks after Paris have been incredibly intense. Each season, that kind of evolves a lot because there are things that we can take over from one season to another, but then there are also ideas that can be redeveloped, or we’re just doing brand new ideas from scratch at the same time. Because there’s this element of world-building, each season, there’s already a much clearer ground to stand on and then grows to the next part from that.

What can we expect next from you?

Next season is already on our minds. We’ll do some form of a presentation in September – but I really want to focus on the main line and main body of work, as it is, and keep pushing it forward.

Before this season, I took a bit of a break and did a capsule, just purely with denim. Within these kinds of fashion windows, it’s very convenient for any small brand if they can fit within these windows, but then there’s also there’s times where you could push to fit in that window, but you won’t be happy with the end result.

That’s why I then decided to go and do a capsule that’s really just focused on one form of clothing – which was denim and jersey in that case. We already started having ideas for this collection actually around March or April last year, but then didn’t actually start working on it till later. We’re taking things step by step and continuing to build on what we’re doing as much as we can.

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