Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Inside the world of Craig Green

Craig green web

Prodigious talent Craig Green has rapidly built a huge following among the fashion cognoscenti. He reveals to Drapers how “being annoying” has led him from Central Saint Martins, to “face fence-gate” and the most respected stockists in the world.

Craig Green might be London’s most misunderstood menswear designer. To some, he is a fashion week showman whose catwalk spectacles are filled with unwearable creations that are ridiculed by national newspapers and on TV chat shows.

To others, he is the most promising designer of his generation, whose daring catwalks inspire wonder and emotion, and offer a unique take on uniform dressing that woos international buyers and loyal customers.

The 30-“and-a-half”-year-old, he jokes with a giggle, was named Menswear Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards in 2016, just four years after launching his eponymous brand. He has also quickly established an influential signature style with an instantly recognisable, often-imitated design handwriting.

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Green now counts nearly 70 of the world’s most prominent retailers as stockists, and they regularly sell out or reach an enviable 90% full-price sell-through. Shirts and workwear jackets are bestsellers, but his most directional catwalk items sell equally well – and to female, as well as male shoppers. Wholesale prices for autumn 17 range from £130 for trousers to £575 for a down-filled coat.

“I guess it’s been a very fortunate few years,” says the designer with a proud smile and typical modesty, as we sit in his east London studio. “We’ve had healthy growth in sales, which is good. I think.” In fact, sales have doubled season on season since spring 13, and sales for the last three collections have grown between 30% and 40%.

Selfridges stocks the menswear brand in its men’s and women’s wear areas.

“There is no question that Craig Green is one of the most exciting talents to come out of London in recent years,” says the department store’s men’s designerwear and contemporary buyer Jack Cassidy. “From the beginning the product has resonated with our fashion-conscious customer, who is seeking out the best in new design. But equally the well-cut, flawlessly executed pieces are picked up by consumers with less awareness of the designer.”

Everyone was so hysterically wanting to be on the MA course, and I was like, ‘Maybe I should give it a try’

Founder of London independent Machine A Stavros Karelis agrees: “Last season before Sale, Craig Green had a 90% sell-through. That makes it one of our bestselling brands. Craig knows who his customers are. He understands the market and its challenges. All this, for such a young brand, is enough to safeguard its future success. Green’s vision is so strong it will become one of the most iconic brands in 20 years’ time.”

Green catwalks 2

Green catwalks 2

Since its launch in 2012, Green has smartly and strategically expanded his business. Unlike some designers, his collections had evolved rather than revolutionised each season.

“I love the rather slow progress and development, building on one collection after the other,” comments Herbert Hoffman, head of buying at Berlin stockist Voo. “The idea of pieces that fit with past seasons is wonderful, as it builds loyal customers.”

This month the evolution goes further with the launch of Craig Green Core Collection.

The big move

The designer was born in Hendon, north-west London, and lived with his mum until he was 29. He made “the big move out” a little more than a year ago, to his own house at the end of the same street.

At school he could “kind of draw, and kind of paint”, and so pursued art. A friend’s father recommended London’s Central Saint Martins – Green had never heard of it – and he “accidentally” ended up on its year-long art foundation course.

Despite having no interest in the industry – and Central Saint Martins actively discouraging applications – he was drawn to the oversubscribed BA Fashion course.

Green recalls: “They were saying, ‘Don’t even bother.’ But obviously, being annoying, I was like, ‘I want to try.’”

I’m more Alien than Star Wars – I’m that kind of sci-fi fan

He won a place on the course and, having discovered experimental designers such as Walter Van Beirendonck and Henrik Vibskov, quickly began to find his fashion path and interned with both during his work placement year. Vibskov now tells Drapers he sees Green as a “one of a kind”.

After four years he progressed to Central Saint Martins’ celebrated fashion MA course, where the likes of Alexander McQueen and Christopher Kane had studied under the late, great professor Louise Wilson.

“Everyone was so hysterically wanting to be on the MA course, and I was like, ‘Maybe I should give it a try’. It was that stupid defiance again,” he laughs. “Luckily Louise gave me a chance. When I met [her], that was when I realised maybe I could do this.”

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

East promise

After graduating Green set about finding a job, but the experimental forms and conceptual structures of his graduate collection were not the stepping stone for the traditional tailoring roles he was applying for.

At the same time he met Lulu Kennedy, the founder of talent incubator scheme Fashion East, and was invited to present an installation for spring 13 at the debut London Collections Men (now London Fashion Week Men’s), just seven weeks after graduating.

“By doing [the Fashion East presentation] I wanted to try to prove I could actually make clothes so that I could get a job,” admits Green. “But doing it made me realise that everything I had done up to that point was me aiming to do my own thing.”

That first season Green made £700 wholesaling three tops to one retailer, Japan’s Wallace & Murron, which has stocked the brand ever since.

Craig Green autumn 13

Craig Green autumn 13

Craig Green autumn 13

The following season Green progressed to his first catwalk as part of Fashion East’s MAN show, presenting a collection of patchworked pieces and models carrying sculptures of splintered wood covering their faces. I attended that show, and still remember the shock it caused and how it wildly divided opinion.

Green jokingly refers to that collection as “fence face-gate”, after the Daily Mail reported on it with the headline “What a plank”, and model David Gandy mocked it on Alan Carr’s Channel 4 chat show Chatty Man (Gandy later apologised).

“It was difficult because it was my first show and there was so much effort put in, and it was almost like it was a bit of a joke,” admits Green. “It was controversial, but it was our first show, so it was probably good that it was memorable, even though that wasn’t the aim. It wasn’t the intention to be hated in the media.” Ironically, Green maintains that the autumn 13 “fence face” collection is still his favourite to date.

Another turning point came in spring 15, Green’s first solo fashion week show. A change of design direction focused on light quilted layers and string fastenings. Soundtracked by Enya, I remember the quiet emotion of that excellent show, which moved many of us in the audience – some reportedly to tears – and raised his profile. Just six months later, Green won the Emerging Menswear Designer award at The British Fashion Awards 2014.

It was when applying for the British Fashion Council/GQ Designer Menswear Fund a year later that Green and his team of two put together a proper business plan, which won the £150,000 prize.

The Core Collection allows us to be more experimental and develop more extreme techniques

The plan was the launch of the Core Collection, which arrives in stores this April. The concept is a gradually evolving range of key Craig Green items – a more “approachable wardrobe that is always available”, explains the designer. The debut 12-piece offer features shirts, jackets, trousers and knits. Wholesale prices range from £110 for a shirt to £300 for a parka. Smartly, Green will drop the range into stores eight weeks before the main collection, giving stockists more frequent newness.

“[The money] helped with building the team – we added [another] three new people,” he says. “And we’ve done what we said we were going to do – rather than go on holiday or buy something very Glamorous. Although we did buy new sewing machines,” he adds with a signature chortle.

It has certainly added another string to Green’s sales bow, bringing on new stockists such as Mr Porter and Bergdorf Goodman in the US.

Craig Green

Craig Green

Craig Green

Mr Porter’s buying director, Fiona Firth, says she has been a fan of Green since 2012 and has now bought into the Core Collection: “I think it will become iconic, with pieces that retain his signature aesthetic but are ultimately wearable for a wider range of customers. Craig Green is at a turning point in his career: having grown with confidence and with the foundations placed for a secure and successful business, he is able to continue creating exciting fashion-forward collections.”

“These key items serve a purpose as they are a great introduction for the first-time customer to test the collection,” adds Barneys New York executive vice-president and general merchandise manager for mens Tom Kalenderian. “Craig Green is emblematic of the new breed of British designers who are breaking ground in menswear. We wouldn’t be Barneys without a cadre of brands in fashion that are a bit rebellious and challenge the status quo, and Craig Green leads the pack.”

Green reveals the Core Collection will bring exciting changes to his mainline offering: “It allows for the main collections to have more expression and freedom, separating the creative flow of each,” he says. “It allows us to be more experimental and develop more extreme techniques.”

Film credits

What does the future hold?

As an avid film fan (Green goes to the cinema at least once a week, often alone), he is eagerly awaiting next month’s release of Ridley Scott’s latest film, Alien: Covenant, on which he worked with costume designer Janty Yates on several designs.

“I haven’t seen it yet. It’s very exciting,” he beams. “I’m more Alien than Star Wars – I’m that kind of sci-fi fan. And it’s something I can take my mum to.”

Following a collaboration with Swedish activewear brand Björn Borg for autumn 16, there is another project in the works with a global Italian outerwear brand for September, although Green cannot reveal more.

Thinking bigger picture, Green does not rule out his own stores eventually, but says he is focusing on building stronger relationships with his wholesale accounts for now.

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

And, of course, he is working on his spring 18 catwalk collection for London Fashion Week Men’s in June, will arguably be the hottest ticket in town. Is the catwalk his favourite part of his job?

“It’s not my favourite bit the week before,” he laughs. “Probably my worst bit is the week before. I don’t know what my best bit is. I really like the business side as well. I like planning and I like solving problems – in terms of design and business.”

Divisive, maybe. Misunderstood by some, possibly. But the truth is, for all his endearing shyness, playful humour and down-to-earth charm, for all the positive and negative reactions to his collections and regardless of the theatre of his catwalk shows, Green is smart, shrewd and successful, and he is evolving his brand into a strong and sustainable business.

“I’m trying to build something that has a positive energy and lasts for a long time. I guess that’s the aim, to build a self-sufficient and strong brand that means something, that lasts the test of time. That’s the plan,” he says with a shy smile. “Fingers crossed.”

Why the world’s top stockists are big fans

Tom Kalenderian, executive vice-president and general merchandise manager mens, Barneys New York

Craig Green is emblematic of the new breed of British designers who are breaking ground in menswear. We wouldn’t be Barneys without a cadre of brands in fashion that are a bit rebellious and challenge the status quo, and Craig Green leads the pack.

Craig has his own handwriting in menswear: he uses shape, colour and textiles in a completely unexpected way. He builds the new men’s uniform in a truly original way. His ideas are as unique as they are referential. Craig Green is a free spirit. The beauty of what he does lies in his organic process. He should always stay true to his dream.

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Jack Cassidy, men’s designerwear and contemporary buyer, Selfridges

There is no question that Craig Green is one of the most exciting talents to come out of London in recent years. In a very short space of time he has carved out an instantly recognisable aesthetic through his unique approach to silhouette. Craig is intuitive, flexible and great to work with.

From the very beginning the product has resonated with our fashion-conscious customer, seeking out the best in new design, but equally the well-cut, flawlessly executed pieces are picked up by consumers with less awareness of the designer.

Since the brand’s arrival to men’s designerwear in 2015, Craig Green has become one of Selfridges’ best-performing British designer brands, and we are buying in more depth each season.

The launch of the Core Collection is without doubt a smart commercial move for the longevity of the brand and overall awareness, and we find the signature pieces such as the cropped jackets to be a bestseller every season

Fiona Firth, buying director, Mr Porter

I have been a big fan of Craig Green since his first collection back in 2012. Craig’s interesting take on workwear has carved him a spotlight within the industry as a young exciting British designer, producing fashion-forward collections based on uniform and utility. Craig Green’s ability to reinterpret core products such as worker jackets using different fabric techniques such as padding, quilting or bouclé wools is what makes his brand unique.

Craig Green’s collections appeal to a broad range of men – I have seen a varied array wearing the more iconic pieces such as trench coats, workwear jackets and anoraks. Pieces can be styled as adventurous or as casual as the wearer desires – I have seen outerwear teamed with jeans and a T-shirt, but, on the other hand, seen looks styled similarly to that of Craig’s runway show.

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

I think the Craig Green Core Collection will become iconic with pieces that retain his signature aesthetic but are ultimately wearable for a wider range of customers. Many pieces within the collection are great for layering and complement existing apparel in a man’s wardrobe.

The introduction of the Core Collection is a perfect example of how the brand has evolved. Craig Green is at a turning point in his career: having grown with confidence and with the foundations placed for a secure and successful business, he is able to continue creating exciting fashion-forward collections.

Stavros Karelis, founder and buying director of Machine A

Craig is one of most exciting and visionary emerging designers of his generation. His strong brand identity and unique designs have placed him among the most popular designers, and he champions the best of British fashion internationally.

It has a very directional and specific aesthetic but appeals to so many different types of men and women. Craig has managed to preserve his signature style and evolve his brand in such a dynamic way, always offering something new to his existing customers and appealing to so many new ones.

The utilitarian workwear roots of the brand are familiar to all of us. However, Craig has managed to have a complete new and fresh approach on the shapes, techniques and fabrics.

Even though some believe that Craig mainly sells to the industry insider – the fashion-knowledgeable person – that is not always the case. His customer can be any age and is not only the most fashion forward. His classic workwear jacket, for example, has been bought by so many different types of customers and is one of those items that appeal to a diverse group of people.

The first items that are selling out from our store are the most directional catwalk pieces. However, items such as his workwear jackets or simple tops are also extremely well sold.

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O'Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Craig Green autumn 17 collection by Morgan O’Donovan

Herbert Hoffman, head of buying at Berlin store Voo

We are in love with Craig Green because the designs are evolving every season but one can still recognise that it’s a Green style. You buy one pair of pants and next season you buy a top that will fit the pants – you can build a wardrobe.

The collections are unique because they include a fresh, contemporary style with tradition, craftsmanship and workwear. It’s very British, in the very best way. It seemed like not the easiest collection to sell on the German market but we were proven wrong. The louder catwalk pieces are working the best right now.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.