Dancer, designer, choreographer – Saul Nash is a 27-year-old multifaceted North-East Londoner opposed to just choosing a single path of artistic expression. Instead, he continually merges the two art forms, which mean the most to him.
After extensive researching, and even reaching the dark depths of LinkedIn, it becomes clear that Nash is someone that you should know, whether you consider yourself fashion-minded or not.
Raphael Bliss via Instagram
Nash began to merge his two passions – dance and design – in a tactile manner when he started his BA in Performance Design and Practice course at Central Saint Martins. This exploration then continued during his MA in Menswear at the Royal College of Art, where he received a scholarship to attend. With all of this under his belt, it is no surprise that he went on becoming part of a highlight slot on the London Fashion Week schedule when joining the Fashion East emerging designer roster from AW19. Showing alongside other young creatives with guidance from founder Lulu Kennedy, Nash has stunned fashion week goers with his ability to combine streetwear and masculinity in a new, moving format.
Alongside working on his brand under the support of Fashion East, Nash also slips into his choreographer shoes by collaborating with other creatives. From working on a project with Ib Kamara for Vogue Italia, creating a fashion film for Nowness – titled Static Motion – and motion directing the 2020 remake of Neneh Cherry's iconic Buffalo Stance music video – Nash encapsulates everything that both a designer and dancer aspire to be.
A few weeks ago, Nash was announced as part of this year's Dazed 100 list; an annual competition run by the fashion publication. It came as no surprise to us as the list highlights people who are making the most noise in the fashion industry, and of course, he is amongst the chaos. If he becomes a winner, Dazed will award the designer £50k, which he says he would use towards a three-day performance that viewers can tune in from home. Nothing is going to stop the trajectory of Saul Nash any time soon – so sit tight and enjoy the show, virtual or not.
OOS caught up with the designer over the phone while in lockdown to chat about the relationship between fashion, dance and more;
Out Of Step: From a dancer's perspective, what do you think are the similarities between fashion and dance?
Saul Nash: They're both around the body. The same way that in dance you have to consider the way that the body moves it's the same way in fashion, you have to consider how clothes are cut, and you have to think about what the body represents.
OOS: As a dancer, what was performing like for you?
SN: From the ages of 16 to 23, I was in a dance company, so I performed on many stages with them. But alongside that, I was always doing battling and improvisation.
OOS: Do you have any nightmare stories or things that happened when you were on stage?
SN: I was holding a position and then I slipped really badly out of it. That was embarrassing.
OOS: If you could design for any dance group or company which ones would you pick?
SN: I really love the Hofesh Shechter Company, Sidi Larbi and maybe Wayne McGregor would also be amazing.
OOS: Who are the dancers and choreographers that inspire your work and that you would like to maybe design for?
SN: I really love the Hofesh Shechter Company, Sidi Larbi and maybe Wayne McGregor would also be amazing. My work, though, is inspired by my own dance network as well as my experiences as a dancer. A lot of the way that the garments move, I'd have an intention of what I want to see from the beginning when I start the design.
OOS: Is that a process you find quite easy?
SN: It took a while to kind of merge the two things together, and when I first began my MA at the Royal College of Art, it wasn't so clear of how I would go about doing it. It wasn't until I won an internship in a sports company that I understood this kind of relationship between performance and making clothes. I had to find a way to bring the two together in a more practical sense to tell my narrative.
OOS: If you didn't have any limitations, what would your shows look like in regards to the performance?
SN: I think it would be on a grand stage. I would push to make it as close to reality as possible. So if there had to be an explosion, I'd have a real one if there was no limit.
OOS: For your collaboration with designer Bianca Saunders, was it different coming from a purely choreographic role rather than a design one?
SN: Well, I do a lot of choreography when I'm not designing. So it wasn't too different from what I'm doing outside of my practice. I think what was interesting is seeing a vision for another designer, that was something I hadn't done before. Also, it was a lot more about the everyday man in the sense that you didn't have to be a dancer to perform in the show.
Charlotte O'Shea via Instagram
OOS: In your shows, are the models all dancers?
SN: Yeah, a lot of them are my friends, and they're all dancers.
OOS: What was the idea behind your last, autumn/winter 2020 show?
SN: So there were four stagehands on the stage, and they were represented in black and white clothes. Their job was to subvert the audience's idea of them, so at first, they come across as aggressive but then their job was actually to help and build the other men as they walk down the catwalk. It was meant to feel like a street, and as you're walking down the street, this group of stagehands will stop you, but instead of intimidating you, they would lift you up.
OOS: What are your favourite places to dance?
SN: I love going to train at the Southbank Centre back when it was open. I used to just train in the hall there. There used to be a club I used to love going to, it was called Madame Jojo in Soho, but it's shut now.
OOS: What was that like?
SN: I went there with a lot of house dancers, so you just train all night and then go home.
OOS: Are you still managing to dance at home in isolation?
SN: Yeah, I'm still dancing at home. In the beginning, I was doing a lot of online stuff, but I started to get a bit impatient with the online thing only because of the connection. I make an effort to train once a day. I also record myself just to see if there's any improvement while I'm in quarantine.
OOS: Is that to look back on after?
SN: Yeah, and then also for connecting with other dancers. Now we've gone down the route of self-taping and then sending it to each other as opposed to all being at one time online. But also with the music, if the connection is bad, the music is out of sync, so then it starts to become confusing whether you're in time with the music or not.
By Niamh Rooney