Shift Meets: Edmond Karasony 

We chat with the textiles and design student about his fashion journey

My conversation with Edmond Karasony takes place a couple days before he is due to leave for the Cannes Film Festival. It will be a whirlwind two weeks where he will be working with PR director Alessandra de Tomaso on dressing talent for the red carpet. 

Amidst the preparation for Cannes, Karasony is also in the process of finalising his graduate collection. After three years, he will be graduating from Middlesex University with a BA in Fashion Textiles and Design this summer. 

A lot of creatives would find this workload overwhelming, but Karasony finds comfort in the chaos. The passion for his work drives him to be the best in whatever endeavour he is pursuing.

“When I began at Middlesex, I didn’t know how to thread the sewing machine,” says the designer, who chats to me over Zoom, chain-smoking cigarettes. “Now I’m leaving and I know how to make everything from A to Z. It’s strange how things just line up.”

Instead of honing his skills solely in fashion design, Karasony also studied textiles. And yet, despite having a heavier workload than other design students, Karasony did not see it as a burden.

“I had to spend weeks and weeks in the print studio to work on the fabrics. Some don’t want to do this, but I think if you’re going to spend around £40,000 a year on your course why wouldn’t you want to get the most out of it? I moved here from Romania to attend university, so for me it was important to get it right. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was very, very young.”

Karasony fell head over heels in love with fashion at 11 years old when his godmother gifted his mother dresses from Italian fashion houses Etro and Pucci. “I became very interested in those dresses, searching online to see how much they cost and what was so good about them,” says Karasony. It was at this time when he stumbled across Alexander McQueen’s AW09 collection The Horn of Plenty. “I remember thinking this is insane.”

An Edmond Karasony design. Photographed by Edmond Karasony

Through his teens, Karasony was watching fashion programmes every day before school and regularly bought Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. “My whole life became fashion and I knew that I wanted to do it. I begged my parents to let me go to an arts high school, but they said no.”

Karasony tells me that, growing up in Romania, pursuing art and fashion was not the norm and especially as a gay person, Karasony never felt he could express himself. When he finished school, he moved to London, where his journey to become the best version of himself began.

“I didn’t even beg my parents. I just told them, ‘I don’t know what you want me to do, but I do know that I want to go to London’. Middlesex [University] accepted me, and I moved here in 2020. I did my foundation year online due to COVID. It was insane, but I was so passionate even then. I knew that this was my life and I’m doing everything I can to be the best at this. I always wanted to be the best.”

McQueen’s theatrical, otherworldly influence followed Karasony in his journey to the present day. As well as designing clothes for his degree, Karasony will often fashion a character for his garments that are at once marvellous and extraordinary, living for the thrill of it all.

“I am obsessed with the idea of characters and of being whoever you want to be in your life,” he says. “That’s why my graduate collection is about a spy who transformed herself into different personas to achieve her final goal.”

Karasony’s collection is inspired by Clare Mulley’s book The Spy Who Loved, a biography about Christine Granville who became Britain’s first female special agent. Born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, Granville was the daughter of a debauched Polish aristocrat and a Jewish banking heiress. During World War II, she was James Bond in a skirt as a member of a secret British government organisation SOE. She was a modern woman who, despite the reservations of her male peers, smuggled confidential information and outsmarted intelligence officers around the world. I can see why Karasony was taken with Granville’s story as she lived in accordance with her own principles. 

This idea of adventure and tragedy is intertwined throughout the collection, down to the very fabrics the garments initially originated from. One of his designs features a suit and skirt set with a trompe l’oeil pattern that mimics fur.

There is a moment in the book in which Granville is on a train from Poland to Hungary being chased by the Gestapo due to her identity as a British spy being compromised. As the train was moving Granville finds that she has to jump. Karasony imagined her wearing a fur coat and studied how the fur would move as she leaped, experimenting with the concept of shapeshifting.

It’s upon hearing this story from the book that I ask Karasony if he sees himself in the collection. “Yes! I like the thrill. Maybe the danger of putting yourself in these situations, taking whatever comes your way and just going for it. She is a very brave woman living for herself with such purpose. There are many dangerous moments in the book, but that is when Granville said she felt the most amazing. I think I see myself in her courage to really take life into her own hands.” 

An Edmond Karasony design. Photographed by Edmond Karasony

As our conversation neared the end, I felt inspired by Karasony’s unshakeable ambition. He may not be a spy during World War Two but from his discovery of fashion and moving to London to pursue his dream, Karasony courageously has taken his life into his own hands. He recalls his favourite memory in the past three years being at university, and no it’s not the London nights out and the sparkly parties but a long evening spent in the studio cutting a 5-metre-long dress for one of his collections. 

“This dress was so long I had to get out of the studio and I start cutting the dress on the floor in the hallway,” he says. “I was listening to this song from a Chanel runway and I start crying because I was so happy that I’m really doing what I wanted when I was 11. I had this moment of pride in myself that I stuck with what I wanted to do. I’m giving everything to it. And I thought it was so beautiful. I felt lucky that I could do this.” 

After two weeks in Cannes, Karasony will land back on English tarmac and return to Middlesex University to put the finishing touches to his collection in time for the graduate show on June 7. A few days later and he will be starting his new job working alongside Nicholas Oakwell at NO Uniform. For Karasony this is the closing of one book and the beginning of its sequel.

You can see more of what Edmond is up to on his Instagram.

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