6 September 2023

Designer Finlay Vincent on the art of deconstruction and the power of modular clothing

Vincent is one of nine designers part of the Dr. Martens x Central Saint Martins partnership in with the chance of winning £5,000 towards their future projects…

Two words sit at the heart of Finlay Vincent’s work: Construction and deconstruction. You don’t have to look much further than the designer’s social media accounts to spot that. On the Central Saint Martins MA student’s TikTok, Vincent’s stop-motion videos see clothing removed, replaced and put back together. Vincent creates fully customisable jackets, joggers and more – looks that can be worn in a hundred different ways, all thanks to the interchangeable nature of the meticulous designs. 

Vincent’s work has garnered notable attention to date. In July of this year, he won the Heat x Flannels Ignite Prize Initiative for his fledgling brand SYSTEMS which centres around modular clothing. Now, the designer has been selected along with nine other peers as part of the Dr. Martens x Central Saint Martin partnership, tasking the students to create their own take on the brand’s staple 1460 design.

And, when you look at Vincent’s work as part of the partnership, his commitment to architectural structure and deconstruction continues to play a key role. The original design of the 1460 is visible in what Vincent has created, but has been given its own detachable component that ties back to the designer’s greater creative vision – the power of modular customisation, allowing clothing to change dependent on mood and style.   

“I created a way for the two indestructible staples of Dr. Martens to work together so that it could be versatile and also durable,” Vincent says in the accompanying video to the competition. “The Dr. Martens iconic loop comes off and becomes an accessory and then the 1460 extension works through a button at the back.” 

HUNGER caught up with Vincent to find out more about his work and what exactly goes into his design process…

Ry Gavin: How’s CSM going? Any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment, other than your work  with Dr. Martens? 

Finlay Vincent: I hope Central Saint Martins and the design industry at large is noticing a shift in narrative from gimmick and shock for the sake of it, to conscious and long lasting design. It is exciting to be at the centre of that! I’ve spent the last two years refining a set of 20 plus modular components that form the first System’s model, ‘Model A’. I am hoping this will be fully developed and ready for users early next year. 

Tell us a bit about where you’re from / life in London? 

My family moved to Kenya when I was 5. I spent my childhood experiencing the subtle tensions created by post-colonial British military rule, sorting for durable items at second hand markets and the nomadic Maasai tribe shuka (essentially squares wrapped around the body). It was all fundamental in my drive towards using clothing as a tool for the body. 

Would you say that you’re an architect as much as you’re a designer? 

As often seen in design, functionality (and thus sustainability) has come at the cost of self-expression and aesthetical prioritisation. We often don’t truly own the spaces we walk around in because the interaction is dictated. Where modular clothing differs is in its consideration for user interaction, the movement within that system day-to-day depending on changing needs, like an architect would consider the relationship of form and the body in a space. 

Are there any notable pieces of literature, art, film or music that inspires you? 

I tend to gravitate towards old car instruction manuals; the grid systems, exploded diagrams and colour coding. Trying to find the overall structure, a sense of order within something utterly chaotic. 

What is important for you as a designer? 

It has to be more than you or me! I would say, finding a universal ideal (though I’m not suggesting a communist uniform). The objects we interact with need to be more valuable, we live miserable lives otherwise. 

How does sustainability come into your work? 

Through reduction and hyper-consequentiality. In other words, will this component work with a new component in 50 years from now? And when we are gone, which objects will have survived?

What does utility mean to you? 

Going unnoticed, designing doors that the user doesn’t push when it’s a pull. Something doing its job so well you have space to enjoy the rest of life. 

Do you find any inspiration in military attire? If so, how did you transfer that inspiration to Dr. Martens?

Notice how little has changed since the beginning of military clothing. The M65 military jacket is timeless and remains as prevalent for daily use as for military operation. Military wear is also the only area that has considered modularity as a potential solution. It only makes sense to take the last best object and improve on it. The main body, sleeve and initial lining components shape within System’s ‘Model A’ design were taken using the M65 as a framework. 

Talk us through your design for the Dr. Martens project… 

Redesigning a whole new look within the limited timeframe would be irresponsible from both a developmental and sustainable point of view. With the Dr. Martens 1460 boot in mind, designing objects  that are iconic and indestructible takes time. I chose to submit the work I’ve spent the last 2 years refining. Luckily for me Dr. Martens shares many of my values on longevity. And the brief was rebellion… That’s what they got. 

What can you tell us about your thought processes for your Dr. Martens 1460 design? 

I took the two iconic staples Dr. Martens is known for (the 1460 & 1461) and designed a way for both to work simultaneously, without the need for the two physical pairs. The 1460 Boot acts as an extension to the 1461 and the iconic Airwair loop on the back of the shoe can be removed and turned into an Airwair lanyard. 

What is it about the structure and silhouette of the original 1460 design that inspired your take on it? 

Exactly that, the function and form has been tested through years of rigour. Why is it necessary to fix something that’s not broken? 

Your work has profound elements of structure, order, simplicity through meticulous design, how did  you want to bring that to your Dr. Martens design? 

With both clothing and shoe, when any component is removed, it has to function as intended without that piece. Meticulous design is about slow conscious thinking. With order and structure it’s about pattern recognition as much as leaving space for the unknown. Within nature, the chaotic cosmos of order that we cannot comprehend is what makes it sublime. Maybe it’s about giving up the control.

That’s a great note to leave it on. Thank you, Finlay. Good luck with the competition!

  • Writer Ry Gavin
  • Imagery Courtesy of Dr. Martens

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