We could not help but be curious when we first heard of CCA fashion student Steven Soundara. His degree menswear collection for Fall 2012 is called “Punish Me”. He told us: My intention for this collection is to express the spirit of pure, raw, emotional pain, thankfully he added: in the language of beautiful construction.

Like many of us Steven is concerned by the way we abuse the environment. We are running out resources. We are at ‘peak everything’. In fashion ‘green’ is a loaded word that’s thrown around a lot. There are many levels of green and many misconceptions of green.

But Steven feels there is no need to complicate things. Change and transformation can be simply achieved. Steven tells us a lesson learned at fashion school. We were doing a sweater redesign project; the brief was to redesign an old sweater and transform it as a garment. Our instructor demonstrated one way this could be achieved: he turned an old cardigan upside-down. I was shocked at how simple a transformation it was! 

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Although Steven knows that design is his calling hands down he is also an active stand-up comedian. It’s a far shot away from fashion design, but I enjoy being in front of groups of people and making them laugh. I need the two contrasting things in my life to have a sense of balance; the reserved, brooding fashion design side and the loud, extroversion of performance.

Steven Soundara is a well-rounded man. Here is the rest of our conversation, sometimes before the CCA end of year show.

Steve, can you explain what the idea that supports your collection is?
My collection is inspired by pain and the ways we handle it. I am fascinated by how the body reacts to pain and how pain manifests itself on the body. In my collection I interpret pain in several ways; it includes corporal and emotional pain, pain as punishment and as pleasure. The collection is an attempt to symbolically externalize those feelings onto the body.

How do people react to you work?
Sometimes people get uncomfortable, but that’s absolutely okay. I welcome that sense of uneasiness as a reaction.

What inspired you to choose this theme for your collection?
Usually, my inspiration is fed by the people I interact with and the relationships that I form. It is often triggered by my meeting someone interesting… basically I fall in love … I obsess over a specific person or an idea and this obsession kicks starts my work. Books, films and music help me capture what I try to evoke, books with a story to imagine your designs to, music for a soundtrack and films for the movement.


Did you have a specific client in mind for your degree collection?
Because of the way I design my client tend also to be my muse. In this case my muse is an introvert, someone who prefers to be by himself. He is quiet, he does not make loud statements but he is not afraid to explore things that make people uncomfortable … in fact, he embraces them.

Steven Soundara

You design menswear. What attracts you to it?
To be a menswear designer you have to be sensitive to the details in the clothes. If you look at my garments closely, you’ll notice some things that are not necessarily apparent at first glance. Subtlety also comes in the choice of colors. When editing my work I was very strict in order to make a clear statement. For me wearability is also important; I consider it is an honor when people want to make my clothes a part of them.

Are you happy with what you are about to show on the catwalk?
I think my collection is strong in the way the textures and colors are presented. Yes I am happy with the result but I feel there is still more to it, some of the pieces are crafted better than others, and I am worried that some of my details won’t be seen by the public. This collection is like a chapter, not the whole story. I would love to explore this collection over a couple of seasons. It is like the chronicle of a moment in my life, like a journal.


Is there a point in the design process you found especially difficult?
Committing to a single idea is hard but you must edit things out; it is really important. You only realize it when you step back.
For this collection I had a lot of other ideas, so at one point I had to put my blinkers on and commit to one. I started designing by investigating different relation to the body, this affected the development of my silhouettes and details and then I worked on colors and fabrics. The aha! moment was the first fitting. It helped me choose a consistent style of fit for the collection. A lot can be designed into the fit of a garment; sometimes people lose sight of that.

What did you learn throughout making your degree collection?
I am still learning to manage my time … of course I was sewing up until the last minute, but it’s important to deliver. I also learned to make decisions faster; I think it is a learned skill that comes with experience. I learned how important it is to keep your work true to the statement you are trying to make. For this collection I kept going back to my original inspiration so that my collection was true and cohesive.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to begin designing their final collection?
Know what you can and cannot do. Start early mastering what you want to do but can’t do well. Always stay true to your own design vision.

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