Please watch Saul Nash’s video before reading one more word. There. If you never come back to this attempt to put his film into words, no matter: Because whoever you are, you’ll have felt it and will not forget it. Which is much, much more than enough for a young emerging designer like Saul Nash to have conveyed about his intention. Then again, there’s no one like Saul, who as well as being a sportswear designer, is a dancer, choreographer, movement director for other designers, and leader and spokesman for the gentle brotherliness of his young, misjudged peers.
All this is exercised wordlessly in the video he named “Twist,” made with the filmmaker FX Cody, Nash’s partner. It starts with a group scene of boys, in which the central two are head-to-head, gesticulating in each other’s faces. “Making this, it’s about many of the things I’ve been through myself. Often, when you see men in groups, there’s a preconceived idea of what you think of them. You don’t ever see the nuances and the in-betweens. So I wanted to evoke this twist in the film, where you expect one thing about these people, but through watching the film further, your ideas about them are completely lifted.” The twist in the tension is that the two men, instead of hitting or pulling knives or guns on one another, begin kissing. It’s a long, tender, and beautiful kiss. “You think there’s going to be an altercation, but what it’s building up to is a moment of love. Two men kissing is quite taboo where I come from,” says Nash. “So to see the friends around them accepting it and embracing it was the key to it.”
Nash grew up in North London and went to a school “where there were Turkish boys, Black boys, white boys. I wanted them to feel like everyday people. I’ve come to realize a lot of my work evokes feelings about the men I grew up amongst,” he said. “I want to spread the word: Don’t judge a book by its cover. There’s been a lot of men around me who’ve subverted my idea of what they would think of my sexuality.”
The “book covers”—his clothes—are an evolution of the ergonomically designed sportswear he’s been developing through his masters degree at London’s Royal College of Art, and three subsequent seasons under Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East incubator shows. Now he’s out on his own, but has been awarded a six month residency, with studio space at Somerset House. “Yeah, I’m really happy. I feel like there’s an overarching spirit, that when something could go down the drain, the spirit picks us back up and makes sure we get through.”
As a dancer, he applies his inside knowledge of performance to transformable constructs by inserting ventilation zones and quick-release zippers for bodies in action. In his mission to elevate the canon of sportswear as functional and desirable fashion, he is also tending to the environmental problems inherent in using synthetics. He’s introduced organic cotton and is replacing microfiber-releasing materials “as much as I can,” using technical, branded materials such as Primaloft “which is partially made from recycled materials.”
Taking responsibility for saying things that empower social good, as well as working to mitigate ecological impact is Saul Nash all over. He’s bringing forth a message and a practice within his work which—with the men he casts, and the cohort of Black British creative friends involved in the production of his films—resonates far further than London. “Yes, I grew up in London, but it’s a universal story. I think it should speak to any man in cities all over the world,” he reflects. “There are parallels that draw into one another everywhere.”