China Fashion Forum: Jane Rapley

Updated: 2012-03-30 09:05

By Tiffany Tan (

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Prof. Jane Rapley, head of London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, spoke to Tiffany Tan about being a teacher to Alexander McQueen, dreading the work commute for two weeks this summer and possibly heading to Burma after retirement.

Below are excerpts of their conversation over jasmine tea.

Related: China Fashion Forum: Amanda Kaiser

China Fashion Forum: Jane Rapley

Professor Jane Rapley speaks during China Fashion Forum. [Photo/]

Central Saint Martins has produced numerous renowned fashion designers. Who among them have been some of your most unforgettable students?

McQueen because he was a very unusual student. He was totally underqualified for his MA. He came to us in a very odd way, in that he came to get a job. And in talking to the tutor, she really liked what he had to say, what he'd done and his passion. And when he came to us he was also a very awkward student. He was very shy, but a bit aggressive.

My favorite as a person and as an interesting designer - I shouldn't have favorites - but my favorite of all time is Hussein Chalayan. Because he's a lovely person and has a very interesting mind. He's forged a very difficult and individual path through his career. Just a very, very clever man.

Among the outstanding designers that you know - who may be called geniuses - are there a lot of people who have the temperament of Steve Jobs?

Being very impatient, possibly. But I'm not sure that that temperament is one that actually sits naturally alongside creative people. I think there are people who are driven - and McQueen was one of them - who could be quite rude, but I think that was because he was so absorbed. He was so absorbed in what he was doing and where he had to get to that he could be quite closed. And he would shout, but I don't think he was particularly hot-tempered. He just wanted to get things done.

If you had a chance, which particular sport would you watch (at the London Olympics)?

I'd quite like to see the equestrian, because it's quite near where I live … But all I'm concerned about is how I'm going to get to work, because in our new building, we're right where the Javelin Train leaves to go to the Olympic site. A bit like you did in Beijing, we have real concerns about how the population is going to get to work with all these visitors. But we have students through the summer, so we have to get to work.

How about your favorite Chinese food?

Dumplings. I love dumplings.

You're retiring in August. What are your plans after retirement?

To get some sleep (laughs) … A couple of people have asked me whether I'm interested in advising on an honorary advisory committee with things in the UK. I've had somebody suggest that Burma might be interesting. I think Burma would be very interesting. I would love to go to Burma. But that was a very casual remark.

Read about Prof. Rapley's views on China's fashion design education in China Daily.

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