Interview by Grace Joel
Photography by Eleanor Taylor-Davis
Claire Barrow is one of London’s most exciting designers, creating unique pieces that react to the cultural and political world around her. Coming to prominence with her D-I-Y, hand- painted leather jackets, which garnered cult following, her Autumn/Winter Collection, ‘High Flyers’ looked at London’s dire corporate take over, and the desire to escape from it
The D-I-Y aesthetic has always related to subcultures and punk, what were your early influences?
Early influences where living in the city, going out meeting people but getting drunk then being hangover and not really doing much so starting my own thing to make a little money and start to develop my brand. Sitting still isn’t great for me, I need to be constantly doing something or I get depressed really quick. There was something special about the quickness of painting onto ready-made garments and a few people wearing them out and about. It was collaborating on other peoples ideas at this point but had ambitions to create my own brand using my own ideas.
What is your process of creating your pieces? Do the ideas of the prints and paintings come before the garment?
It can be either way round really. My designing process usually starts with a concept or idea then I work around that with print, fabric, shape, cut and finish. For example Autumn/Winter 2015’s story was of a woman working the city in a skyscraper desperately thinking she should try to fit in there, going as far to sleeping with the boss and then looking inside her soul and flying away, flying above the city…the ‘High Flyer’. The collection was bright, and silken and heavy and every model had a fan blowing onto their outfits in the presentation so everything moved. We used dye on the silks rather than ink to make them really lightweight. The leathers where printed with CMYK processes which got colour across really well.
In a digital age, why do you think people crave the authenticity of hand drawn, unique garments?
I reckon that’s because it’s more believable and more human which is something we miss when most of what we see is flat on a screen.
You have always street cast your shows and campaigns which also adds to the authenticity, where do you find your models? Did you make a conscious decision to do this?
Yes, it’s really important because it’s showing that it’s for all types of women and men without any casting out of size, colour or gender. It’s also more fun for Eloise (Parry) and myself to work with people who have real personality. We just shot the new AW15 campaign recently that we can’t wait for people to see it.
Your new collection looks at everyday banalities and difficulties in living in the city, can you tell us more about it? You have mentioned that you often approach a collection with an idea that bothered you, this is an interesting way of coming up with something new….
What is bothering you right now?
Who knows what type of support fashion and art will get within this next 5 years with this new government. I am so sad about the country voting in the Tories, it makes me cry, so I will use that anger as force to create. We all need to put in 100% at times like this.
In our last issue we interviewed the designers of BodyMap, who in their time were ground breaking in a way similar to your work through creating unisex clothes, original, hand printed textiles, street cast shows and a lot of attitude. They said that the key to their success and other artists (The Blitz Kids Michael Clark, Boy George, Leigh Bowery) that thrived at the time was the sense of community all helping each other out, that now is harder to find.
Do you have a community?
It’s an exciting time… I feel really inspired by the people around me … we are all giving this industry a go and trying to be truthful to our personal brand. There is power in the collective but learn who you are too, that’s the way to create progressive work, I have heard.
They held a “Survival in the Fashion World Party” in 1989, how do you think it is possible to survive today?
You need lots of money now. Uh oh.