Photography by Johanna Nyholm
It was a long time ago and I just remember feeling that everything was new and odd. The first few months were very lonely. Everything was just very different. Everything. And living by myself for the first time was a shock. At first I lived in Bath – it’s a small town with I think 80% pensioners – and there wasn’t anything for someone my age. Everything shut after 6pm.
I think it was just because, where I come from, you don’t have as many choices. You were going to grow up thinking that you were going to be an engineer or a doctor. These were the options. I can’t be a doctor so it was engineering and architecture kind of felt natural.
I don’t think of it like that but maybe it comes out unconsciously. I never think that my aesthetic is architectural. In fact, I hate it when people compare architecture and fashion. I think it’s a very naff comparison. Also, I think there is a tendency in fashion to want to aspire to become something else. I think people feel that fashion isn’t good enough. And that’s why they try to desensitise it with technology and architecture as if it’s not a respectable enough profession. And the way that I design is with some very technical garment-making processes so I feel close to the process of making clothes.
Some fabrics, I make them myself. But if you are a small designer, you don’t have a lot of options so you come up with ways to make something out of nothing. So that is how the fabric-making came about. Because I felt I needed to make some interesting fabrics because I can’t buy them – so of course it turns out to be more expensive! But at least it’s my time. Of course I don’t make all of my fabrics, but a good proportion of them. I re-treat them to give them a new look, and some of them I make from scratch and attach to another fabric or do something else to it and ultimately come up with something that looks good.
I think when I first started fashion I was quite naïve and it was mainly about what I would like to make. Now, I think about what people want to wear. And how I can compromise what I want with what they want and reach a point halfway between. I have come to accept the fact that I need to make clothes for people so I need to offer a service. It’s not really about me and what I want anymore. I don’t make anything that I am not happy with but it just pushed me more to think about what I like and what other people want. I think fashion has clichés: icons and muses, and inspirations and themes and I don’t really think like that. But sometimes you have to give people an answer because they ask you these questions.
Five years ago I used to hate black and I would never buy anything black – I didn’t even see it as a colour. And then suddenly overnight, I discovered black! And this is how my colour palette came about. So I feel like I still can’t get enough of black because it’s the new thing that I started to see. Also because a lot of what I do is based on cut and form of the garment and it just happens that it works best in black, white and neutral colours. It does the whole cut more justice. Colour always come last. I think first about the form and the cut. For SS ’15 I used green and it just came about naturally. So I didn’t start off thinking ‘I am going to have green this season’, it just felt right. Sometimes, during the making of the pieces, it just feels like it works.
I like either very soft or quite stiff fabrics to work with. Any fabric with ‘body’ that will keep the form I quite like. But we are not really in to ‘techno’ fabrics like neoprene, more cotton and muslin and wool and silk. I always think that whatever I do is somewhere between primitive and post-modern because I find them to be quite similar in many ways. Anything natural feels right to me. Before I started to make fabrics, I used to use fabrics that are handmade and that evolved into me making some fabrics.
I get them from Ethiopia. Apparently, they have the biggest population of people who still make fabrics by hand. And they have these really, really old ways of making traditional fabrics. I have been working with this guy who has his own loom and it just feels better for me. I do it [work with local craftsmen] because I think the fabric looks really nice so it’s not a charity project; it’s like a lost art that I think should be rediscovered.
Make-up: Louise O’Neill
Hair: Anna Cofone
Hair assistant: Kerri Ewart
Photography assistant: Johanna Lundqvist
Casting director: Rebecca Knox
Models: Iara and Nora at Next