the blurred line of fashion and art
As she shares a see-now-buy-now collection of xtreme sports merchandise and throws a prom, London based multidisciplinary visual artist Claire Barrow is refreshingly defying expectations and making it up as she goes along.
“This has always been a learning process for me,” Claire Barrow explains as we sit in a quiet corner of her east London studio. “I was so young when I entered the system and it took me a few seasons to find my own way.” After she completed her BA at Westminster, Lulu Kennedy invited her to show as part of Fashion East, making her the youngest designer to be part of the talent incubator. Ever since she made her debut back in 2012, the Stockton-on-Tees born, London based multidisciplinary visual artist has defied expectations and instead, explored new and surprising ways to present her hybrid work. After presenting her Retro-Spective exhibition/presentation at the ICA for autumn/winter 16, she stepped off the conveyor belt of on-schedule catwalk shows and showroom appointments and has continually challenged the system. From intimate art shows to limited-edition product launches and large-scale fashion collaborations, Barrow has blurred the line between fashion and art and now she’s erasing it all together will the launch of new collection of “extreme sports merchandise”, a new website and shop, a prom and a myriad of creative offshoots.
“I had a break towards the end of last year -- the first in years -- and it was so unsettling because I just couldn’t relax, even when I was in Malibu,” she confesses before bursting into a laugh. “ I returned with this renewed desire to create and while back home at my parents’ house over Christmas, I drew constantly and some of those illustrations have been turned into prints used in the collection.” Although it was impossible to switch-off fully, the break has refreshed and re-focussed her mind. The result is the new Claire Barrow, free from the shackles of the system and ready to transform her DIY doodled daydreams into any and every reality.
“For this collection my brain was influenced by everything from high street menswear stores trying to make things look distressed to Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier, Xtina Dirty to Slipknot, memories of going to Club M at Tall Trees -- a under 16 disco when I was aged 11 to 14 -- snogging all night to clubland classics,” she explains. “It’s about capturing those feelings of coming-of-age euphoria.” Making sense of this eclectic mix of inspirations, Barrow has focussed the 30-piece collection on herself -- from what she wears to her experiences, her life history and her archive. “This is my version of sportswear... I’m making merchandise for xtreme and fake sports, like naked mud wrestling,” she explains with another laugh.
To bring this new ecstasy-fuelled collection to life, Barrow asked Grace Ahlbom and Alix Vernet to pose in front of PC Music and now digital image maker Hannah Diamond’s lens. “I met Grace and Alix recently and it was a eureka moment. They felt right instantly and the connection they have is so cute. Now, Hannah’s hi-definition, hyper-real photography is so different to what I’ve worked on previously and I was drawn to this contrast. This feels like the new me.”
To further celebrate the new Claire Barrow, the artist threw a fun-filled, romance-promised prom that saw South London dystopian eccentric Klein headline, while Violence, Liv Fontaine and Bip Ling all performed live before DJ sets from Gross Mary, 2 Shin and pole dance work from Kitty Velour and Kerri Graham. “I like Valentine’s Day, romance and a prom is such a good opportunity for people to ask someone special out on a date,” she explains. “It’s not particularly linked to the collection but it’s a feeling.”
Feelings have always fuelled Barrow’s creativity but now that she’s fully free of the system, there’s no stopping what she can make. “I don’t want to be tied down fashion, it doesn’t feel fully me. For my work to be the best it can be, I need to explore different sides to myself. After the prom, I’m working on an art show and I’m keen to work on some sculpture ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for over a year now. The plan is to follow my own schedule and each collection’s sales will help fund everything else.” At a time in which so many designers, artists and creative hyphenates are questioning the respective systems they find themselves in, Claire Barrow’s lead encourages us all to find our own path.
Lookbook photography Hannah Diamond
Prom photography Edward Rivera