sneak a peek at phoebe english spring/summer 16
Ahead of her London Fashion Week presentation on Sunday, Phoebe shares her mood board, glimpses of the new collection and updates us on her busiest year yet.
Phoebe English has steadily but surely been making a name as one of the most consistently brilliant and inventive designers in London. You'll find no gossip mag-friendly slogan sweaters here, but what English can do with a length of netting and some knotted fabric has to be seen to be believed. Her expert layering of sheer fabrics with exposed zips and seams, raw edged cotton, latex, knotted black velvet and even paint creates intricate sculptures for the human form. It's been a busy year for the Central Saint Martins-trained designer: she opened an online store, curated a retrospective of her work at NOW Gallery, launched a menswear line and published a book, as well as relocating her studio. i-D caught up with Phoebe just days before her spring/summer 16 presentation, to take a sneak peek at her mood board, catch a few glimpses of the collection, and to get an update on her whirlwind year.
You've had a busy year, with your "introspective" exhibition, menswear launch, book launch and studio move. How are you doing in the run up to Fashion Week? Is it a whirlwind or is everything calm in English towers?
Everything is very whirlwind at English towers! We have only just arrived at our new studios in Deptford so it's been a bit manic trying to settle in, unpack, renovate and make a collection at the same time. We are also in a brand new area of London that none of us live in so it has been a bit discombobulating! It's quite strange being so far away from Hackney and the established fashion ecosystem of suppliers and manufactures based around there as I have worked in four different studios in Hackney over the last four years before moving here. But our space is absolutely fantastic and it's such a stimulating area for me to work in, there are really incredible characters that you see out and about on the streets around here. Every time I go for lunch I see something interesting and unique. It really reminds me of how Dalston used to be when I first moved to London when I was 19. I'm finding it extremely rejuvenating and stimulating to be working here, there is a very raw energy and a burgeoning restless creative community here that I just don't feel so much anymore in Hackney these days. It feels like an amazing opportunity for a new beginning here.
The spring/summer 16 sketches show tailored shorts. Has your menswear launch fed into the womenswear design? How do they relate to each other?
I think from the last collection it seemed to work the other way around, where the womenswear fed quite heavily into the menswear and I think the fact that the womenswear collection was so sympathetic to men, was actually the reason why we started doing menswear in the first place.
After curating a retrospective of your work, have you been tempted to dip into the archives for this collection, or wipe the slate clean and start afresh, or neither?
It was quite a strange experience to have to go through all the stuff I have accumulated over the last couple of years. It had never occurred to me to ever look through it all; it all just ends up in untouched boxes that never get looked at again. I think the experience of looking through it all has encouraged me to go forward. I see everything from that point onwards as a new beginning.
Tell us more about the concept and inspiration?
The collections are usually based on a couple of things rather than just one straight direction, and these are usually based on things I'm experiencing as a person during that time. This season I have been playing around with ideas of movement, moving from one side of something to another, transition from one space to another space, being dishevelled and laded heavily textured surfaces, all with overtones of optimism.
There's a shot of different netting layered over a looped fabric. Tell us about the fabric development this season?
We have been developing the textiles for several weeks now and it has been really enjoyable to have been able to put so much emphasis on the textiles this season, as we have finally enough space in our new south London studio to have several people working on them at a time. It's turning into a very heavily textured collection.
Have you collaborated with anyone this season?
I have been working with jewellery designer Lauren Squires on a collection of silver earrings for the show. I have been wearing her work for years on a daily basis so it has been such a pleasure to be able to work with her on this.
You've done a lot already this year, but what's next for Phoebe English?
We have lots of things in the pipeline, but nothing to announce quite yet :)
Text Charlotte Gush
Portrait Josh Shinner