exclusive: escape to the country with toogood
The Toogood sisters invite us into their world of melancholic landscape paintings, 18th-century mochaware mugs, and First World War camouflage suits.
"As the sun sets over the broad cosmopolis, we withdraw to the wild and windy moor, not to retreat but to regroup," read the poetic prose that accompanied London unisex brand Toogood's "007" collection. "We were inspired by a melancholic English landscape painting, an 18th century mochaware mug, and a First World War camouflage suit," Faye Toogood explained from a quiet enclave of Studio Toogood's new home on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, on the occasion of the brand's fall/winter 17 presentation.
The renovated space was only a stone's throw from east London's gentrified epicenter, but the moment the door closed behind us, we were instantly transported to a different world: the carefully crafted, ever-evolving ecosystem of Toogood sisters Erica and Faye. After a year of Trump, Brexit, alternative truths, and the divisive rise of populism, the moment to pause and refocus was timely. By offering both an everyday escape and a collective call-to-arms, Toogood stimulated our souls.
Removed from the ever-quickening conveyor belt of fashion shows and product launches, the presentation pace was slow. Visitors were greeted with tea made from foraged lime blossom flowers and invited to explore the collection, scattered through the split levels of the welcoming studio space. Set alongside their furniture, interiors, and sculpture, the unmistakable spirit of both sisters was echoed throughout each and every room. The complementary voices of Faye's preoccupation with materiality and Erica's audacious shape-making could be heard and understood as one.
To document the experience, the sisters turned to two brothers, Tom and Sam Johnson. Our New Genuary pick Tom shot the campaign and look book. Sam's lens, meanwhile, captured everything that unfolded during the presentation. With the need to regroup as strong as ever, we exclusively share these visuals with you as the siblings invite us deeper into their world.
The collection's inspiration can be traced back to three very distinct and highly evocative objects: an English landscape painting, an mochaware mug, and a First World War camouflage suit. How did you come into contact with these items and how did they make you feel?
Erica Toogood: Faye develops a concept from images and objects that she has obsessively collected. Since childhood, she has always had some form of box or shelf where she stores and curates stories in her mind. This is then passed on to me to translate them in a physical form, to complement her mood and feeling for the season.
Where was the campaign shot and what drew you to this area specifically? How similar is this slice of British landscape to the memories of your childhood in Rutland?
We shot in Brecon, Wales — we are quarter Welsh from our mother's side, so it felt like a natural habitat for us to go to. We had many family holidays as children in the Welsh countryside — trudging through gauze and mud on long walks, observing flora and fauna. It was a very familiar and comforting space to be in. We shot in and around a 16th-century farmhouse, still in its original state, surrounded by geese and horses.
What are your most vivid memories of regrouping in the British countryside and how did you weave them into the collection?
As children, our father, a keen ornithologist, and our mother, a florist, would take us out on long hikes through the countryside, discovering different leaves and plants and collecting stones. The melancholy and poetic nature of the British countryside stays inside anyone who has grown up in a rural area as a child. It's where you and your imagination can run wild. As children we would disappear into the landscape and become part of the land, using it as camouflage and trying to connect to a force that is bigger than ourselves. To camouflage yourself within the landscape, it makes you more connected and physically stronger within your surrounding.
These memories were celebrated in your studio presentation.
For our presentation we wanted to invite people into our studio, to sip lime blossom and honey tea, while eating homemade rye bread. Moving around our "home," scented with peat, we wanted guests to feel a sense of nourishment coming in from the cold into the warm. As children our mother would make everything from our clothes to our muesli to our jam. We wanted to bring this into the collection, reminiscing on those precious childhood memories.
How did team Toogood team up with the Johnsons?
The brothers. It was inevitable that we would be drawn to the purity of working with a sibling. Tom shot our 006 spring/summer 17 campaign, an experience that led to clambering over towering hay stacks and running across freshly cut corn fields. It was utterly memorable, and a firm friendship was cemented. Meeting his brother Sam with his similar energy and spirit was a completion to the story and an inevitable next move.
How tight was the brief on this project? How closely did you work with them?
We always had a vision from the start of how it would look and feel, but essentially the ultimate trust lies in handing everything over to Tom and Sam. Their instinctual response is such an important continuation to our work. They're completing this part of the journey with a visual that captures all our rambles, scribbles, and feelings.
The casting for both the lookbook and presentation was stunning. Could you tell us a little about how you work with Billie Turnbull and AAMO Casting?
Along with the Johnson brothers, Billie totally understood the personalities we were looking for. She methodically went through our work with stylist Clemence Lobert and collaborated to find the characters we were seeking to represent the collection. Our clothes are unisex, seasonless, and ageless; we dress a breadth of ages and generations. Billie took this into consideration and instead of going for the typical sample size models we worked together using both agencies and street casting to find a range of people to demonstrate this. We had a fantastic lady in her 50s come in for casting with her daughter and both of them looked amazing in the clothes so we ended up casting them both.
Finally, what one thing do you hope viewers/readers will take away from these visuals?
"Withdraw to the wild and windy moor, not to retreat but to regroup." - Toogood Communique 007
Text Steve Salter
Photography Tom Johnson
Film Sam Johnson