phoebe english creates seven fantastical women for post-brexit britain
For spring/summer 17, an archer, water bearer, enquirer, smuggler, chanter, strangler, and a mourner expressed feelings and events from a rapidly changing public landscape.
"There are seven different characters and each one is a metaphor for a feeling or an event that happened across seven days," Phoebe English told i-D at her spring/summer 17 presentation in the upper galleries of the ICA. Not seven days that happened to her specifically, but to the country: "The general shape of things that are happening — lots of changes," she said. "I guess it's a cathartic way to process all those things."
Seven women stood in a tableau, each surrounded by her own scene: the archer, posed with bow and arrows over a pile of sticks and apples, signified shock. A water bearer pouring water from a glass beaker into plastic sheeting and buckets was a metaphor for crying; a swashbuckling smuggler signified lying. The enquirer with rolls of paper and a stamp was a truth hunter, the strangler knotting rope was anxiety, the chanter signified protesting, and the veiled mourner represented loss.
"I don't want to be too specific about things, but each one is about processing massive shifts in the country and people's behavior, politicians' behavior," English added. Not Brexit specifically, she said, but her perception of a general shift in the country — the increase in hate crimes, for example: "Just watching somewhere that you thought was your home suddenly become really different very quickly."
English's established codes were all present. There was lots of clever asymmetric cutting, with tops and skirts held around the body with straps and ties, all layered on top of each other. English also incorporated different textures — sheer fabrics showed accumulations of thread beneath; stiff cotton was popped like chef whites. New this season were slogan T-shirts, but not shouty ones. The word 'travesty' was printed in black so small on a white T-shirt, you had to stand close to the model to read it. Another had the phrase, 'all proportions are distorted by a small percent,' and the third a list of the characters and their actions, formatted like a short poem.
Text Charlotte Gush
Photography Mitchell Sams