English Rose

29.10.2012 | Blog | BY:

Phoebe English’s S/S13 collection stood out for its painstaking attention to detail, the impeccable cut, and her ability to create something so simple, yet so very beautiful.

Twin spoke to Phoebe and her business partner Rose Easton…

How did you two meet?
Rose: I saw a picture of one of Phoebe’s MA pieces in Dazed & Confused and emailed her relentlessly asking her to make me one. Phoebe wasn’t really answering emails at that point but finally she responded and made me the dress. I ended up totally trashing it at a party in a forest!

Phoebe: Soon after that Rose announced that she was going to quit her job and that we should go into business together, and I was like, oh okay, yes. It was very straightforward. That was the beginning of July 2011… we put S/S12 together in six weeks and then Dover St picked it up. We set up the business that day – it sounds really weird when I tell the story now, but at the time it felt so right it actually felt like a complete non-event.

So one year on, tell us about your S/S13 collection…
Rose: This season we worked with a jewelry designer called Reid Peppard, which was wonderful.

Phoebe: Because this was the first show we actually put on ourselves, rather than with Vauxhall Fashion Scout, we had more options as to how we showed the collection. It was less regimented and that had a big impact on the work that was made. The space in which we showed – The Freemasons Hall – greatly informed the design of the collection.

Rose: It was so exciting to be able to choreograph our own show. Phoebe lives with Caroline Evans and we had these long, amazing conversations with her about the history of the fashion show. People tend to think back about 10 years – as if nothing ever came before then – so we went right back to how people used to show in the early Twentieth Century. We added a bit of drama!

Have you started thinking about next show?
Phoebe: Yes, I actually start thinking about it the day after I show the last collection. The music and the styling for A/W13 is all ready to go. It’s just the collection now! That’s how I always work; I see the whole thing and then fill in the actual collection as I go.

What’s inspiring you at present?
Phoebe: I’m really looking forward to working more with knit, I think we can explore more with that. I’m really interested in how things are made and their engineering, and knit is a totally engineered surface. I find all the loops and knots so fascinating.

Do you have a particular favourite loop or knot?
Phoebe: I used to be a really big fan of crochet, but then I did too much of it and damaged my wrists. I really liked moss stitch; I’m a bit geeky with knit…

Geeky seems to work, the result is couture standard pieces for Ready To Wear…
Phoebe: That’s an interesting thing to hear someone say as I find the word couture quite challenging. Couture itself is a very specific event, with a very rigid set of rules and I think the word gets thrown around a bit too much. However, the ethos behind what we’re doing definitely comes from that.

Rose: It’s that laboured, painstaking construction. Ss13 is the first season for which we will, in any way, export some of what we’re doing outside the studio – although everything will come back through here and will be finished by hand. Up until now it’s been (predominantly) Phoebe, creating the whole collection by hand from start to finish, here in this studio. This is something we are incredibly proud of and something we continue to strive towards. Not everything needs to be mass-produced – maybe we only want to be a small label, and continue to stand by what we say and who we are. At the end of the day it is what we go home feeling like, rather than all the money in the world. It’s nice to still have faith and be proud of what you’re producing.

I see a lot of similarities between your work and that of early Comme…
Phoebe: That’s interesting… Maybe that makes sense in terms of Dover St being our first stockiest: it definitely aligns in terms of aesthetic.

Rose: We are interested in the approach Rei takes – deconstruction, reconstruction, recycling, anti-IT bag etc – although we come at it from a slightly different angle. We are a small label: we started out with nothing, we have never taken a cash injection and we have always worked within our means. As a result we have often had to work with the question: how you can make something that people would normally throw away, completely beautiful?

Phoebe: I think it’s really important that the work reflects what you’re doing and who you are at the time. We’re working with fabrics we can afford and that’s not an apologetic thing, we’re very proud of that because that is who we are right now in our business.

How is it working as women in the fashion industry?
Rose: We are a bit ‘girl power’; we both come from families with strong female role models. And fashion really is a very male dominated industry. Most of the people we work with are men, although we’ve just started working with a factory in North London with an all female workforce, and Purple (our PR agency) is quite female orientated. It’s actually really nice to have those strong female role models to look up to in the industry.

Phoebe: I think it’s so ridiculous that it’s like that and that that question even exists – women can do just as amazing things as men. There are so many layers to the modern woman and so many roles she has to play, regardless of age – must be sexy but serious, function as a strong individual in the workspace, but also be a good mother, a good sister. There are so many roles that women have to play between morning and night, clothes are like a costume for that play.

Do you have a specific woman in mind when you’re designing your collections?
Phoebe: It’s always a combination of who I am and who I’d like to be.

What makes you happy?
Rose: Phoebe likes trees 🙂

Phoebe: Rose likes a tidy house 🙂 … But really, when I feel that someone has actually got it, and understood it. That’s why I like working with Rose as she always, always gets it, she always knows.




The Long Look

25.10.2012 | Blog | BY:

When James Long finally branched out into womenswear, with his critically acclaimed debut show at Fashion East A/W11, the fashion world was ready. We spend a lot of our time coveting the wardrobes of our male relatives and friends. We envy the clean, sharp tailoring, the perfect shirt, the imitable jackets. We steal their clothes on a near regular basis – I’m still wearing my younger brother’s barmitzvah suit, eight years on.

So when a menswear designer makes the move into womenswear, we find ourselves unrestrainedly happy. Smiles replace pouts all round. Under the watchful, expert eye of the Lulu Kennedy, Long’s womenswear collections have gone from strength to strength. This season, he flew the nest, with his first ever non-sponsored, independent, magnificent collection.

Twin spoke to James about monochrome, minimalism and female icons past and present…

What was your inspiration for S/S13?
The monochrome colour palate really came from something that was happening in the menswear show ten weeks earlier – where we’d be looking at Joseph Albez, the Kung Fu Cowboy and David Shrigley. Another inspiration, or element, was that this was our first non-sponsored BFC show.

In terms of design, it is a more simple collection…
Yes, this season we consciously stripped the collection back to something very basic, yet very beautiful. If you’ve seen a lot of one style you, obviously, get a bit sick of it and need a change. So that’s how I work – alternating seasons between elaborate and basic. However there are a lot of design elements I’ve always loved and relied on: polka dots, lines etc.

Do you have a favourite shape?
I guess I’m a hypocrite as I think I’m linear but then I do love a dot as well! To be honest what I really love is to mix everything up so that I have a bit of everything, and more. This collection was always going to be monochrome, but it also had to have my maximalist-type knitwear, which was worked in with the contradictory minimalist colour palate. I think that’s why I love it so much. It simply made sense. It was definitely my most personal womenswear collection.

So who is the woman behind this very personal collection?
PJ Harvey meets Beattlejuice!

Who are some of your favourite women, past and present?
There are inspirational, historical women who come up at the embryonic stages of design – Leer, Stevie Nicks & Nancy Spungen – but the physical collection itself is far more based on women who are around me – Virginia Bates, Lulu [Kennedy], Louise Grey, my sister Charlotte, Sam in the studio to name a few [some of whom featured on Princess Julia’s watercolour shirt]. Once the collection is ready we often think about people it would be for. We’ll say ‘that is a Lulu shirt’ or, and this sounds funny (because this is for twin) but ‘Celestine might wear that’. These are women who we envisage wearing our clothes – not muses but the icons to come!

Are your men’s and women’s collections conceived in tandem?
For me, the two are very much the same thing – they are conceived and created here [at studio] by the same team, using the same principles and the same elements. Only the mood, colours or cut differ. There is 50% cross over and then we also share techniques – the belted box pleat for our skirts we took from the menswear, with great success!

What are you currently listening to in the studio?
We’ve turned into a radio only station; absolute 90s; radio 6; Jarvis’ Sunday service. At show time we have Hanna Hanra sending through a barrage of music. Or we’ll play one album over and over again; this season it was PJ Harvey, obviously. I also really like Rose Blake’s work.

And what are you currently reading?
The Empress of Ireland – it’s a really nice bedtime read.

What will you be dressing as for Halloween?
I’ll actually be in Ibiza staying with Virginia Bates, no plans yet but we’re always dressing up!

What’s next for you?
Teaching menswear at the Royal Collage of Art which I love. I’m continuously amazed and impressed by the quality of work. We have our menswear show on the 7th january, and then it’s womenswear again! We also have a collection for Topman coming out in two weeks. We’re making, showing, delivering: just keeping it going really!


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