CSM graduate and winner of the L’Oreal Professionnel Creative Award, Phoebe English is the hair-raising new designer with a bright, bright future.
When a collection made almost entirely from hair in entirely black came sauntering down the runway at the Central St. Martins MA show in February, you could see the fashionista’s ink flooded their notepads; this was one to watch. Created by 24 year-old Phoebe English (watch i-D Online’s interview backstage after the show here), the collection consists of weaved rubber, cut-out details and long, black hair layered over the body to reveal glimpses of flesh. Testament to her versatility, Phoebe’s BA collection focussed on intricate knitwear using an 18th century lace-making technique. Shy but with a soaring imagination and a strong creative vision, Phoebe is firmly on the upward trajectory. Take heed, tie your hair back and buckle up.
When did your interest in design begin? I have always had an interest in design. I would draw and paint all the time when I was young and spend time getting dressed whenever I left the house. I had a much more creative dress sense when I was 10! Also my parents are both artists and the house I grew up in was an endless dressing-up box, from woollen military coats, fez hats to embroidered kimonos. I think it was a really great introduction to different types of fabrics and interesting textures. I remember my mother explaining to me that silk could be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I found that sort of thing really fascinating.
How did you find your time at CSM? I have really loved being at St. Martins and I am already missing it terribly, it’s been such a huge part of my life. I have made some of my closest and most important friends there and I suppose we have become adults together without really noticing it happen at all.
For your BA collection you created intricate knitwear, why did you decide to work with hair and rubber for your MA collection? It just naturally occurred that way. I think at the outset of the MA I decided to be as creative and exploratory as I possibly could. I like working in quite a transitional way, to allow a collection to move in any direction, rather than to dictate a total plan of action on it.
What did you associate with those fabrics and textures? I suppose there is a sensual and fetish quality to the materials I used. I really wanted a visual conversation between the surfaces I developed, to the point where you could almost read them. Beyond craftsmanship I am primarily interested in visual communication – I think of aesthetics as a language for which there is no alphabet. When you are working with that mentality you are developing your own alphabet that you hope other people can read. It is really exciting for me if somebody really gets what I am trying to say with the work.
What were your references for the MA collection? There were a few different original references, but most of my influences came directly from what my samples could do and how they actually worked. Then I began thinking about how I could engineer them to work as garments. As the dresses are so frenetic I wanted to use one universal tone to unify and control the composition of the collection. The looks behave in such a wild manner in places and the black was a device to balance and unify their frantic kinetic nature.
What’s next? I just hope to be have adventures, make work and feel inspired.