One of the finest exports of British modelling, Thomas Penfound (pictured bottom) is more than just a pretty face and a good swagger.
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For SS13, the 23-year-old fashion prodigy is launching T.PENFOUND, a high-end menswear line, the debut collection of which features an intelligent string of exquisitely constructed shirts. The London-based Mancunian, who has shot campaigns for the likes of Burberry and Lanvin, studied graphic design at Pendleton College and took courses to learn pattern cutting at London College of Fashion before deciding to try his hand at menswear.
So how many ‘model/actor/singer/designer’ jokes have you had so far? This could potentially be the first one!
Really? Well, I haven’t really talked to that many people about the label yet. People are always going to make assumptions like that about it, but I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I think it’s quite natural that I’m doing something within the realm of fashion because I’ve been surrounded by it for the last few years.
Why did you choose to do it now? It felt like the right time cause I have enough free time to focus on it whilst still modelling and I now feel confident enough in my approach to design to present it. I just need an outlet for my creativity and you can’t sit around waiting for things to happen, you’ve got to take the initiative sometimes.
Why shirts? I like the idea of concentrating on purely one garment. It really reinforces the idea of considering every detail that goes into its construction. Plus, with shirts I was able to obviously explore print, colour, texture and form. And if I just did trousers, it might be a bit difficult.
Why is the collection called Way Out / No Exit? It’s taken from the signs on the Underground platforms. With modelling I travel a lot through London on the tube, and I just started getting inspired by the things I’d see on the Underground, whether it’d be people, the architecture or the facades of the platforms. The prints in the collection are inspired by tile patterns and motifs seen on the platforms.
Some would say the tube is pretty horrible… Yeah, I guess it was my way of making the tube an enjoyable experience. And honestly, I find it hard now to turn off and not get inspired by it.
Now you can’t stop riding it… I wouldn’t go that far. It makes it tolerable.
What ignited your interest in fashion? I think since my early teens I’ve been interested in style. Not so much fashion, but style. And I guess in the last few years it’s developed into an interest in actual fashion design. But I think it came from being around my girlfriend, who does womenswear, who’d show me designers and stuff. I began to develop a taste for certain areas of design.
That’s funny – you’d think it would happen when you were standing there next to, say, Dries Van Noten? Obviously I’ve been around all these amazing designers, which has made the interest grow. You can either be a model who’s literally a clothes hanger that turns his brain off when he goes into a fitting, or, you know, listen up and be interested. While I’m in fittings with these people who are respected and admired, I may as well learn something from them.
You don’t really seem like the cliché party model boy? Er, not really. I don’t really like that stereotypical model. I just… how do I put this? I just find it a bit lame, to be honest, the way some guys and girls feel that they have to live up to this stereotype.
Do you tend to stay in? No, I like a party! But a party to me isn’t talking about what campaign you’ve just done, and blowing smoke up each other’s arses while drinking some watered-down fruit punch.
What are you like when you model, then? I’m professional when I turn up to a job. I’ve worked quite a lot of jobs, and I know I’m fortunate to be in the position I’m in.
Do you see the label as a way of getting out of modelling? No, I still want to be able to model. I wouldn’t be able to do one without the other. And without modelling, I wouldn’t be able to learn the things I have.
Finally, have you actually never worked with i-D? No! I had to do my own label for that to happen.