Central Saint Martins graduate Phoebe English has flown far from the nest since her MA collection four seasons ago. Here she introduces her so far silent business partner Rose Easton. Two can play that game.
Phoebe English has been getting a lot of attention since her MA collection took the press and Dover Street Market by storm in 2011. Her form-led aesthetic is encapsulated perfectly in the new collection of interlocking minimalist pieces and nature-inspired textiles. What hasn’t been investigated before is that Phoebe English Ltd is actually run by two people. Still both in their 20s, Rose Easton and Phoebe English are taking their first tentative steps into the fashion business… and so far it seems to be going pretty damn well. In an i-D online exclusive, Phoebe and Rose chat as a duo for the very first time.
How did you two meet?
Rose: After seeing a picture of Pheobe’s MA collection in a magazine, I tracked her down and e-mailed her relentlessly until she gave up and made me a dress.
Phoebe, how did you respond to that?
Phoebe: Well I tried to discourage her from buying it but she was persistent. I was like, ‘no you really don’t want it, it’s made out of acrylic hair. I don’t think you quite understand… you don’t actually want it,’ but she insisted.
Rose: In the end, she made it for my birthday party and it was promptly trashed. It’s still not entirely back to its original state… It looked like one giant dreadlock, I wanted it repaired, as one does, and there was just quite an instinctive decision to propose we do something together.
Phoebe: When Rose came in for the first fitting, she walked in and I thought, ‘Oh my God. This person is incredible’, she wandered in wearing this big fluffy black fur coat, huge black solid goggle sunglasses and a huge shiny handbag and I was like ‘Wow’… and I was there in my slippers, feeling like a complete berk.
Where were you based at the time?
Pheobe: She came into my bedroom to do the fitting. I was doing loads of press notes at the time. I’d just done the MA and I was getting millions of e-mails but my printer had broken and I couldn’t afford to get a new one so I was writing them all in biro on bits of paper. My desk was covered in these handwritten press notes and Rose just surveyed the scene and was like, ‘You really need some help with this don’t you?’ and I was like ‘Yeah. I don’t really know what I’m doing!’ and then we went for a gin and tonic and Rose just said, ‘Let’s do something!’ and we did.
Rose, what’s your background?
Rose: Well I went to a ridiculously academic girls school and when I left I did an art foundation at Camberwell before going off to do a year of my degree in Sculpture in Brighton and I was miserable. I’m not really sure university was ever the place for me. When I left I went to work as a buyer at The Shop at Bluebird for a year and a half. After about a year I met Phoebe.
Rose, what do you like most about Phoebe?
Rose: The reason, the stark beginning reason was always the work. I am so drawn to what it is that she makes and the way that she makes it. I feel like there’s such a loss of respect for fashion in a way, sometimes you feel like it’s become this huge machine and people only think about it in a certain way and it has to be very commercial, very ‘Here. Now.’ and Phoebe is so much about process and things being handmade and part of the maker. I respect that so much and, coming from a sculptural background, it was so much a part of what my work was about, process and all this stuff. Phoebe says I’ve taught her to be more communicative and she’s taught me to think more about it all. I know a lot more about where it all comes from and how it all gets put back together and that’s all come from her, also about being a bit slower sometimes… and a lot about horoscopes, a lot of Gemini/Pisces, working relationships. (laughs)
Phoebe, any final words to say about Rose?
Phoebe: Well her role is really interesting because it’s not a solely business role, she has a curational role to what I do. Sometimes she’ll be able to see the work from another perspective and re-contextualise what I’m trying to express, whether that’s through work or through a film or through a dress. I was making those pieces for this collection where it was a t-shirt and trousers and they were interlocked and Rose was like ‘Oh they’re like a suit’ and I was like ‘Yeah! Like a t-shirt suit!’ She brings a lot of context and aesthetic opinion to what I do which only enhances and gives it a stronger ground. She’s much chirpier and more positive than I am. I think I’m probably annoyingly pessimistic about my work but Rose is very positive and that’s a massive help. Rose has taught me things like having weekends that I do now which I didn’t do before. There’s a lot more singing in the studio and more drinking whereas before I used to switch my phone off and it would all be silence for 8 hours. It was very monastic, I used to not work with anyone around me and be very insular about it but when you’re working in a partnership you can’t work like that. We’re building this label together really slowly and nurturing it as a team.