A NEW POETIC INTENSITY | Phoebe English SS15

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In Phoebe English’s S/S 15 Presentation, we again saw her signature strength in textile formation, but this time taken to a new poetic intensity.

Every seam, texture and structure created, spoke in an emotive vernacular. Together with an abstract soundscape by Susu Laroche and set design created by Phoebe’s parents (both artists), we felt submerged in an isolated ocean underworld. Empty bottles in an ‘accumulation of nothing’ lay in the middle of a circular set, reminding of lost messages sent out to sea – stories sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

Though the exact tale remains part of Phoebe’s cryptic imagination, we felt its heavy mood. The models seemed weathered by ocean currents – beautifully bedraggled bodies hoisted up in a tangle of fishing nets. Their feet were wrapped in ruffled straps and glittered hair entwined with long strings. There was a play with transparency and opacity – of tailored construction and deconstruction – of revealing what is normally concealed. Phoebe used 16th Century lace-making techniques but heavily adapted them to her own purpose. The erosion of time etched a romantic destruction into the clothes in exposed raw seams and smeared marine sludge.

This black sludge, perhaps a kind of latex paint, hand smeared onto the clothes by print designer Helen Bullock, exemplifies a spontaneous and instinctive way of working. Phoebe, as a designer whose practice is so closely tied to art, has forged these hand-crafted techniques as her trademark – a needed confrontation to over-commercialised fashion perhaps seen too much recently. Overall, fashion, as a technical multistage creation process, often struggles with how to effectively translate instinctual artistic urges. These normally manage to manifest in the styling, but are difficult to weave effectively into the garment fabrication. This is where Phoebe’s work stands out as fresh and heartfelt in a fashion landscape were abundance makes uniqueness rare.

The presentation has been followed up with a window display at Dover Street Market featuring a ship made in collaboration with set designer Phillip Cooper, symbolic of ‘travelling forward towards the future’ for DSM’s “Next 10 Years” anniversary special. Echoing the collection with the use of a transparent mesh body which lays bare an interior of ‘layering and knotting’, it has a dark ghostly quality in its ‘skeletal’ form. With this designer, her perspective on beauty lies in the exposed intricate construction.

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Words | Sara Arnold

Photographer | Mitchell Sams

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Image above courtesy of Dover Street Market.

Thankyou to Sara Arnold, Youngjin Kim and PURPLE PR.