Ten Minutes Backstage With Phoebe English
The official Fashion Week schedules have become a mere outline for what is actually happening on the scene; There’s your digital trunk shows, your co-ed catwalks and satellite shows popping out of nowhere. One season Vetements opt out of catwalks, another they are back on the Paris Couture schedule. No rule is sacred in this game called fashion. Inspired by this momentous time in the industry, the sweetheart of London’s fashion scene Phoebe English decided to take the leap and change things up. For the first time in the seven years of her brand’s existence, Phoebe showed her Menswear and Womenswear Spring/ Summer 2019 collections together. The outcome was an unsurprisingly brilliant presentation that served as a showcase of Phoebe’s talents in both fields. And in the midst of London Fashion Week men’s madness, we snatched a few minutes with her in order to find out who, what, where, and why.
Dino Bonacic: Surprise, surprise, surprise! Did you know from the beginning of the process you wanted to do this co-ed show?
Phoebe English: Yeah definitely. I really want to have more control over my time, and the January and February [Men’s and Women’s, respectively] Fashion Weeks are so close together. We’re a really small team, we’ve done it for a couple of years and it’s a real strain. I just want to be able to be in control of the quality and the quantity of what I’m doing, I think by doing things twice a year rather than four times a year, I’ll have better control over those things.
DB: You always speak about how different your Men’s and the Womenswear are, but when put together, they totally makes sense.
PE: As you said, they are really different, so it was really hard. We’ve been contemplating this for about three seasons and I was always like: “No, it can’t work, they’re too different and we can’t put them together.” I was really worried about them being seen at the same time, but actually, I think it kind of makes sense because you can see the two sides of the brand. We sell a lot of our Menswear to women and we do sell some of our Womenswear to men too, but they are just two very separate things. It’s nice that you can see that I can do really wearable things as well as more concept-driven stuff. I’ve only just seen it together for the first time now so I’m still digesting it, but hopefully it worked out. That’s also the thing, when we started working on the collections, we were going to try and combine them into one. But actually, the more I worked on them the more I realised that they really are separate and that combining them wasn’t going to work. It was really about making a point of their differences and then through doing that, seeing the strains where they’re linked as well.
DB: So you thought about making one collection but essentially you made two collections?
PE: Yeah, exactly! They had separate research boards, separate fabric boards. I think the Menswear is such a defined thing, whereas the Womenswear kind of travels around a bit more. Men’s is a set thing so I didn’t want to mess with that or change it, it was very happy in its own place. It also has good buyer response so it kind of made sense to just do them as two separate collections.
DB: What were your starting points on them?
PE: With the Womenswear, it was about circles. I was trying to convey a molecular energy, molecules moving around, creating kinetic energy with circles and dots. And then adding really simple shirting that is scrunched and ruched, disrupting the surfaces and these senses of movement. And then with the Menswear, it always really starts with products and fabrics, so we had this lovely wax cotton that crunches and then it keeps all those crunch lines.
DB: And also the luxurious linens…
PE: Yes! It was really about exploring beautiful fabrics and making a really beautiful product so it’s less about trying to…
DB: Your colour story for menswear is always neutral, but each season you take a new colour into the story. This season it’s the vivid orange. Why that?
PE: I don’t know. I guess it’s like, a new dawn, a kind of sunshine, optimism. And even the music, like this bit now sounds like sunrise. This euphoric new beginning and for me it’s really exciting because I will hopefully get more time to be able to think and work with the factory and work with the fabric mills. My leave time will also be a lot longer so for me it’s really exciting. I’m really excited to be able to get control over my year now, because for the last seven years it’s been so dictated by Fashion Weeks, which is fine, but I think I want to have time to be able to do different projects. It’s hard for me to even be able to get to a meeting when everything is so crazy all the time. I’m either shipping or doing a showroom, so hopefully, it’s a new dawn! It sounds super cheesy but it is.
DB: Cheesy, but totally true. Thanks so much!!
PE: Thank you for coming!