Inside Phoebe English’s Fashion In Motion AT The V&A
Phoebe English is the prodigiously talented designer whose presentations are likely to tell you as much about the state of the world as the clothing you’ll be wearing next season. On Friday, Phoebe celebrated her brand turning six by looking backwards – hosting a retrospective of her work as the latest designer to take part in the V&A’s Fashion in Motion series, placing her in a lineage of designer greats: Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamato, Alexander McQueen, and the many more who came between.
The presentation, held in the museum’s Rafael Gallery, spanned twelve collections from MA to present day and saw models holding puppets that wore miniature versions of English’s archive. A continuation of her Spring 2018 presentation, the shrunk-down creations spoke of English’s fascination with hand-craft and construction – but also community, the puppets made by a puppeteer who works in the studio upstairs from Phoebe.
Here, we look back at the conversation we had with English as she was announced as this year’s designer:
JACK MOSS: What’s it like to take part in Fashion in Motion? There have been so many incredible designers over the years.
PHOEBE ENGLISH: It’s such a huge honour for us – I don’t usually work on large or grand scales in terms of the amount of work I produce or the method I show it in, everything is always quite intimate and small in scale. Fashion in Motion is large and grand and it feels very special to be able to be part of it. It will be really interesting to see how a public audience will respond to what we do…
JM: How did it all fall into place? Did the V&A approach you?
PE: We were approached about a year ago to take part and have been working on the timing since then – we do both men’s and women’s fashion weeks in London so it took some time for us to find the best slot to do it in the year!
JM: Do you remember the first time you went to the V&A?
PE: My aunt [the artist Rose English] took me to the opening of the Radical Fashion exhibition at the V&A in 2001. It was, quite literally, a life-changing evening. I loved fashion and had done since I could remember, but this was the first time I had seen fashion like this in person. I was transfixed by the Alexander McQueen section, so much so that Rose had to retrieve me from the red ostrich feather dress display, where I had been glued to the spot for the whole evening as they were trying to close the exhibition! Something happened during that evening – I guess it was a moment of realisation, which has helped shape my path to here. Radical Fashion exposed me to the most incredible array of designers; Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake, Maison Martin Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto. It opened my eyes and my mind to the possibilities of design and narrative. I left the V&A an enlightened and determined fifteen-year-old. The V&A has held a very special place in my heart since.
JM: Do you have a favourite room, or object?
PE: It’s very hard to choose! I love the ceramic and the glass galleries, I could lose myself for hours and hours in them. I’ve had some good dates in the Ceramic Gallery. I think my favourite room though is probably the entrance itself, I still have that surge of excitement I got as a teenager coming there for the first time even now. I think my favourite object is a very large ceramic piece called Moon Jar – I try and visit it each time I go, it’s very beautiful.