Phoebe English is first and foremost a craftsman within her trade. Just by looking at her men's and women's collections, it is always clear to see that her ethos is to not only create art but to engineer every aspect of it. The young designer is also a passionate advocate of underappreciated and sometimes even lost construction techniques. So it is always a fascinating experience to be able to learn about these processes that take place very often away from prying public eyes.
For SS18 English presented a collection that works closely with another long-standing craft: Puppets.
With models lining the room in English's visions for SS18, standing along side them were puppets (also named marionettes) hanging from strings and wearing miniature versions of each piece. In a theatrical sense, this setting was reminiscent of a Tim Burton film with dark romantic undertones cutting through. The faceless puppets mimicking their human twins were charming and yet hauntingly striking. The lighting, which created shadows throughout the room, heightened the dramatic air and drew attention to the careful construction of each piece.
Marionettes were not only used for dramatic effect, their entry into the SS18 collection was whole-heartedly a way for English to show the foundations of her craft and pay homage to the past techniques of design. It is this simplicity of her silhouettes, cuts and monochromatic colour palette that lets the eye see past whatever may be on the surface and truly look to the finer details. Details such as the careful draping of fabrics and textured knots of black bra- like tops, on top of clean-cut white shirts.
Muslin and poplin materials are overlayed with mesh and tulle that give textured feel, making the clothes unreservedly wearable but gives them that stand-out quality.
It was this clever decision to duplicate the designs which show just how adaptable fashion can be. Be it on the smaller scale, on a puppet for a showcase with an edgy punch. Or the life-sized version that will be worn by people within their daily lives over the coming season.
English pulled the strings behind-the-scenes to showcase her dark fairy-tale at London Fashion Week. Like all good fairy-tales its important to look to the message beneath the surface. In this case English's message is simple: We should all take the time to admire the methods that go into creating our favourite styles. After all fashion is above all else an enduring craft.