Phoebe English Reimagines Dover Street Market

Phoebe English is one of the most wonderful individuals you are likely to meet in an industry known for its big personalities, ones often famed for their undeniable talent but equally for their indelible egos. The Warwickshire-born English rose (if you’ll forgive the obvious cliché) is hitting her creative stride, having been invited last month to re-imagine the ground floor event space at Dover Street Market New York for the store’s inaugural biannual Tachiagari event. Further to this, she has just released her AW14 film, previewed exclusively by Hunger TV, in which the designer’s arguably strongest collection to date is showcased in typically engaging fashion.

What’s more, and indeed what’s most important, she is—to be suitably British about things—bloody lovely. I caught up with English to talk about this latest project with the world’s coolest fashion retailer, and to discuss what she thinks of being called a ‘burgeoning talent.’

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Congratulations on such a fantastic piece of work. What was the initial inspiration behind the installation? 

Thank you very much. The initial inspiration came from certain feelings I wanted to portray: chaos and control, temporality, weight and weightlessness. It took a while in the design process to achieve a balance between all these aspects but I feel we achieved it in the end.

How closely does the way you have designed the space relate to the clothes presented in the space? And how important is it to you that there is congruity there?

They are closely linked, as the same ethos of design is applied to them both, but the space is really supposed to be a separate thing, which compliments the elements of the design in the clothes so they can sit along side each other in harmony.

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How do you feel about having a large say in the way your clothes are presented, specifically for retail? Had you ever considered this aspect of fashion before?

No, it was not something I would have thought I would be doing at all, but I suppose I don’t really consider the future that much. Making fashion has opened creative doors to so many fields; I don’t think I considered that would be the case so I feel very lucky that I’m able to work in other areas as often as I do. It has proven to be a wonderful doorway to many things.

How pleased are you with the result? How pleased do you generally tend to be at the end of a collection or a project such as this?

I’m really pleased with this piece and it’s nice to have that feeling—you can sometimes have such a comedown after you finish work but this has been a really joyous finish. It’s really satisfying to achieve the feeling and look you wished for and had a vision of all those months ago, in reality, sitting right in front of you. It is [of course] equally distressing if it doesn’t work out that way.

In response to this, which is undeniably a big moment for you as a designer, many journalists have thrown around ’emerging designer’ as an apt description but (certainly for me and most of the London-based fashion industry), you’ve been coming into your own for some time now. What do you think of this idea of being a ‘young designer’ or a ‘burgeoning talent’?

Well, I hope really to be considered a burgeoning designer for as long as I can. I would much rather be a small seed pushing through the earth rather than a tall tree battling the storms and winds.

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So do you plan for the future? Do you have specific goals for Phoebe English, the designer and the brand? Or the woman?

No, I do not plan for the future. It is a ridiculous way to see life. You cannot make a plan, you can only go forward, there is no way to plot the path—it is a futile exercise. As soon as a path is plotted, mountains suddenly pop up and you have to re-plot. If you are continuously moving rather than planning, it is a more efficient use of time and you can do more. I am a deep believer in fate.

You worked closely with Philip Cooper on this project. How significant is collaborative creation to you?

Very, very important. You can’t design in an isolated bubble. The only way that work can exist is [through collaboration] and working with others. Philip is a close friend and talented art director who is excellent at his job. It is a pleasure to work with him and so fascinating to experience his industry. It’s very inspiring to see how other creative fields work: it was brilliant to go the the metal workshops to see them making our steel rails.

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Do you think you’re easy to work with?

Probably not. I don’t know really. I’m still learning about myself.

How do you think your ‘story so far’, shall we say—that is, your upbringing within a highly artistic environment and your education at one of the world’s most prestigious art schools—has informed where you are today?

All of those things have shaped who I am and very much the work I make. People are very important to me. It probably doesn’t come across like this as I’m not great at parties, but I really feel that every person you meet becomes part of you life and the person that you are. Some people touch your life more than others but they are all part of you.

text by: Ben Sharp










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