The creative director of Fenchurch explains to Suzanne Bearne how the streetwear brand’s design aesthetic has evolved over the past decade
How did you get into design?
I grew up on the Isle of Man, not quite the fashion capital of the world, but I was immersed in magazines from when I was a young teen, plus the early 1990s house culture and streetwear got me hooked on fashion. That merged into skate culture by the end of the 1990s and I started working at Fenchurch in 2000.
What design are you most proud of and why?
I developed a fabric in Portugal. When I cut it on the bias I could get the edges raw without fraying. It cost a fortune, unfortunately, so I have the only sample, which was just a simple single layer zipped hood. I still wear it weekly five years on. At Fenchurch it would have to be the Vadar sweatshirt [a pullover hoodie with a double-zip system and a high neck] created by our former menswear designer Danny Bartlett in 2004. It was a real moment in time and got us a lot of attention from retailers in the UK.
Which designer do you most admire?
It changes from week to week but I really admire a fearless independence when it comes to design. Carri Mundane [designer of the CassettePlaya label] is high on the list this week. I think she’s captured the zeitgeist of the East End of London better than anyone over the past few years.
What impact has the recession had on your designs?
The design team has been pushing for better-quality product from our production department. Basically we have been a pain in the arse because we want to feel that we are offering outstanding product, with brand equity and quality.
Which collection are you working on and how does it differ to previous collections?
We’re just wrapping up our autumn 11 collection. It’s different to previous collections in that we have focused tightly on our demographic and are dressing a more distinct customer. As brands get bigger and bigger, it’s easy to turn a collection into something for everyone. While we always strive for maximum commerciality, we’re not compromising our street heritage with this collection. As our fabrics have increased in quality, we have also matured our branding. The need to slap a massive logo on garments has disappeared. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not making the mistake of hiding our brand away. We’re just being more mature and considered in the design. It’s a collection that everyone involved in is very proud of.
How has the Fenchurch aesthetic changed over recent years?
Streetwear has evolved in the 10 years we’ve been in action. Stylistically we haven’t changed a great deal; clean lines, outstanding graphics and beautiful jackets are what we’re known for. The fits have slimmed for sure, and the fabrication has [improved] in quality. I think our product has become much better, but aesthetically I think we’ve kept hold of our look.
Who do you most admire and why?
Russell Waterman. He created clothing label Silas and upheld its brand integrity without compromise.
What design do you wish you’d come up with?
The Nike Air Max 90, no question.
Where do you like to shop online?
I mainly buy secondhand clothes, so I’m an eBay geek.
Where is your favourite place to shop?
[Young fashion indie] Trapeze in Cheltenham. It offers a great mix.
Chris Isherwood is creative director of streetwear brand Fenchurch