The painter turned fashion designer tells Mandy Cohen about using T-shirts as a canvas and how a rainy British summer inspired him.
You’ve been a painter for the past 10 years. How did you end up as a fashion designer?
I started to use T-shirts as a canvas to create paintings, not with the idea of selling them, but then I showed for the first time at London Fashion Week in February
2004 and had a great response. It was just me and it was a steep learning curve, but after LFW it suddenly became a business.
How will the business expand as orders increase?
By hiring and training more staff and still keeping it in-house. We now have five in the team and 40 stockists internationally, including Liberty and [premium denim indie] Donna Ida in the UK. The quantity [of orders] doesn’t really matter as long as everyone who works there knows the printing process. Each garment is created uniquely. Tell me about the process. Each piece is unique in that everything is hand printed, nothing is digital. I’ll produce lots of drawings, and then have screens made of those images. When I wash them and combine them with another image or colour they change and give me another idea.
Do you follow trends? Personally?
No, not really. I leave that to our department who deal with designing all the silhouettes. Certain prints go better on certain shapes and so that will be the process rather than ‘this is really in so let’s go with it’.
What inspired your spring 12 collection?
The weather. It was pouring with rain while I was designing it and it was supposed to be summer. Seeing as most of my customers are international, there’s something so unique about the British summer time that is so laughably pathetic. We’ve got this lovely print of raindrops and they’re all printed in neon pink, so it’s that real fresh summer theme and yet it’s all about rain and lightning.
You have an installation at LFW for spring 12. What can we expect to see?
It will be an interactive space, as I like creating environments. We’re going to have a garden shed and a printed floor with all kinds of cloud prints. The collection will be on the outside so people can look at it. I’m not sure what’s going to happen on the inside, but there will be a little environment that people can go in. LFW is a great vehicle for exposure so I thought it would be nice to push my artistic background, and to do a show that was as much about art as it is about fashion.
Do you use social media?
Yes. We have a big Twitter and Facebook presence which has been fantastic. It’s quite nice to get people you’ve never met before writing back saying ‘Yes I think it’s awesome’ or ‘No, don’t bother with that’. If I was following a brand or an artist that I really liked, I’d feel pleased to get the inside scoop on a new print coming out.
What is your biggest-selling style?
The Kate Mouse T-shirt. People just keep wanting it.
What brand excites you?
There’s a great Japanese label called John Bull which I find really exciting. It’s predominantly a denim label but does loads of other stuff. It’s really cool.
Where do you like to shop?
I love shopping in Japan, it’s totally different to London. There are tons of little shops, and every year I go they’re different.
i Who do you admire? My girlfriend Andrea Burn. She started in fashion and now she’s a fantastic artist (pictured)
so we’ve totally swapped. She’s been doing it for longer than I have and I just have so much admiration for her.