Menswear designers Matthew Miller and Carolyn Massey, as well as womenswear designer Rachael Barrett received the first McArthurGlen Spirit of Fashion award in June of last year, impressing a panel of judges that included Betty Jackson CBE, and Professor Wendy Dagworthy OBE. Along with 12 months PR support, access to leading industry professionals and commercial exposure they were given a challenging brief. Each was asked to reinvent a timeless classic fashion piece that had to boast commercial potential while also remaining true to a personal signature aesthetic.
From today their limited edition Spirit of Fashion collections will reside at 4 Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden for a short stay of 12 days. Matthew Miller’s hometown of Manchester will play the next host to the collection from September 30 until October 6 after which the pop-up shop will make a final stop in Rachael Barrett’s hometown of Glasgow from October 14-20. Dazed had a chat with all three designers to find out about the concepts behind their stunningly simple garments.
Dazed Digital: What garment did you choose to reinvent and why?
Matthew Miller: I updated a classic white shirt, thinking mainly of how I could engineer the process of production of the end product.
Rachael Barrett: I chose to reinvent the school uniform and turn it into something I would want to wear. When I was about 14 I had to wear a brown blazer and skirt.It was awful! So I took those key garments and turned them into something I would want to wear.
Carolyn Massey: I remoulded a classic granddad shirt. I like to dissect details of garment so I added stitched eyelet details and studs. I thought of how the company, McArthur Glen, touched me in my life and remembered going there as a teen in Swindon and buying Levi’s. It’s a bit chavvy, but I imagined the boys from my hometown wear the jewellery pieces I designed underneath the collars of their shirts.
DD: Where lies the reinvention or novelty in your designs?
Matthew Miller: I made use of a computer program to design the shirt. I’m a bit of a nerd so it’s quite technical but through software the model unfolded. Fashion can piss me off sometimes as the production techniques can be quite archaic. I focused on redesigning the process of production instead of the end product itself. I tried to move the classic white shirt into the 21st century by trying to create a garment that has an energy efficient production process that reduces waste.
Rachael Barrett: I mainly simplified the key items of the uniform. I am interested in clean lines and minimalistic details, so I used concealed fastenings on the shift dress and took away lapels from blazers to arrive at clean shapes.
Carolyn Massey: The forgotten details that I’ve added, like the stitched eyelets and studs. It’s a celebration of lost elements that I tried to revive. You wouldn’t believe how incredibly hard it is to find people who can make a proper shirt.
DD: Was it difficult to think commercially for this project?
Matthew Miller: As a designer you have a responsibility to think of the end user. Otherwise you end up with fashion that is incredibly wasteful – as a lot of fashion is right now. So, my point was to create a shirt that every man could relate to. The end product is commercial but the process was very conceptual.
Rachael Barrett: I found it a bit difficult but at the same time this collaboration was an opportunity to create something that can really sell. It was a learning curve.
Carolyn Massey: Of my contemporaries I think I am more commercial. Garments are designed to be worn. I want people to engage in what I do. I’d rather see my shirts on someone’s back - otherwise they become useless.
Spirit of Fashion Award Pop-Up Shop is open from 7th September to 18th September, 2011, 4 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 8JB