Portsmouth girl Emma Clarke tore up the rulebook of traditional men’s suiting for her graduate S/S13 collection. Gone are the days of the archaic three-piece suit! Clarke dresses her boys in block-coloured soft tailoring and wide-legged bag-trousers to create a look that nod’s to Pierre Cardin men’s wear and David Bowie’s prowess. A combination of hounds-tooth and lace-print embroidering offers a tactile texture to the fabric and gilded knuckle-duster an unexpected oddity. We spoke to Emma Clarke about her view on men’s wear and her latest collection.
I searched market stalls for numerous interesting charms and I suppose the formation was inspired and derived from my hometown Portsmouth. You can take a girl out of the city…
Dazed Digital: Do you think being a woman designing for men has affected your work?
Emma Clarke: If anything I think being a woman designing for men is a plus. It means you can push the boundaries more.
DD: When did you know you wanted to design men's wear?
Emma Clarke: It's not a story of making outfits for my Ken dolls. I started with womenswear but three months in I had this urge to try menswear. So I did, and that’s where I stayed. I like bending the bars. It can be so easy to get caught up and become a serious Susan and that’s not what I came here to do.
DD: Can you tell me about the texture of the fabrics and how you created the effect?
Emma Clarke: In this collection there was a continuous movement from opulence to the clinical. The texture works with intricate and delicate embroidery, but it has been removed from the traditionalism of this craft with juxtaposed patterns and angular placements; a graphic hounds-tooth paired with a renaissance lace in a modernist square placement. Each piece was pattern specific, meticulously plotted before being machine embroidered.
I collaborated with a fantastic company, Stickerei Mueller, in Germany who allowed me to work in the factory alongside them to carry out all the testing and plotting. Then I returned home to place the jigsaw pieces together.
DD: How and why did you create the jewellery?
Emma Clarke: For me I like the balancing act of introducing slight but not overwhelming oddities. The jewellery, which from a distance resembles knuckle-dusters but up close looks like elaborate, bejeweled chandeliers - a collector’s jewellery box laid bare. There are chains weaving across the heavy bases bearing charms of all manner including diamond-encrusted crucifixes, sea blue St Christopher’s to toadstools and anchors. I searched market stalls for numerous interesting charms and I suppose the formation was inspired and derived from my hometown Portsmouth. You can take a girl out of the city…
DD: The silhouettes reference a sort of 60s futurism and have an obvious androgynous appeal - what influenced this?
Emma Clarke: I guess it’s as if Bowie got stuck halfway between Ziggy in the DeLorean DM-12 and found himself in an psychiatric operating theatre. When we were shooting the lookbook, James looked amazing walking the back streets of Manor House in the final white outfit. Looking like he had been dropped from space but shining like a guardian angel.