Following his anti-Brexit BA collection, the Meadham Kirchhoff alum is back with a brand new line and an accompanying magazine
We last met Philip Ellis when he’d just designed his BA collection. Exhibited at Central Saint Martins in June last year, on the eve of the EU Referendum, the collection was themed around Brexit, and featured EU flags and slogans such as “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” and “Tories put the ‘n’ in cuts”. The collection was alive with a spirit of protest; it felt politicised, engaged and confrontational. But it was also strong in terms of design: Ellis combined cutting skills he’d picked up while assisting Meadham Kirchhoff with a streetwear sensibility, creating very wearable items in the process. Needless to say, it was a standout collection of CSM’s BA show and ended up in the pages of Dazed, AnOther and several other publications besides. Not bad considering he hadn’t even graduated at this point.
After a year in Paris which he spent working at Vetements and designing a collection for another top secret brand you’ve definitely heard of, Ellis is back with a new line of his own. While this collection – which he’s titled Better Late Than Never – has a political edge, it’s a more subdued one. Choosing to present it via a magazine instead of a runway show or more traditional mode of fashion presentation, the line shows Ellis’s growing maturity as a designer. You can identify elements that are becoming his signatures: things we might typically associate with Britain – such as gingham and tweed – that have been perversified; mixed with latex, or cut into unexpected silhouettes. It feels proud to be British, but not nationalistic. It feels punk in a fresh and authentic way, not a cliched one.
On November 28, Ellis is launching the magazine at Donlon Books on Broadway Market. Ahead of this launch, he tells us more about this publication and the collection featured on its pages, and he reflects on the state of post-Brexit Britain.
Your last collection was driven by your belief that Britain should remain within the EU. What about this collection?
Philip Ellis: It was driven by my dissatisfaction with living in Paris and not being able to focus on my own work. I did that collection for you-know-who but wasn’t allowed to post about it, or even to talk about it. I felt like I didn’t have my own voice and that’s what drove this collection.
You’re presenting the collection by way of a magazine titled Enlarge Your Memories. Can you tell us about this?
Philip Ellis: Yes, so Enlarge Your Memories is a magazine I made with (publisher) Jamie Shaw and (photographer) Yann Faucher. It’s actually Jamie’s project – he’s starting a poster-sized magazine where he collaborates with a designer and a photographer. The day I decided I wanted to focus on my own work and start a new project, I bumped into him on the street and he told me that he was wanting to start a new project too, and it culminated in this. This is the first one he’s done, but he’s wanting to do the same thing with other designers and photographers; to get people to collaborate and create 24-pages of unadulterated fun.
“I like the idea of the clothes seeming naive and innocent but having quite a different attitude on closer inspection” – Philip Ellis
And the collection itself... It feels British, but also a bit perverse. You’ve got your gingham and you’ve got your latex...
Philip Ellis: It is perverse. It’s actually an accidental infantilisation of women, in a weird way. But that’s not surprising because I was influenced by my youth, growing up on the periphery of the Peak District. I went about designing it from a cute and lovely perspective but I think, on reflection, that the whole thing has quite a sinister edge. Lots of aspects are recognisable and British. I deliberately looked at patterns and shapes that are typically associated with youth and juxtaposed them with something more macabre (such as the killer clown graphics) or fetishistic (like the rubber). I like the idea of the clothes seeming naive and innocent but having quite a different attitude on closer inspection.
What were your references?
Philip Ellis: I was looking at Vivienne Westwood and my idols within British fashion, and I was inspired by Martin Parr exhibition that was on at the Barbican last year – Strange and Familiar. I wanted to play on that aspect of that within fashion, looking at familiar items of clothing – like the gingham dress, the washing up glove, and the lycra PE shorts – and doing a stranger take on them.
You chose to shoot this in the British countryside, which isn’t necessarily the most popular destination for fashion shoots for emerging designers. What’s your relationship with our country, specifically its countryside?
Philip Ellis: I grew up desperately wanting to escape it. But when I was in Paris, I developed this warped sense of nostalgia for my childhood, and began looking back on it with rose-tinted spectacles. It’s funny, I began to get inspired by something that I used to want to escape.
Last time we spoke, you were fighting for us to remain in the EU. Are you optimistic about the future of Britain?
Philip Ellis: I don't know actually. I do think there are more young people speaking out and wanting to challenge what we’re being presented. I used to be optimistic, before Brexit happened… But I’d still like to think the government isn’t foolish enough to settle for a hard Brexit and leave the European Union with no deal.
What’s next for you?
Philip Ellis: Plans for an AW collection are in the pipeline… watch this space.
Enlarge Your Memories launches at Donlon Books on Broadway Market on Tuesday November 28.