’Xtreme Sports’ is inspired by Clubland Classics, under-18s discos, and the fake distressed denim of the British high street
“It’s genuinely so shit, but I love it. I wish my work looked that way.” Designer Claire Barrow is talking about the wealth of purposefully distressed menswear offered on the British high street. “We always got told never to fake distress anything at fashion school because it’s cringy and people hate it. But I did it anyway,” she laughs.
The designer is describing a key element of her new collection ‘Xtreme Sports’, which features panelled, stonewashed denim chaps, leotards, printed t-shirts and hoodies, and body-con dresses bearing unashamedly 90s-inspired prints, diamante ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ motifs and distressing. Lots of distressing.
Barrow left fashion week and the established seasonal schedule behind back in 2016, and Xtreme Sports is the latest in a line of conceptual collections that traverse the line between fashion and art. Having previously debuted her clothing as part of a series of unique events, installations and immersive exhibitions, this one saw her curate a club night in Dalston to launch the line. “I called it ‘Make It Last Forever’ and it had a prom theme, and prom decor everywhere,” Barrow explains, “Klein, VIOLENCE, Bip Ling, and Liv Fontaine all performed, and there were pole dancers and DJs all night.”
Fake distressing aside, Barrow describes Xtreme Sports as a culmination of all the elements of her life, basically. “I was just thinking about myself, as usual (laughs) and how I like to dress day to day. Inspiration came from everywhere. I was painting these acrylic pieces of naked women mud wrestling before I started, and was struck by the Live, Laugh, Love photo frame that sits at the end of my bed at my parents’ house in the North when I was up there for Christmas,” she tells us. “I was listening to Clubland Classics and a lot of metal while I was designing it, too, and thinking about when I used to go to under-18s nights, all the sparkly eyeshadow and the scent of Lynx in the air. It’s quite nostalgic I suppose,” she finishes.
Like Barrow’s memories of her teenage years, the collection’s campaign is a suitably hazy homage to the 90s. Shot by visual artist and singer Hannah Diamond, and featuring models Grace and Alix, an IRL couple who are “completely in love with each other”, the designer gave Diamond free rein when it came to the images, “I basically just said ‘please make sure the sparkles stand out’, and that was it,” she says, “but we both liked the idea of the glamour shot-style background. It’s a bit prom-esque, too.”
With Xtreme Sports now finished and available to shop on her website, Barrow is currently working on her next project. “Ideally I want to be doing a big exhibition of sculpture and 3D pieces by the time summer comes around,” she says, “I’ve done loads of commercial projects in the last year. Now’s the time to get weird.”