Unveiling SHOWstudio’s latest project- an interactive shopping experience- Nick Knight talks to Dazed about his quest to share the creative process behind fashion.
With a glossy black façade, the SHOWStudio Shop showrooms open into a minimal, pristine white foyer. Sheer curtains separating a second room reveal shadows of people at work, hinting at the constantly heaving internal organs of the company. A flaming red haired girl invites me in and leads me up a spiral staircase, her delicious curls a vibrant jolt against the clean white backdrop.
The flawless white interior continues onto the second storey shop floor, where a collection of iconic fashion props and costumes, curated by SHOWstudio director, Nick Knight, are laid out around the room. There are people all around me- all seem purposeful, some with clip boards, all shaking my hand one after the other. And then, as if emerging from the white washed walls themselves, an impeccable Nick Knight appears, clad in laid back denim and a crisp white shirt. As we sit down to chat, I barely have to open the conversation. Knight is enthusiastic, bursting to full with excitement over SHOWstudio’s latest endeavor; his clear blue eyes flash as he launches into an articulate narrative on the birth an future of the SHOWstudio Shop while directing me around the space…
Nick Knight: Behind this Shop is a studio, so we’re inviting people to come and make things for the Shop. Gareth Pugh’s coming down and he’s going to make a dress, we expect, so once he’s made it, he just carries it down and it’s in the Shop...
Dazed Ditial: So they create everything in the space here?
Nick Knight: Not everything. There’s two sets of content for the shop. One that’s sort of props that have been in a fashion shoot before, and the other thing will be new things that are made live in the studio.
DD: Will you be showing this creative process in action?
Nick Knight: Absolutely. When I ask Gareth Pugh to come in, we’ll have webcams in there and people will be able to watch him create whatever he’s going to create.
DD: Will that be a live feed?
Nick Knight: Yep! So you can email questions or whatever it is.
DD: So it’s very interactive?
Nick Knight: Yes, it’s interactive in the way that you can email in and he can answer you. I’m not asking him to allow the public to influence the choice of what he makes or try to shape it. But if you can imagine watching him make something and you’d think, “perfect, that’s the dress for me…”
DD: Have you set a theme for the designers to follow, or will it be a blank canvas?
Nick Knight: The theme is to make something that you can sell in a shop. Now, how people interpret it is up to them. I know that Gareth Pugh will probably make a dress, Sam McKnight, a hairdresser, on the other hand, said he’ll bake a cake. Simon Costin who is a set designer is going to make a well dressing- I had no idea what that was when he told me! When life was based around village life, the well was the most important part of that, so every year or so people would get together and celebrate the source of pure water and do a sort of shrine above it. You’d make it out of clay and petals and they’d make these beautiful, Hindu like shrines above the wells. So he’s getting some well dressers to come out and help him dress a well.
DD: And how do you choose the contributors?
Nick Knight: To be honest there’s so many people, it’s really hard to know where to start. It’s fantastic to have Gareth come down; Alexander McQueen would be nice to have- it’s just a matter of getting out there and asking people. Most people say yes, so it’s just really trying to work with the people out there who are contributors to shop studio, and the people you admire.
DD: What other sorts of things will you be selling in the Shop?
Nick Knight: We’re going back historically and looking at the history of fashion photography, and looking at the props that have been made throughout time, so we’re looking back at the estates of people like Cecil Beaton, Guy Bourdin, Blumenfeld, Robert Maplethorpe. There are things from their photographs that probably still exist so we’re looking for the historical pieces that are iconic in terms of the history of fashion.
DD: How did the idea for the Shop come about in the first place?
Nick Knight: The Shop came about because when I was here last November trying to find something to buy my wife for Christmas, it was the Martin Margiela store and they said to me, “oh are you coming to the leaving party?” I didn’t know they were leaving the building, so I said “OK, who’s the landlord and who’s coming in next?” It wasn’t on the market so I contacted the landlord very quickly and I secured the building and that’s how I found it. I’d been looking for a building in this area for ages to put SHOWstudio in, and then when we found it, it occurred to me it would be a fantastic place to open a shop and sell some of the amazing things I see made for shoots.
DD: Has there been a lot of interest in the Shop?
Nick Knight: Yeah, a ton of interest. We’ve got lists on nearly every piece of people who are interested in buying them.
DD: Do you have a favourite piece from the Shop collection?
Nick Knight: Out of all this stuff? I guess the tiger is pretty impressive. I mean they’re all great pieces, I’ve never sort of considered which one I would buy if I was buying one for myself! Michael Howells; heads are fantastic, Simon Costin’s cherries are great, I think that piece by Shona Heath is great and now I’m just going through and saying “and that, and that and that!” (laughs). I mean because I’ve curated the shop I guess I’m only putting in things I like. So in that way I’m not going to have anything in here than I’m not going to want to sell.
DD: So how does all this fit in with SHOWstudio as a brand and company?
Nick Knight: Well SHOWstudio has always been really about showing the process of creating fashion, it’s what we’ve based the whole ethic of SHOWstudio on. It’s saying OK, well the public normally see the end retouched image, but there’s a process to make that image, which is very exciting to someone who makes his own images. There might be sort of two or three months work behind an image, the journey from the conception of the idea right through to it being published. That journey is very interesting- it’s actually probably more informative about what I was trying to say about the piece than just showing the image.
I live through these moments which are exciting and challenging and I thought it’s kind of better to show those than to hide them away. I haven’t got anything to hide so I’m happy to show people everything I do. So SHOWstudio was really based on that, it’s the perfect medium for being able to show that. So really the last 10 years of doing SHOWstudio have been based on the principle of showing the process of creating fashion. Then when we had the space here we though actually, well, it’s completely coherent to allow people to purchase some of that process.
DD: Where do you see the Shop going in the future?
Nick Knight: Well SHOWstudio is set to extend into different countries. We want to open up in New York and open up in Beijing and in Berlin and Tokyo, so we’d have a similar sort of thing in different countries.
The SHOWstudio Shop is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-6pm at 1-9 Bruton Place, London W1J 6LT.