Fashion duo Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt aim to create new queer icons with their sparkling designs
Art School is a fashion collective founded by Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt – who are also partners. Working with friends across an eclectic mix of ages and gender identities, they create decadent, luxury clothes (“No one I know is really going to be able to buy it,” admits Tom) that embrace and accentuate the genderqueer, non-binary body.
Flared trousers ripple with Swarovski crystals, thin-strapped gingham tops fit snugly to petite bodies, and sunshine-yellow gauze dresses drape delicately over curved hips. “It's not menswear, it's not being a man, not being a woman – it's like anything in-between that you can express,” says Barratt. “That's the next step, because we have the whole Caitlyn Jenner thing now. The transgender narrative is that you were a man and now you're a woman, whereas (the reality is) much more complicated than that, especially for our generation of people.”
The closeness between the duo bubbles over into their interactions when they’re talking about the type of clothes they design. “It's about celebration, isn't it?” says Barratt to Loweth, who nods in agreement: “Yeah! It's about euphoric celebration.” “Like what a poo feels like,” giggles Barratt.
Their first collection goes into store at Selfridges in summer 2017, but their first presentation – an organic, improv dance-and-sound-fuelled performance inspired by the Ballet Russes and Bauhaus – earlier in the year at Lulu Kennedy’s emerging talent LFW showcase, Fashion East.
Rather than hiring in models, they employed friends who they think could become new queer icons. “I think it's so inaccessible to say you're going to do something based around the queer body and then cast it with the boys from Storm or whatever,” says Loweth. “What we do is more authentic. It's more (about) living in a way that expresses yourself, which is political in today's world – to have your identity and actually live it, when it isn't the norm.”