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Spirit of Fashion Award Pop-Up Shop

Last night, RCA alumni Matthew Miller, Carolyn Massey and Rachael Barrett unveiled exclusive collections created in a unique collaboration with designer outlet developer McArthurGlen

Menswear designers Matthew Miller and Carolyn Massey, as well as womenswear designer Rachael Barrett received the first McArthurGlen Spirit of Fashion award in June of last year, impressing a panel of judges that included Betty Jackson CBE, and Professor Wendy Dagworthy OBE. Along with 12 months PR support, access to leading industry professionals and commercial exposure they were given a challenging brief. Each was asked to reinvent a timeless classic fashion piece that had to boast commercial potential while also remaining true to a personal signature aesthetic.

From today their limited edition Spirit of Fashion collections will reside at 4 Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden for a short stay of 12 days. Matthew Miller’s hometown of Manchester will play the next host to the collection from September 30 until October 6 after which the pop-up shop will make a final stop in Rachael Barrett’s hometown of Glasgow from October 14-20. Dazed had a chat with all three designers to find out about the concepts behind their stunningly simple garments.

Dazed Digital: What garment did you choose to reinvent and why?
Matthew Miller:
I updated a classic white shirt, thinking mainly of how I could engineer the process of production of the end product.
Rachael Barrett: I chose to reinvent the school uniform and turn it into something I would want to wear. When I was about 14 I had to wear a brown blazer and skirt.It was awful! So I took those key garments and turned them into something I would want to wear.
Carolyn Massey: I remoulded a classic granddad shirt. I like to dissect details of garment so I added stitched eyelet details and studs. I thought of how the company, McArthur Glen, touched me in my life and remembered going there as a teen in Swindon and buying Levi’s. It’s a bit chavvy, but I imagined the boys from my hometown wear the jewellery pieces I designed underneath the collars of their shirts.  

DD: Where lies the reinvention or novelty in your designs?
Matthew Miller: I made use of a computer program to design the shirt. I’m a bit of a nerd so it’s quite technical but through software the model unfolded. Fashion can piss me off sometimes as the production techniques can be quite archaic. I focused on redesigning the process of production instead of the end product itself. I tried to move the classic white shirt into the 21st century by trying to create a garment that has an energy efficient production process that reduces waste.
Rachael Barrett: I mainly simplified the key items of the uniform. I am interested in clean lines and minimalistic details, so I used concealed fastenings on the shift dress and took away lapels from blazers to arrive at clean shapes.
Carolyn Massey: The forgotten details that I’ve added, like the stitched eyelets and studs. It’s a celebration of lost elements that I tried to revive. You wouldn’t believe how incredibly hard it is to find people who can make a proper shirt.

DD: Was it difficult to think commercially for this project?
Matthew Miller: As a designer you have a responsibility to think of the end user. Otherwise you end up with fashion that is incredibly wasteful – as a lot of fashion is right now. So, my point was to create a shirt that every man could relate to. The end product is commercial but the process was very conceptual.
Rachael Barrett: I found it a bit difficult but at the same time this collaboration was an opportunity to create something that can really sell. It was a learning curve.
Carolyn Massey: Of my contemporaries I think I am more commercial. Garments are designed to be worn. I want people to engage in what I do. I’d rather see my shirts on someone’s back - otherwise they become useless.

Spirit of Fashion Award Pop-Up Shop is open from 7th September to 18th September, 2011, 4 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 8JB