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Fred Butler's Paper Folds

The London-based designer plays with optical patterns and iridescent shimmers

Fred Butler is one of London’s most precious creative gems. Born in Colchester, Fred went on to study at Brighton University and now lives and works in London. Fred first launched into the world of fashion as a prop designer and now concentrates on accessories. Her accessories can be constantly spotted in publications such as Dazed and Confused, i-D and Vogue. as well as the music world with special commissions for Patrick Wolf, Skin, Lady GaGa, Bishi, Little Boots, Beth Ditto and La Roux.

Dazed Digital: What was it like growing up in Colchester?
Fred Butler: Terrible, it's a garrison town so the energy is quite confrontational, not relaxed - so growing up alternative was a constant battle. In a way I made some good friends as we all found each other.

DD: What type of clothes did you enjoy wearing as a child?
Fred Butler: I didn’t get to choose. My mum dressed me in what she thought I should wear. She hated anything embellished so I wore all tasteful, plain things, which is probably why I wear glitzy things now. I used to work at the W.I jumble sale with my Nan, steal clothes from that but my mum would always find them and throw them away. I wanted a “Global Hyper Colour” t-shirt but was not allowed so I got a tie-dye tee that I thought looked the same but my mum also threw this away. At the same time I got a reversible Disney Dalmatian jumper which was so exciting – my mum threw it away…

DD: Why did you decide to focus more on accessories and leave the prop world?
Fred Butler: I really missed fashion and doing things for the body. I would make things and found myself thinking how much I wanted to put it on the body and the head so then it occurred to me to work with stylists and tailor make pieces for this purpose.  

DD: do you feel your style, as a prop maker and accessory designer are the same –
Fred Butler: Yes, I feel I have one aesthetic.

DD: How would you describe the Fred Butler aesthetic?
Fred Butler: I think it's a burst of colour accentuated with black and white optical detail and highlighted with iridescent shimmer.

DD: Talking about your S/S 10 collection – what were your inspirations and where did these come from?
Fred Butler: It was based on an item from my archive which was an origami ball made out of iridescent film. I fell back in love with that piece and wanted to explore it more.  I collaborated with Brie Harrison for the print and we turned the 2D pattern of the origami fold into the actual repeat design.

DD: How do you start working on a collection / what are the processes for you?
Fred Butler: I decide to start with a technique and begin making prototypes and then I stick them on a mannequin and work out how they integrate with the body and it evolves from there. I experiment with materials and decide what is best for that piece. An important thing is that I don’t sketch – I always work in 3D so everything is a surprise and I don’t know what it will turn out like. I like layering lots of techniques to produce something that has never been seen before.  

DD: Do you keep a sketchbook?
Fred Butler: No I keep everything in archive boxes, as everything is 3D – all my test pieces. As I am making the pieces I pin them to the wall and this becomes the start of my mood board – I hate the idea of a sketchbook as it hides everything away and I like to see everything in out in one place.

DD: What’s your favourite piece in the collection?
Fred Butler: The “cosmic bolero” as you can turn it inside out, play with it and do many things. When I finished the helmet it was a lovely moment, as these ears appeared that was an unexpected feature that seems to happen to me.

DD: Who’s the Fred Butler muse?

DD: Where did he come from?
Fred Butler: Wonderland – I met Rowdy through Patrick Wolf.  He was doing vocals / guest appearance at one of his shows and cheekily borrowed one of my pieces from Patrick. He then emailed me and introduced me to his world and we started talking about collaborating on his forthcoming album artwork. I sent him a gift, which he wore as inspiration when he was writing the album and recording. The rest is history.

DD: Where were you five years ago and where do you see yourself in five years
Fred Butler: Five years ago I was Shona Heath’s assistant and in five years I want to be still making my accessories and consulting for other labels.

DD: Best memories of 2009?
Fred Butler: Going to the opening of Fashion week at No. 10 Downing Street, being shot by Nick Knight, having my film shown at ASVOFF2, exhibiting with New Gen for LFW at Somerset House, and of course sitting in Dalston Superstore with Kim Howells!

DD: What can we see form Fred Butler in 2010?
Fred Butler: Maybe larger pieces – and the rest you have to wait and see. – Follow my blog.

Photographer: Elisha Smith - Leverock
Stylist: Kim Howells
Hair: Aimee Robinson using Phyto
Make Up: Yin Lee @ Premier using MAC pro
Stylist Assistant: Reuben Esser
Hair Assistant: Brady Lea
Models: Ashleigh @ Profile Petter Anderson @ D1