Phoebe English held her presentation in a long-shuttered polythene bag factory in Bermondsey, which seemed perfectly apt. Her Damascene pivot towards localism and sustainable practice in fashion design continued and evolved in a collection that was shown statically, on six groups, or “pods,” of friends pitching in as models.
She said: “I guess the idea is that we’ve tried to radically change our materials process and our working process while retaining the same aesthetic.” Examples of that included the outerwear, made in collaboration with Lavenham, that was wadded with naturally shed wool sourced from flocks local to the firm’s Suffolk factory and worn against bags made from scraps generated by the development process.
Generously cut, “cloud” shirting and pants with gently curving hems and more conventionally boxy chore jackets and workwear pants were amongst the pieces colored via entirely non-synthetic dyes including Warwickshire-foraged mugwort (green), rose madder, and Guernsey-grown coreopsis (gold). Many of the all-upcycled fabrics were un-purchased and out of-copyright surplus digital prints. Others were literal scraps, rescued from disposal and lovingly assembled into handsome striped pieces.
English said she has no ambition to reach any particular destination with her brand, but is instead engaged in an ongoing process to “discover our ecosystem.” As some of her retailers have dropped away, others have been drawn to her slow and conscious approach. “When I first started it was very much a case of, ’Is anyone gonna care, or be interested?’” The queue outside that defunct plastic bag factory—while nothing like as long as the queue just down the road that stretched all the way to Westminster —acted as physical testament that certain people do care very much about this new kind of English establishment.