Amelia’s Magazine | Simeon Farrar, The Great British Summertime: New S/S 2012 Season Preview Interview

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Madi Illustrates
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Madi Illustrates

What began as an ‘art experiment’ by London-based Simeon Farrar has now turned into a successful fashion label; winning not only international acclaim but also the prestigious NEWGEN award three times along the way. Despite being crowned a fashion buyer favourite with stockists such as Liberty in the UK and many more in Paris, Tokyo, and Sydney (to name a few), Simeon hasn’t lost sight of his Fine Art training gained at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Every collection begins with a philosophical root from which the designs and drawings develop and each one-off piece is then created with Simeon’s trademark dash of humour delivered through experiments with colour and print, done by hand in his Shoreditch studio.

Simeon Farrar
Simeon Farrar, all photographs courtesy of Iroquois PR

As someone who trained as a fine artist, what was it that made you want to turn your hand from canvas and paper to fabric?
I’ve always been into printmaking and I used to use a lot of screen-printing in my paintings. I would load them up with all sorts of images and paint over them to form multiple layers. I started putting some of these images on to t-shirts purely as another surface rather than as fashion. The first t-shirts were so loaded with paint like the canvases that they could never be worn. I got so into this that it soon evolved into fashion.

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by JL Illustration
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Jason Lear

As a ‘non-fashion’ person, did you expect to make such a big impression when you first exhibited at London Fashion Week?
Absolutely not. I had no idea what people would think of me. I didn’t even have an order book so I guess I didn’t expect to write any orders. Suddenly I had all these people wanting to order this junk I’d made which I found all a bit weird. It was still an art experiment at that point.

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Abi Hall
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Abi Hall

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about being a designer and the way the world of Fashion works?
As an artist you develop a certain degree of snobbery towards anything that isn’t ‘Art’. I can safely say that I have been cleansed of that snobbery after being welcomed so openly into the fashion world. I’ve learned that it’s all a load of rubbish and an artist just does what ever he/she feels is the most honest path for their creativity and it doesn’t need a label to make it valid.

Neon Butterfly Chiffon Maxi
Butterfly Chiffon Maxi

Your ‘Kate Mouse‘ illustration has become a widely recognised and coveted t-shirt graphic. Why do you think it’s had so much success?
For me it was one of those magical moments when an image just works perfectly. I’d drawn the image for a nursery rhyme collection we were doing at the time and I wanted to do Three Blind Mice. So, to name the file on Photoshop I used ‘Kate Mouse’ so I would recognise it. Then it just clicked, like a light bulb coming on above my head. I think it’s been a success for the same reason. It’s not forced or contrived, just simple and genius. There’s been such a demand ever since her birth that she’s featured in every collection since, with various additions. She gets pimped up every season. Except this forthcoming A/W 2012.

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Alia Gargum
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Alia Gargum

What personally inspired you to create a ‘Kate Mouse’ t-shirt with Net-A-Porter especially for the Japan Earthquake relief appeal?
Two of my staff are Japanese and they have been with me for years so due to that I feel a certain closeness with Japan. We sell a lot in Japan, and since I began the label the Japanese have been so supportive and loyal to my brand that when the earthquake hit it felt like an opportunity to repay some of that. The Kate Mouse print was our obvious big hitter, so I thought it would make the most money if we offered it for the appeal. We did it by ourselves at first, offering a free t-shirt with every donation to Save The Children. That went very well but as we were paying postage we had to limit it to the UK only. My PR company Iroquois and I approached Net-A-Porter so we could take it further. They were amazing with how they took it up and offered so much percentage of the profit to the appeal. I was very impressed with their instant generosity.

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Dana Bocai
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Dana Bocai

Your current S/S 2012 collection not only has your own charming take on the uniquely temperamental British summer through neon colours, raindrop prints and a nod to the new Royalty, but a uniquely feel-good quote that runs throughout. How did the slogan ‘You Are My Silver Lining’ form in your head?
There is always a sense of romance in my collections, and no matter what the theme I always like to bring that in. I like the idea of someone being your Silver Lining. No matter what happens in life there is someone who’s very presence brings with it a sense of hope or a way out of darkness.

Slogan Print Tote with Leather Handles
Slogan Print Tote with Leather Handles

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Alejandra Espino
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Alejandra Espino

What are your favourite colours to print in (at the moment) and why?
I loved using the neon colours in the S/S 2012 collection. I like printing images in neon then overlaying that with a black print and washing it all out so the greys defuse the neon a bit.

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Mitika Chohan
Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Mitika Chohan
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Mitika Chohan

What can we expect for A/W 2012 from Simeon Farrar?
For S/S 2012 we had a ghost print that did very well, so I’ve built the next collection round that. So I guess it’s a Haunted House collection. We’ve got lots of ghost drawings, howling wolves, that kind of thing. But, there’s also a romantic side to it. I’ve always been interested in the tragic side of vampires and the sense of undying love that runs through it. So I’ve brought a lot of that in to the collection. And for the first time, NO KATE MOUSE. I didn’t want to cheapen her and put some fangs on her or something. Kate Mouse is dead, you heard it here first.

Cloud Print Tote Bag
Cloud Print Tote Bag

Simeon Farrar Spring/Summer 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins
Simeon Farrar S/S 2012 by Gareth A Hopkins

Simeon Farrar’s current S/S 2012 collection is available to buy in store and online at a variety of stockists, and his forthcoming A/W 2012 collection will be exhibited at Tranoi this March.

Categories ,Abi Hall, ,Alejandra Espino, ,Alia Gargum, ,Autumn/Winter 2012-13, ,british summer, ,canvas, ,Creativity, ,Dana Bocai, ,drawing, ,Fine Art, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,Haunted House, ,illustration, ,Iroquois, ,Jason Lear, ,Kate Mouse, ,liberty, ,london, ,London Fashion Week, ,Madi Illustrates, ,Mitika Chohan, ,Neon, ,Net-A-Porter, ,Newgen, ,painting, ,paris, ,Romance, ,royalty, ,Save The Children, ,screen-printing, ,shoreditch, ,Simeon Farrar, ,Spring/Summer 2012, ,sydney, ,T-shirts, ,tokyo, ,Tranoi, ,University of Creative Arts Farnham, ,Vampires, ,You Are My Silver Lining

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Amelia’s Magazine | Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Norman Hartnell by Gemma Champ

2012 has been a pretty regal year in the UK, from the pomp and ceremony of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to Queen Liz (sort of) parachuting from a helicopter at the London Olympic Games. What better way to round that off than with a glorious celebration of the golden age of British couture at the Fashion and Textile Museum?

Norman Hartnell photographed by Norman Parkinson

Hartnell & Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment might just be one of my favourite FTM exhibition. A rare celebration of our own couturiers, the exhibition charts the rise of fashion greats Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and milliner Frederick Fox pre and post war.

Norman Hartnell by Anna Wand

Sir Norman Hartnell was born in London in 1901. At only 22, with financial help from his father and support from his sister, the fashion legend opened his first salon in Mayfair in 1923. Up until then, pretty much, British fashion was stuffy; we’d got a rep for exquisite tailoring but womenswear aired on the side of boring. Hartnell shook things up with his maverick collections, featuring lavish embroidery and a distinct form of luxury in comparison to the mundanity of wholesale clothing at that time.

Norman Hartnell by Gemma Champ

But it was during the austerity of post-war Britain where Hartnell had the most impact. Amidst the grey despair Hartnell dazzled with his couture collections, going on to design Queen Elizabeth‘s wedding dress in 1947 and the glorious coronation gown, featuring intricate and embellished motifs to represent each Commonwealth state, now famous internationally by Cecil Beaton‘s iconic photographs.

Norman Hartnell by Anna Wand

In this exhibition, there’s much to see of Hartnell‘s breathtaking evening gowns. Equally and if not more interesting are his utility pieces of the post-war era: striking suits that broke the boundaries of rationed fashion. These examples, like grey and blue two-piece suits, brought the style and glamour of 1950s Paris to London while still conforming to strict fabric regulations.

Hardy Amies by Gemma Champ

In the modern era, the baton was passed to Hardy Amies, who began his career at British tailors Lachasse before launching his own label. Amies is perhaps more famous for his luxurious no.14 Savile Row menswear than couture frocks, but it was the award of Royal Warrant of dressmaker in 1955 that propelled Amies to fame, designing the outfit worn by the Queen for her official Silver Jubilee portrait, immortalised on countless mugs, tea towels, biscuit tins, Andy Warhol prints and in the history books.

Hardy Amies by Norman Parkinson

Hardy Amies by Sandra Contreras

The exhibition brings together these two British fashion major players with ease. The focus is as much on the style of individual items as it is telling a story, and the exhibition fuses together the craftsmanship and expertise of Hartnell and Amies beautifully, presenting much of their work side by side.

Upstairs, small cabinets pay tribute to the work of milliner Frederick Fox. Australian-born, but with a strong British aesthetic, Fox might best be known for the tulip hat worn by the queen during Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 – a now iconic piece of millinery: revolutionary then, god-awful now, but a great arrow in this exhibition’s bow. It’s presented alongside a number of Fox‘s other pieces, many with a more fashion-forward edge worn by celebrities and royalty alike.

There’s also a host of other artefacts to glare at as you make your way around the museum, including personal notes between the Queen and her tailors, sketches by both designers, jewellery, shoes and books. 2013 also marks legendary fashion photographer Norman Parkinson‘s 100th birthday. The lecture room upstairs in the FTM hosts a series of Parkinson photographs of British fashion designers, including Hartnell and Amies and many other greats. It’s definitely worth a look and is the perfect conclusion to this landmark exhibition.

All images © Norman Parkinson Limited/Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive.

Categories ,Anna Wand, ,Bermondsey, ,couture, ,Fashion and Textile Museum, ,Frederick Fox, ,Gemma Champ, ,Hardy Amies, ,Matt Bramford, ,Monarchy, ,Norman Hartnell, ,royalty, ,Sandra Contreras

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