Amelia’s Magazine | Deptford X Arts Festival 2010: A Review

Felicity Brown Gabrielle dress, online illustrated by Kate Copeland

Amidst the commotion of catwalks and exhibitions at London Fashion Week, one website had everyone talking; Young British Designers. Grabbing attention with their eye-catching launch video, the team behind YBD are providing a platform for the fashion conscious everywhere to buy designs by the next generation of British greats. Ada Zanditon, Jena.Theo, Jasper Garvida, Eudon Choi and Felicity Brown are just a few of fashion’s bright young things being championed by the site, where you can read about the designers themselves as well as investing in their clothes, shoes and accessories. But who is behind the venture? Though they are prolific on Twitter and becoming a household name amongst bloggers and press, little has been revealed about the individuals behind Young British Designers; until now.  

Tell us about the people behind Young British Designers; how did you end up working together? 
YBD comprises four people, Adriana, Stuart, Debra and Julian – two couples. Adriana and Stuart had a great idea to champion developing British design talent and approached Deb and Julian to enable the idea to fly; all four were totally taken with the concept, it seemed such an obvious thing to do, none of us could really believe that nobody had thought of it before. Then came London Fashion Week in February 2010 – the breadth of new, naïve British talent was clear for us to see and the thought of bringing it all together ‘under one roof’ (so to speak) became an increasingly enthralling prospect. But every idea needs its seminal moment, for us it was Adriana and Debra entering the hall at Vauxhall Fashion Scout that cold and windy Monday afternoon; the room was empty – and the utterly beautiful Felicity Brown dresses called across the room. For us, that moment encapsulated the sheer joy of finding new talent – and in knowing that we could bring our own talents and experience to introduce them to an emerging global market. 

Eudon Choi Grey Lace Up Military Shoe Boot, Rae Jones Scarlett Leather Brogues, illustrated by Kate Copeland

We ended up working together because of a shared passion, but it was more than that – our skills were compatible: design, marketing, business, sustainability and communications. We also wanted to take a risk – a risk on a new venture, to do something really significant in our own way. We like each other too.  

It’s a difficult time for young British designers starting out today; what inspired you to champion them in this way?  
No one focuses purely on the promotion of new British talent – a handful of designers make it through to retailers each year, but it’s not many and even those that do are a small part of massive collections made up primarily of well known, established names. We believe that many more of our designers deserve to be showcased and that our designers’ stories be more thoroughly told and their developing brands be enhanced. We also believe that this is absolutely in keeping with the developing trend for highly individual style statements amongst increasingly discerning consumers. ? 

Your launch video is impeccably styled and really captures the timelessness of British style. What do you think distinguishes British fashion designers from the rest of the world? 
We hope the video captures the passion we all have for British fashion, the cues from the past, the energy, the excitement, the ready to risk all and have a go idealism. The sheer bloody eccentricity and quintessentially quirkiness only to be found on this island. Wonderful. 

Illustration by Kate Copeland

How do you go about selecting which designers to feature? 
We are really emotional and subjective in our approach to selecting the designers for our collections – does the design make our heart sing? The hairs on the back of our neck stand on end? Can we imagine that our customers will love it as much as we do?    

You feature a number of ethical designers on YBD; do you think more designers will start taking sustainability into consideration as the ethical fashion industry grows? 
Great design is at the heart of solving the problems of natural resource depletion and global warming. Our wish is to promote the talents of the best British designers and to encourage them to see the beauty in an ethical heart to their designs … and we will promote the beauty they create to our customers. Delivering sustainable and ethical solutions take on many forms, we’re delighted to promote the recycled materials in Issi’s bags, the employment of impoverished Hungarian workers in making Emesha’s beautiful clothes and in encouraging the continued employment of local manufacturing in the UK.  

JW Anderson Saint Circle Ring, Lucy Hutchings Zelda Necklace, illustrated by Kate Copeland

Lots of your designers are showing at LFW, which presentations moved you most? 
Jena.Theo – because they so successfully retained their original style signature yet moved forward to embrace both a new season and a new confidence. Eudon Choi for showing all the assurance of a brand that is well established and all the freshness and energy of a designer who is still exploring the limits of his talent. 

What are your hopes for the future of YBD? 
That leading retailers come together online and off to enthusiastically support the best interests of our developing talent by promoting them generously and not seeking to put their own interests first by insisting on exclusivity of supply. This in turn limits a growing brand and can stifle it and its demand at its most crucial fledgling stage.

All products are available now over at Young British Designers!

Illustration by Annejkh Carson

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve struggled so much with this one. It’s no secret that I love Carolyn Massey, find so I was ecstatic as I dashed up the Portico Rooms’ stairs again to see what S/S 2011 had in store. Massey, this web of course, didn’t disappoint and this was by far my favourite outing on menswear day.

This season saw Carolyn draw inspiration from picture books, notably – Tibor Kalman’s (un)Fashion and Jackie Nickerson’s Farm. The influence of the stark images in these two publications was clear and Massey had taken the visual culture of these opposing landscapes and fused them together.

Entering the room, Massey’s army of models stood in an arrow-facing shape. At first, attendees bunched together in front of the models, unsure as to what exactly to do, but the show was predictably oversubscribed and they soon started to spill all over the place. I quickly dashed around trying to take photographs so that I wouldn’t have a million people in the background, which was stressful I tell ya. I love taking pictures in the static shows. You can probably tell. I took my eyes off the collection for a while (subconsciously, I think, to prevent myself from de-robing these boys and legging it with a handful of coats) and got a little obsessed with taking photographs of the models’ heads.

This collection was by far Carolyn Massey’s most sophisticated yet. Her unique approach to contemporary tailoring keeps journos guessing season after season as to what each new collection will hold. Moving on from her utilitarian collection for A/W 2010, which featured a muted colour palette, lots of heavy fabrics and military blazers, this time around Carolyn presented a softer, more wearable array: more English, more practical, more fun.

Massey’s sophisticated eye for colour was omnipresent with a gorgeous selection of petrol blue, sand, rust, navy and a burst of bright orange. This dreamy colour palette was applied accross the entire collection; on drawstring sports-luxe trenches, tailored jackets and rolled-up trousers. The onset of stripes used on tailored shirts managed to dilute a generally smooth collection. The influence of Eastern military and battle is evident, too.

Each piece in the collection radiated a timeless feel – and while Massey’s collections couldn’t ever be described as anything less than super contemporary, they also avoid being trend-led and instead focus on more connected, enduring style.

Illustration by Annejkh Carson

This season, to my unashamed glee, also sees Carolyn introduce accessories. Suede desert boots in tonal colours similar to the collection are featured, as are the most desirable black leather cases, which come in varying sizes and are modelled on vintage doctors’ cases.

I’ve been mesmerised by fashion film this season, with many designers producing films to show alongside their static presentations (Craig Lawrence, Sibling and Ziad Ghanem have been my faves). This was no exception – a film directed by Chris Brooks played discretely in the corner, featuring a gent making his way through a green landscape. Beautifully shot and edited, it really enhanced the hour we had to enjoy the collection. See it here.

When I discovered that Massey would be hosting a presentation this season rather than a catwalk show, like many other designers, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. My general feeling after seeing so many, though, is that they’re far more preferable. Catwalk shows are over in a flash; you have literally seconds to view an outfit, photograph it and digest it. With a presentation, though, particularly one with as much style as Massey’s, you have a really good chance to absorb everything. There’s also something quite haunting about stock-still models who avoid eye contact and barely move, and allowing press and buyers to see your work and craftsmanship in so much detail widens their opportunities to criticise. With Carolyn Massey, though, it simply allowed us to see exactly what she’s capable of.

Keep an eye out for an interview with Carolyn in the coming weeks, if I can ever pin her down…!

All photography by Matt Bramford

Deptford X Festival Mark Titchner We Are Everywhere
We Are Everywhere by Mark Titchner for the Deptford X Festival.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that good PR is everything, sildenafil which is why, medical despite a scrappily written email, no rx I was enticed to forgo a Design Museum briefing for a personal guided tour of the Deptford X festival with Turner Prize nominated artist Mark Titchner, followed by lunch.

CND mural, Deptford
I love this perfectly preserved CND mural that I passed on my way to Deptford.

After initial confusion over where to go (due to said scrappy email being hard to read) I first arrive at the Deptford Project, a delightful converted railway carriage cafe and the proposed lunch spot (but more on that later) before I finally locate my hosts at the local Albany theatre. In the event it is just as well I braved the rain on my bike for what turns out to be a very personal guided tour with Mark, who by the way is one of my very favourite artists and a lovely person to boot.

Deptford X Festival Deptford Project space
Deptford Project space. See their website for an image of the railway carriage cafe.

Deptford X has been promoting the best contemporary art from the local area for five years, but this is the first year they’ve had such a prominent “lead” artist for the project – director Matthew Couper having pursued Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner (who formerly lived and worked in Deptford, though his studio is currently in Shoreditch) until he agreed to take part. Mark arrives shortly after me and quickly launches into an explanation of how he helped oversee the submission process – which was only finalised in June and July, at which point artists were allocated a budget of £750 each. Together we bemoan the lack of college tuition on how to fill in a good funding application – something which quite often becomes such an important part of an artists’ discipline. The applicants were a surprise: rather than being at the start of their careers many were much older, clearly a reflection of the diversity of artists working in the local area. Mark describes how one older artist, when chosen, “was so made up she was almost in tears”, and established local artist Liz Harrison was a popular choice for winner of the overall Deptford X award.

Mark Titchner for the Deptford X Festival.

As we set off to view the first exhibit I walk with Mark and discover that he became a new dad just a few weeks ago. A squirrel scampers across the road as he regales me with tales of more urban wildlife: the fox and cubs at the bottom of his Brockley garden. But he’s not worried about the safety of his new baby boy Ellis “unless I smear him with peanut butter or something”.

Our first stop off is on a bridge above the Deptford Creek, a prominent and ever present feature of the area. Sue Lawes has colonised the slimy sludge with multiple rows of half submerged blue Willow Ware patterned plates. Creekery is a commentary on the invasive inhabitants of Britain’s waterways, as well as the ebb and flow of our relationship with China – now our favoured source of cheap manufacturing.

Deptford X Festival Creekery by Sue Lawes
Creekery by Sue Lawes.

A brisk walk on leads us to a digital installation by Trisant (otherwise known as Julian Hughes Watts) where Mark particularly admires the industrially fitted plasma screens. Product Range Repeat features lurid digital shapes reminiscent of perfume advertising and coloured in the same shrill pinks and purples. The perpetual judder creates an eerily unsettling feeling.

Deptford X Festival Trisant aka Julian Hughes Watts
Deptford X Festival Trisant and project director Matthew Couper
Trisant and project director Matthew Couper.

Gallery Plots is an area of shed crates with a Mark Titchner-esque mural on the wall alongside. I step briefly into a particularly discombobulating piece from Bearspace, featuring a graphic padded foam wall inspired by modernist architecture and a loud screeching sound.

Deptford X Festival Expect Nothing mural
Deptford X Festival Bearspace

In front of the space there is a big red bus which bears a red ticker tape message urging passersby to call a freephone number with ideas for how to make the world a better place. Upfront is an interactive piece from Jan Hendrikse and the resulting messages will be broadcast during the festival.

Deptford X Festival Jan Hendrikse
Mark appears in the wing mirror of the Upfront bus.

Next we visit one of the three banners that Mark has made for the festival – the huge words We Are Everywhere emblazoned down the side of a redevelopment. The old industrial site once housed artists studios, but is now being transformed into the eponymous luxury flats. As we gaze up at the statement a group of local schoolboys scrap playfully beneath the scaffolding – it seems the perfect spot for Mark’s art.

We Are Everywhere by Mark Titchner for the Deptford X Festival.

Walking on, Mark tells me how he was inspired to create this piece by the book of the same title by activist and visionary Jerry Rubin (who later recanted and became an entrepreneur and businessman): we stop at the junction and he points out CCTV cameras everywhere around us. His work for Deptford X is about relationships, what keeps us thinking a certain way, where the voice inside us comes from and our rights to speak and be heard. He’s intrigued by the power of words to challenge the way we think, but messes with their place so that instead of everywhere, I read ‘eve’ and ‘here’.

I am surprised and pleased to hear that Mark Titchner was at the G20 protests, where he was kettled for most of the day along with fellow artists Gillian Wearing, Michael Landy, Georgina Starr and Paul Noble. He muses on the irony of later that night attending a posh dinner at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Under some arches I am led into the gallery space for photographer Paul Anderson, who has shot the youth of Deptford for a comparative study with 80s Harlem. A man is assiduously polishing the huge glass frames that hold the beautiful gelatine prints. They remind me why I love real film so much: that wonderful grainy feel just can’t be achieved on digital film.

Deptford X Festival Paul Anderson Here and Now
Deptford X Festival Paul Anderson Here and Now
Deptford X Festival Paul Anderson Here and Now
Photography by Paul Anderson.

We pause at another railway arch a bit further along where two artists, Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke, have put together a joint show that just the night previously has won them the Fringe prize. The proposal for 1 Week came from a mutual love of archives and needless documentation. For the project they put together a list of non mutual contacts and then set up a makeshift office from which to document the process, all of which can be read, looked at and listened to around the walls of the exhibition space.

Deptford X Festival Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke
Deptford X Festival Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke

Three questions were asked (depending on the roll of the dice), the answers from which they created “epic spreadsheets”. Many people simply never returned their calls, which they found just as interesting as those that did: they speculate that many saw their advances as an unwanted invasion of time and some were just obsessed with keeping personal details to themselves, ironic at a time when so many people publish everything about their personal lives on the likes of Facebook. It’s a very thought-provoking and deserving winner of the Fringe Award but I am quickly dragged back out into the rain for time is getting short. I feel glad to have my guides for I have now completely lost my bearings as we tour the back streets of Deptford.

Deptford X Festival Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke
Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke.

Why Birds Sing by Liz Harrison was the overall winner of the Deptford X fest and Mark proudly leads me into the Deptford train station to hear this “humble” piece – subtle recordings of birdsong piped into the station.

Deptford X Festival Liz Harrison Why Birds Sing

Along the raised platform we view the less successful work of Harry Blackett, a heavily pixelated view of a posh bridge in Florence. I’m not sure why one would particularly want to connect or compare Deptford and Florence but maybe it would have worked if you could actually see the beauty of a Florentine bridge against urban Deptford – as it is the pixels render the image incomprehensible, and us reliant on the written explanation. Never a good thing.

Deptford X Festival Harry Blackett
Drive-Thru by Harry Blackett.

Our final stop is at the Old Police Station, where Mark Titchner is instructed to pose back to back with the Matthew Couper underneath another banner, this time depicting an abstracted graph of life expectancy in the UK intertwined with the enigmatic words A Point Suspended In Nothingness.

Mark Titchner for the Deptford X Festival.

Mark leaves and I am taken towards the old police cells to view the work of still more artists. Painted tromp l’oeil on a brick wall by Annabel Tilley fails to tickle me but inside I am very taken by the embellishment of disused cells which have taken on a whole new meaning: plumped up with cushions, decorated with a Mondrian-like collage of news cuttings and converted into a disco chamber.

Deptford X Festival Annabel Tilly Drawing the Likeness of Brick
Annabel Tilly’s Drawing the Likeness of Brick. Erm…. and the point is?

Deptford X Festival Old Police Station cells
Deptford X Festival Old Police Station cells

It is nearly 2pm by the time we finish our rainy tour of Deptford X. Despite the fact that I am starving and a long bike ride from home I am pretty willing to call it quits over lunch so that I can get back to work… but I am sadly not given that option. The offer of lunch has been *accidentally forgotten* and at a crossroads I am sent on my merry way with only the charming local news photographer to accompany me back to my bike at the Albany.

The Deptford X Festival is just one of many bijoux arts festivals that run across the capital every year and about which I knew nothing prior to my visit. Mark Titchner’s involvement has been really hands on: helping to chose artists, judge the winners, attending the opening event and even coming along to spend precious time charming the likes of moi. For a well known artist he really didn’t have to agree to this, and for that I respect him even more. Deptford X is an intriguing festival that features the work of some very interesting established and emerging artists – now they just need to up the PR game.

Categories ,A Point Suspended In Nothingness, ,Annabel Tilley, ,Bearspace, ,Brockley, ,Creekery, ,Deptford, ,Deptford Project, ,Deptford X, ,Deptford X Festival, ,Design Museum, ,Fringe Award, ,g20, ,Gallery Plots, ,Georgina Starr, ,Gillian Wearing, ,Hanna Clarke, ,Harry Blackett, ,Jan Hendrikse, ,Jerry Rubin, ,Julian Hughes Watts, ,Kit Merritt, ,Kit Merritt and Hanna Clarke, ,Liz Harrison, ,Mark Titchner, ,Matthew Couper, ,michael landy, ,Old Police Station, ,Paul Noble, ,Product Range Repeat, ,shoreditch, ,Sue Lawes, ,The Albany, ,Trisant, ,Turner Prize, ,Upfront, ,We Are Everywhere, ,Whitechapel Art Gallery, ,Why Birds Sing

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