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Show Report

Show Report: Phoebe English A/W 17 Womenswear

by Rebecca Gonsalves on 19 February 2017

English has an ethereal charm that worked well with the setting, but there was an underlying strength to this collection that resonates particularly well with the current climate. English has a quiet tenacity and impressive work ethic and, like many young creatives, she is not afraid to be political with her work.

English has an ethereal charm that worked well with the setting, but there was an underlying strength to this collection that resonates particularly well with the current climate. English has a quiet tenacity and impressive work ethic and, like many young creatives, she is not afraid to be political with her work.

On the Sunday evening of London Fashion Week Phoebe English took us to church. Well, to be precise, to Fitzrovia Chapel a never-consecrated chapel hidden behind the newly developed Fitzroy Place, home to the headquarters of beauty behemoth Estée Lauder. 

The teeny-tiny Grade II-listed building benefitted from a £3 million renovation a couple of years ago. And it was evidently money well spent. The chapel’s vaulted ceiling glittered and shone, its marble walls were inlaid with colourful mosaics. The transporting scent of incense hung in the air. Originally built in the 1920’s as a place of reflection and prayer for the staff and patients of the Middlesex Hospital, it has now been entrusted to a secular foundation as a venue for creative locals and community projects. 

English has an ethereal charm that worked well with the setting, but there was an underlying strength to this collection that resonates particularly well with the current climate. English has a quiet tenacity and impressive work ethic and, like many young creatives, she is not afraid to be political with her work. 

Her A/W 17 collection was designed to symbolise a resistance, 'presenting women as symbols of strength and resilience.' There were eleven looks in total, each exploring a different role or theme in the narrative of rebellion, from both sides, which she characterised. Thus we met tyranny, fear, apathy, voice, courage, unity, repair and hope.

Alongside English’s now-signature black and some very symbolic white, there were new flashes of colour - a raspberry red ('tyranny') and biro blue ('voice') were worn top-to-toe, while ‘hope’ was an earth mother in a sludgy olive twist-front top and a faint floral print skirt layered under black tulle. Wreath-like headdresses of gilded paper feathers, blue Bic biros, or black wooden arrows provided more symbolism, as did the three white 'unity' looks whose ponytails were bound together. That all might sound trite, but in reality it wasn’t.

Stripped of the power of the presentation and styling, there was still much to excite among the clothes themselves. Workwear staples were twisted and refreshed enough to be interesting without becoming too extreme. Fabrications, including tulle-trapped woven golden strips, were clever and innovative. Continuing a collaboration with British knitwear brand John Smedley, silk and felted merino pieces draped and twisted. 

English set out to explore the relationship between tyranny and unity, the balance between strength and fragility, fear and - essentially - love. Let’s hope it’s the last that ultimately wins out. 

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