Interview Transcript: Giles Deacon

published on 12 March 2009

An unedited transcript of Giles Deacon's 2009 discussion with Hywel Davies, covering his childhood, inspirations and career to date.

An unedited transcript of Giles Deacon's 2009 discussion with Hywel Davies, covering his childhood, inspirations and career to date.

Hywel Davies: How did it feel seeing that brief overview?

Giles Deacon: It's amazing. It's supremely exciting, sometimes very difficult, but quite a brilliant period of time.

HD: Does it feel like a long time since you started?

GD: Well it kind of did this year when I realised that I moved to London exactly twenty years ago. I didn't start at Central Saint Martins until September of 1988 or '89. So, twenty years of living and working in London. There were two things that occurred to me. The first was the fact I was still here working (which I was quite relieved about!). The other was where has it all gone? All those clichés of 'It's all disappeared'.

HD: That final collection that we just saw there -which is next season, Autumn/Winter 2009- you said the inspiration was about looking back since you started?

GD: Yes, not in a retrospective way, although there were some pieces that were quite obviously related to my college graduation collection. But, it was more about a bit of a personal analysis of the reasons why and what it was that attracted me to design, fashion design, going to art college and being at art college. Enjoying all of those experiences and the kind of playfulness of it and having the fun - of the kind of newness of it all and then kind of trying to weld the things that I've learnt whilst working for big luxury goods houses in between.

HD: What was that original interest? Where did it come from?

GD: I was kind of a latecomer to the whole design world as such. I used to travel up to Newcastle with a dear old friend of mine - Glenn Hugill, who now works in television and theatre. We both didn't really like the town we lived in and used to go and look at all the record covers in HMV in Newcastle; that was sort of an initial portal to other things that we didn't really know about. This when we were both about thirteen! That led onto an interest in music scenes, like Joy Division and early New Order, and various other bands. It was probably in HMV that I bought my first copy of i-D and then flicking through that you then see this whole other world of things that was going on at that time. It was early eighties club land - Leigh Bowery, the Buffalo scene. It was fascinating - that really interested and excited me so I think it was then a progression working towards that.

HD: Because you weren't really interested in fashion from a very young age were you?

GD: Well no, I'm always a bit wary of people who kind of do say, 'I was obsessed with looking at my grandmother's knickers when I was three!' I always think well no, you weren't really! I'm sure some people have [been interested in fashion from an early age], I don't know, I certainly wasn't. But there was -not necessarily an interest in fashion- but I think there was something inherent in me that was interested in design or ideas and drawing and all those kind of things. I suppose it was like a visual -without being lofty about it- an aesthetic awareness without even realising what it was.

HD: I've been reading a lot of articles that have been written about you. There's lots of tales about you drawing and how you used to go off and wander into the countryside and draw insects and beetles...

GD: Yeah, I mean it is true believe it or not. Being brought up in the Lake District, in the seventies, you could very easily disappear for a day!

HD: You got onto a foundation course and then went onto Central Saint Martins. It's quite a big jump in some ways, how did that shift happen?

GD: I think it does at that age, doesn't it? Whatever it is that you're doing - if you're going to go to Cambridge or I don't know just getting your first proper big job or something. You know, those shifts at that age are quite seismic, aren't they? Compared to shifts that generally go on later on in years.

HD: How was your time at Saint Martins? Obviously you met a lot of people that you now work with.

GD: Absolutely! I absolutely adored it. I had the most amazing tutors there and visiting ones as well. It was really, really fantastic. A great period of time to be there, it was just at the start when Wendy Dagworthy had taken over. It was fantastic.

HD: Talking a bit about the collections we've just seen - I found a quote that the journalist Sarah Mower had written about one of your early collections. Focusing on what you did in your early collections she wrote: 'There's enough that is genuinely odd in Deacon's aesthetic to make it almost grotesquely fascinating'. So, how do you feel about that?

GD: You'd have to ask Sarah about that! Well, it's great that she's taken note and has taken time to pass comment.

HD: What do you think she was getting at?

GD: Well, bugger only knows!

HD: Did you never ask her?

GD: I don't know, she's a brilliant woman, but she has her own take on things.

HD: But I think actually it was a compliment.

GD: Yes, I do absolutely. It's definitely a compliment, but I mean that's the thing - I think you have to follow a path of the things that you think are interesting ideas, hopefully, for people and yourself and your team and the whole process of the things that you work on. They are intensely personal and you kind of have your head in the world that they're in for such a long time before people actually see them. It often takes people some time, especially in the context of where London's shows are. Buyers and press go to New York and see a very, very different presentation and type of aesthetic than they do in London and I think that's one of the things that makes London so fantastic and strong. I'm not saying that all of them can't just switch out of that, but they come and they're a bit like 'New York head' and then they see something that could go on in London, they're a bit like, 'Ooh, what's that all about?’ Then by the time they've got to Paris, it can sort of slot in and make sense with other collections they've seen.

HD: How would you describe to somebody who's maybe not aware of what you do? How would you define your aesthetic? I'm sure you get asked that all the time.

GD: That's a really difficult one to answer. I mean, as you kind of touched on there, they're not clothes for wallflowers. I don't think you'd choose to buy a piece of ours to hide away in a party and not be seen. The biggest compliments I get from people who've bought and worn them is that they're real confidence-giving clothes. But they're not difficult to understand either. It's not like they need a manual on how to put them on; it's what it is there and you know you kind of understand it.

HD: Are you thinking about certain types of women when you design? What kind of references are you thinking about?

GD: I'm really open. I don't like that specific muse world at all. One of the things that I really wanted to do on the last show was to do a kind of street casting, which I know isn't really the newest thing. I mean it's been a long time, I think since there were people on catwalks other than kind of professional models. It's nice to go and do street castings in Deptford and New Cross, Whiteleys and seeing some funny kids and then getting them on to come and model. It's nice to see your clothes on them as well as the brilliant professional models that you get in.

HD: With models, you've always been quite well known for choosing really key models at the right time. When you launched you had the big supermodels and at the time it wasn't really the norm to be using those sorts of girls.

GD: Which is exactly what I was attracted to about it. When I kind of decided to set up the label we could have launched it pretty much anywhere around the world. With London being my kind of semi-permanent home - I've always had a place here even when I've lived and worked abroad- I really wanted to launch it here and I thought it was a really good thing to do. I had kind of learnt over the years how to maximise on your press potential and I knew that [being in London] would get us a lot of press in a lot of newspapers. The next day, we had front pages on papers all around the world.

HD: Did you consider, when you launched the collection in 2005, doing it in Paris or New York?

GD: Yes, I ran through all the options and it just seemed like I'd get the most out of all the areas by launching it in London.

HD: And you've obviously decided to stay here?

GD: Yes absolutely. Well, I would never say we wouldn't go and show elsewhere but I think that for the foreseeable future, London really works. It's a great city and I think it's a very important city to support and I think the reasons that people do go and move are for business reasons. If it was the right business decision to move then I would but I'd say at the moment, I will definitely stay in London.

HD: The place to be! So, looking at all those collections now, do you ever look back? Are you quite retrospective in terms of 'that season's really important for me' or 'I should have done that differently'?

GD: That was a disaster?

HD: Yeah, do you ever think 'what did I do there'?

GD: No, it's not so much the end product, it's more the process that you really analyse and then think that was so painful, I never want to live through that period of six months again. I also think how it could've been a much more smooth, more fruitful way of working for everyone. I think that is the key to keeping a studio alive.

HD: When you look back at the collections, are you always pleased with what you've done?

GD: I mean, yes I am. They all have their faults and they all have their brilliant things about them. I don't think anyone would say they were 100% happy with everything. I don't think you're doing this job to be like that, because you're in the game of coming up with ideas and problem solving them and making them into a reality of a 3-D object. That's essentially the game and there's always new ways of making things better within a construction and it's all a learning process as well. I've learnt an awful lot in the last six years that I never knew when I potentially could have thought I knew loads after working in industry for ten years.

HD: Do you see a progression in what you do, in terms of what you produce?

GD: It seems to be getting dafter!

HD: Dafter? In a good way or a bad way?

GD: No, I'm being silly. I think technically it improves, which I'm really pleased about. I've worked really hard on getting a really solid group of people who've all worked with each other for about four and a half years now, who each have their own individual abilities and fantastic skills; they're like a machine when working together and can really make and do most things.

HD: You work with Katie Grand who you met at Saint Martins. How big a part does she play in what you do?

GD: Katie plays a really large part. I mean she's obviously busy with her new magazine, LOVE and spends an awful lot of time traveling and working abroad. But she'll send images of things or pieces and then comes to see the collection early on and say what she likes and doesn't like and makes suggestions.

HD: Are there other people that you respect and listen to what they say? Is it definitely a team?

GD: Yes, well everybody - it's certainly not an autonomous studio. I very much like everyone who is in there to have their say and you know, of course I can always say if it's rubbish!

HD: What sort of training do you think college gave you because I was just reading, at London Fashion Week this season, out of the sixty designers that showed, thirty had trained at Saint Martins?

GD: Really? Wow.

HD: Yes, it's an amazing amount. There's that kind of energy of students coming out and wanting to do their own collections straight away.

GD: Which is great. Well I say it's great - that was one thing I never wanted to do straight away. I mean I was in the same class as Hussein [Chalayan] for three years and he was very much about that. That was exactly what he wanted to do and it was the last thing on earth that I wanted to do.

HD: Why was that?

GD: I just didn't want to do that. I wanted to go and work for other people and get experience of lots of other areas of the business and industry.

HD: Do you think there was a pressure for you to finish college and then launch yourself on that platform?

GD: Not at all. I think you're very much left to do exactly what you feel is right. I mean that's the thing that college should hopefully teach you is that you're there to kind of listen and learn and reject things or take them on board, but ultimately they’re to kind of make your own direction.

HD: And to do what's right for you.

GD: Yes.

HD: So, you went to work for Jean-Charles de Castelbajac?

GD: That's right, yes.

HD: So, what was the reason behind working for him? Were you attracted to his work before?

GD: Yes, I always liked aspects of his work and on graduating from college I really wanted to gain some experience. So, I kind of re-did my book over the summer holidays, took it to Paris. I stayed with Julie Verhoeven -a well-known illustrator and old friend of mine- and slept on her floor for a few weeks. I did the 'cold calls', going round al the [fashion] houses, dropping a book off in the morning, picking it up in the evening; sometimes with a note, sometimes not, sometimes call back in a week, sometimes call back in six months. Castelbajac said come in for an interview.

HD: Do you think, because a lot of his work is about humour, you can see that coming through in a lot of what you do in terms of the styling of your shows? Is there any influence from working for him, do you think?

GD: I have always really liked the humorous side of his work. I have always found the unsexiness of it a little difficult as well. It was always a bit too just 'weird sack doing nothing for me'. I don't think there's that many women who really want to look like that. So, I sort of felt there was a marriage of the two somewhere.

HD: But you stayed for two years?

GD: Just under that, yes.

HD: And then the move to Bottega Veneta, that was obviously quite a big shift.

GD: Yes, it was. I'd been pretty much, at Castelbajac, I'd been looking after all the Japanese licenses, which ranged from designing pens to umbrellas, ties, golf buggies, you name it! All sorts of nonsense! And then Mr. and Mrs. Moltedo - who were the then owners of Bottega - called up and arranged for an interview and it went from there.

HD: How was that experience at Bottega? Obviously a completely different sort of label?

GD: Yes it was fantastic. At that time the label had pretty much fallen off the radar: it was huge in the eighties and Patrick Bateman in American Psycho was carrying around his carving knives in Bottega Veneta suitcases. The brief that we were given was to kind of really go wild and do some really exciting shows that would bring in a lot of press attention.

HD: And it did?

GD: It did, yes.

HD: So, did that give you a taste for wanting to do your own collection?

GD: Not really, no. I mean the thought of doing my own collection had always been there but life just goes on, doesn't it? You get a job, you start earning some money (which is quite a novelty!) and that sort of takes over for a few years. But, it was always there.

HD: When did you make that decision to start up on your own?

GD: End of 2002, I think it was 2001 or 2002. Then spent about eight months to a year working out all the logistics of how it could potentially work and be started.

Hywel Davies: Was it a lot of soul-searching?

GD: It wasn't so much soul-searching, just more logistics because there was a lot of planning that needed to be done.

HD: Looking back at it now, do you think you made the right decision to launch at the right time? Was it a good time in London?

GD: I think it was. I mean everybody was saying it was a really bad time, but I don't think it's ever a particularly good time in that way. So you should just do it whenever you feel right because that's the thing that's going to drive you through. It's you that instinctively knows it's the right time.

HD: Talking now a bit about your design process, how do you actually start from research to the actual finished garment. Can you talk us through the life span?

GD: My God! The life span of garments...

HD: Of basically producing the collection?

GD: It sounds really vague but there is a pattern, but it's a constantly changing pattern in the process. I don't really like formulas of ways of working. I think everyone gets really bored and quite stale with that. So, sure we've got a critical path timeline to work to and deadlines that we have to get things finished by, but the processes within that time scale can really vary. Sometimes we'll do things from drawings that I've done or Darren - who I work with very closely - he'll do some things on the stand and we'll chop them up and then photograph them, draw on them again, he'll then make patterns of those. So, we've kind of invented our own funny language really.

HD: So, Darren is the pattern-cutter?

GD: Yes, Darren Gander, he's one of four. I mean he's a bit more than a cutter, kind of technician cutter.

HD: So ideas might start with some sort of shapes he's working with on the stand?

GD: Yes, or it could come from a meeting with Stephen Jones. Some seasons we've designed the shoes and hats before the clothes and then it's kind of, fill in the gaps in between, which is quite a nice way of doing it.

HD: But is there some sort of light that comes on and you think that the collection needs to be based on 'this'?

GD: No, I never really like things to be that formulaic, much to the criticism of some fashion journalists! I just find it really boring that whole thing of 'this season we've gone on a trip to Bali' or some crap like that. Give it a rest! Everyone can churn out those things but the thing that I really like is working in the studio. Yes there is a theme, but we've all worked on it and that's the really important thing for me, because that's what I spend the vast majority of my time doing, working in the studio.

HD: Do you have assistant designers? What is your studio set-up?

GD: The set-up roughly is Darren and two other cutters, Danny and Henry. Then there's Jess who does a lot of textiles and some cutting development, and then there's Hazel who helps with basically organising me (making sure that I do things!) and then Katie does the incredibly important thing of just running a studio - making sure that office supplies are there. So, there's like eight or nine full-time staff and then we have various freelance people who do print things, like Fleet Bigwood and Rory Crichton who I've worked with for a long time; Fleet taught me at Saint Martins. And then during the run-up to the show, there's like fifty people.

HD: Fifty! So a lot of people?

GD: Yes a lot of people to buy cans of coke for!

HD: Before you were talking about how you literally do a season, finish, start a new season. Everything is kind of overlapping and you're working on different things.

GD: Yes, I mean that's the way in which to keep the studio running smoothly! I've found that I hate it when you finish a collection and then it would all tail off, and then people would kind of tumbleweed off somewhere and then you'd have to try and drag them in with some elastic band to make them start work again. I think it's much better and we can afford to do this now by having full-time people; a studio that's working all the way through. The day after the show, everyone's in sorting stuff out, working. Before finishing this last collection we'd done a lot of research of things that might potentially be interesting for this next Spring/Summer, so there is a lot of that alive already.

HD: Do you sort of guide people that you work with where to look or in terms of inspiration or reference?

GD: I mean yes, you kind of point but there are all those things, believe it or not, from college that work really well. Like doing shop reports, go and see who does what. Prada and Lanvin do amazing finish on things so go and look at that; if we were going to do our version of finish like that, what would it be? That kind of thing.

HD: So everyone has to be aware of what's going on?

GD: Yes, I think it's highly important. I think if you're wanting a career in design you need to be aware of what's going on; all the aspects of design, art, fashion and architecture.

HD: Definitely and is there any sort of specifics? Do you ever start with silhouettes, or fabric, or colour? Is there any set pattern when those different elements fit together?

GD: Yes. Sometimes we'll find an amazing fabric from seeing some of the mills, or something they'll have an idea we want to develop something, and then that can turn into something else. Other times it will just be a shape. I think I really like to keep it all kind of loose like that. I can't bear it when things are: choose the colour for the season, these are the four or eight fabrics or whatever, then make the clothes. You can do it like that, but I don't think you get anything particularly interesting from that.

HD: And when you do actually decide? Because I remember when I visited you in your studio literally before your show and you hadn't even started making the collection. How tight is your deadline before you actually start producing the catwalk collection?

GD: Well I like to really make sure that all the patterns are 100% resolved. Because we make everything in-house, so it's kind of like an atelier like that. And I'm loathed to start cutting into fabric until the actual toile is absolutely perfect. So even though it looked like nothing was there, there was actually a collection of more or less finished pieces in toiles. And that can go up to about seven to eight days before and then we actually make the proper things.

HD: In final?

GD: Yes, we can do it. One time, which was hideous, we made a full collection in about three and half days!

HD: Three and a half days? That must have been hard?

GD: I don't recommend it by the way!

HD: When you're designing your collection are you thinking this is the key garment people are going to photograph, this is the one that's going to sell, this is the one whoever is going to buy? Are you kind of thinking strategically?

GD: Yes, I do kind of have elements of that, definitely. You can sort of pick the one that, with loads of studs, floor length and grey isn't the one that’s probably going to be a bestseller. But I'm being flippant. More to the point we actually really work on the fact that this is going to be the super selling version of this, because we're in the game of selling clothes.

HD: Exactly. And then do you enjoy the whole sort of process of actually thinking about how you are going to present this collection in terms of the show?

GD: Yes, very much so. I wouldn't like to think how much our shows cost exactly, but our budgets compared to lots of other companies, are pretty small. And we really have to work within our budgets to make the most impact possible. Like this season we had an amazing band in and we worked very closely to make the lighting as intense, as dark as possible. It's about creating atmosphere and I think that's the thing that you want to be able to achieve to present your collections in the right vein.

HD: Do you ever find yourself being too ambitious and people saying you can't do things? That you should calm down and do something else?

GD: Kind of, yes, but I don't know actually. It depends on what circumstances really. In the studio environment - partially because everyone that works with me is so talented - we can generally achieve most things in some shape or form. I'm sure things like laser shows might be a bit over ambitious!

HD: Obviously you have the creative side, which you've talked about, but it's still a business. How do you balance that creativity with business?

GD: By playing a game, a game called 'business'! I think that was the best way of getting it into my head from a very early time. If you think, 'Oh my God, I've got to deal with that, got to deal with that, got to deal with that', that's when all of it clusters. I think the majority of designers and creative people who do look after their own business affairs aren't always the best at it, lets be honest. It's not potentially the most fun aspect, but you soon have a couple of months where it's really not fun; then you realise you need to play the business game. Put proper time into that and then it becomes a lot more pleasurable.

HD: But do you have people to help you with the business side, for example, to think about how to grow your business?

GD: Yes, I don't have like a business partner in the kind of relationship some people do, but I have a very good lawyer/adviser, yes.

HD: Have you got future plans of how you'd like your business to grow?

GD: Yes, well most definitely, it's a constantly evolving thing. When I had a meeting with a very high-profile American store director and American magazine editor, and they were telling me that I had a global brand. It was a bit like, 'Christ we have!' Then you have to think about what you want it to be; do I want it to remain like this, or do I want it to grow and grow, or do I want to turn it into a two, five or ten million pound business? And I kind of think the answer is yes. Otherwise what are you getting out of it really, at that point in time? It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices and an awful lot of hours; you can go and do something else for a lot easier life and earn a lot more money. So it's not just a financial thing - you want the thing that you've got to grow and hopefully people will be interested in it.

HD: So now that you've worked for a few years doing your own label, what if there was a phone call from a big fashion house asking you to work on a collection for them, and that you had to stop work on your own label? Would you consider that?

GD: No, not really. But the proper answer would be that it would depend on who it was and what they were offering.

HD: And how much money?

GD: Not just how much money. You know what, we've been offered things to do for an awful lot of money and we've turned them down because they weren't the right people and you just know it would go tits-up in six months time.

HD: And how do you cope with all the attention you get? So many designers now have become celebrities and there is that sort of crossover. Do you find that a weird sort of life to balance?

GD: I don't really think of it like that though. It's great that people are interested and that's fantastic, but I wouldn't think for one minute I'm like a 'celebrity designer'. It's all part of the machine as well, I totally understand that, but I think there are too many people (family and friends and the studio) to keep my feet on the ground and as soon as there is any sign of ego launching, it would be shot down pretty quick!

HD: What do your family and friends from back home think?

GD: They're all really pleased, yes. They are over the moon about it. They get to come to fashion shows twice a year, a few free parties, you know? They are really pleased.

HD: Do they think you live in this completely strange world?

GD: No, I don't think they do really, because they know the real reality of it, of the work involved. It's not that you're just sat there on a beach towel in St. Tropez just knocking out sketches and faxing them through to the atelier.

HD: So what do you do, apart from fashion, to keep you grounded? What is the other side to you?

GD: Work, work, work! Oh, you know, just regular things. I go to the cinema, hang out with friends, swim, go to exhibitions.

HD: All the good stuff. Just finally, there's a quote from, Lynn Barber that interviewed you for the Observer [7 September 2008].

GD: Lovely Lynn Barber, great lady.

HD: Yes, she likes you.

GD: Well I was very pleased to meet her actually, I was very nervous about that interview.

HD: But a very good interview. She said 'Giles Deacon is so normal, so friendly, he was beginning to lull me into thinking that the fashion world is not as demented as I'd always assumed'.

GD: Maybe she didn't hang out long enough.

HD: Do you think so? Did she not see it?

GD: No she did, I know what she was saying, I think she and lots of people have this view about the fashion industry, don't they? That it's basically just full of knob heads, just sort of flying round doing bugger all, of which there are a few.

HD: There are lots.

GD: But there's also bankers who are probably a lot worse than that and teachers and God knows what. So that doesn't really make any play with me, but you know, I've met an awful lot of people throughout the years who are incredibly talented and so nice, just loads and loads of lovely people and people who have been good friends for nearly 20 years now.

HD: So if you weren't doing what you were doing now, do you think you'd consider an alternative career?

GD: Zoo Keeper maybe.

HD: Okay!

GD: Yeah, something like that.

HD: Why a Zoo Keeper?

GD: Well animals are pretty good value, aren't they? They need all the encouragement they can get nowadays I think.

HD: Okay, thank you very much.

GD: Thank you.

HD: Does anyone in the audience have any questions for Giles?

Audience Questions

Audience 1: You talked a bit about your in-house textiles developing. Do you work with Italian houses, French houses, Swiss houses to develop exclusive cloths just for yourself?

GD: Yes, we work with a whole host of different mills, from Stephen Walters and Vanners in Suffolk who are great old English silk-weavers, to mills like Terroni and Hurel who are lace-makers in Austria. It kind of depends on what it is that we want. But we've worked an awful lot with Vanners and Stephen Walters in Suffolk.

Audience 1: Do they come to you? Do you go to them?

GD: I've been up to theirs. Walters in particular have their archives dating back to like 1789, so they're amazing to visit. I love a good day-trip away.

Audience 2: When I think of your label I think of high-end, good quality investment pieces that I would buy and then hand down to my seven kids. I'm just a normal mum who looks after her kids, day in day out. But, also what is really powerful is the brand. How do you protect that brand from being damaged?

GD: I suppose just with your gut instinct of choices that you make. Lots of things get offered to the table that maybe initially seem highly attractive, but you have to really look at them and sleep on them for a few days and then work out what's the right thing to do. You know when something's wrong, don't you? As great as it is to be led away with certain things the main thing is gut instinct.

Audience 3: What are your memories like of working with Tom Ford?

GD: Very good, he's a tremendous man; I still speak to him fairly regularly. He is a great, great person; an incredibly talented man.

Hywel Davies: What does he think about what you're doing now, does he make any comment?

GD: Yes, he is very much into it; he comes to some of the shows when he's in town. Yes, he's a big supporter.

Audience 4: I just wondered how sustainability fits in to your agenda in your design studio?

GD: Increasingly more so. It would be very easy to say we do everything and we're improving it immensely. It's really quite hard - we try and use as many sustainable ways of working as possible. The fashion industry - it's a whole plethora of problems within that. I think it's like one day at a time for it, but it's definitely improving.

Audience 4: I'm from the University of East London and a lot our students are very concerned about sustainability and want to really embrace it but they are reticent of to go that whole hog and take old and make new. That's not particularly a new thing anymore, but we can't keep on in this way of just churning out new all the time. I just wondered what your views were on it?

GD: I totally understand what your saying. There's a lot of work to be done on it, I think there's ways of not just getting vintage pieces and re-working them, there's all sorts, you know within Italy itself the amount of raw state material that's been sat there for years that's still never been utilised is quite outrageous. There are lots of people that need to have some big diggings around with it all.

Audience 5: I'm studying fashion design and I've been looking at your collection where you used the Pac-man heads on the models. I just wondered what the idea behind that was?

GD: Believe it or not, Pac-man! We were writing lists of our favourite things and about fourth on my list was Pac-man. I had a meeting with Stephen Jones and he thought it would make a really great idea for a hat. More the point with the Pac-man thing that was for something to be interesting or good design it doesn't necessarily need to have some terribly serious or great weight behind it. Something really silly can be quite good.

Audience 6: I'm writing an article on knitwear at the moment for university and I noticed you used it quite heavily in your Autumn/Winter 2007 collection and it made a bit of reappearance in your recent Autumn/Winter 2009 collection. What is it about the knit that you use that you like to incorporate into your collection?

GD: I mean the knit that you are talking about is a really fantastic one. I work with a very talented knitwear designer, called Sidney. He and his crew basically hand-knit all those pieces with knitting needles that have a really large circumference. We loved what he did with those but we wanted to do something else with them so we got strips of Mongolian lamb and then had those knitted into the Roving wool, which is the particular type of wool we used, and then he brushed it all so it got a different texture. It was just kind of like using it like you would materials, like silks or cottons - just reworking it and seeing what else you can do with it.

Audience 7: The old Parisian designers used to be so careful about things being shown. Even after the catwalk shows they would make people wait to publish pictures, whereas now with the Internet, everything is obviously seen straight away. Do you find that a positive thing?

GD: Oh yes, I can't bear all that over-preciousness of things. The more things that go out on YouTube live the better for me.

Audience 8: What are your one, two and three favourite things before Pacman on your aforementioned 'favourites list'?

GD: Oh, I can't even remember now. Drawing was one, dogs was another. I can't remember what the other one was. There was a right old list of them.

Audience 9: I'm starting my art Foundation later this year. I was wondering how you go about getting work experience and whether you did that when you were younger?

GD: Indeed yes. You can send your CV to and that will get to the lovely Gemma, who'll then call you back.

HD: What do you look for in students that are coming on placement for you? What sort of skills or personality?

GD: We interview all the placement students. It's not just a matter of get a bunch in because we kind of place them for specific areas within the studio. So we look for ones with say pattern-making skills, or some with illustrative skills, or some might be more textiles. We're kind of very open to everyone; it's not just one type.

HD: You try and fit people in the right place?

GD: Yes very much so, because I think the great thing is to come. Sure you have to do everything like make tea and do the dishes and that sort of thing, but you also want to learn.

Audience 10: How does your approach to drawing change when you're doing a design drawing or your creating editorial illustrations for example, in terms of how you communicate information. Are they very similar or do you have a system for both?

GD: If I'm doing like an illustration for a publication or something then they generally are telling you what the story is or what they're wanting like that, so you have a rough idea to start. But drawing a design as such, sometimes I like just spending three hours starting drawing something, see what I like the look of, sometimes nothing happens, sometimes something nice will appear and then it'll get your brain whirring and thinking. So, they're kind of very different.

Audience 11: You talked about how you're in the game of business. We happen to be in a big fat world recession now - is that a constraint on your creative process or do you see it as a challenge or do you just sort of say 'what recession'?

GD: I think you have to be aware of it, absolutely. I mean it's going to effect everybody, but at the same time you've got to kind of maximise upon your strengths and stick true to those things that are making people interested in you. If that means pushing certain areas then I think people are going to go and do that, but you also have to probably work harder than before to make sure that say the selling aspect is particularly well looked after and deliveries are early. All those kind of very important things but aren't necessarily the most exciting to talk about.

Interview by:



Talking Fashion: Giles Deacon

12 March 2009
Filmed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, this 'Talking Fashion' evening provided an insight into every aspect of London designer Giles Deacon's career.

Interview: Julie Verhoeven

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Interview: Jamie Morgan

22 August 2003
Christabel Stewart speaks to photographer Jamie Morgan about his work with the Buffalo collective, his move to directing and the three films he contributed to SHOWstudio.
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