The ‘Do It Yourself’ Designer: Claire Barrow
Designer Claire Barrow started out making bespoke leather jackets for friends and taking commissions during her sandwich year at Westminster. Since graduating her clients have comprised of celebrities such as Rihanna, fashion brand Joseph and luxury retailer MATCHESFASHION.COM, for whom she created capsule collections. Lulu Kennedy selected Claire to show her spring/summer 2014 collection as part of Fashion East, and this season Claire will exhibit as part of Topshop and the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN initiative. Fashion Monitor’s Fashion Researcher Hannah Scott talks to Claire about the definition of a DIY aesthetic, how her hand-finished pieces border fashion and art, and her next steps in establishing the Claire Barrow brand.
Where did your interest in fashion design stem from? Did you always want to establish your own label?
I had the idea of starting my own business while I was finishing my degree at Westminster. I began custom making jackets for friends and taking commissions in my sandwich year. I really wanted to do anything else but work for myself. Then suddenly I got a break when Francesca Burns styled a jacket in Vogue and Mel Ottenberg used my work with Terry Richardson in i-D. Then Fashion East happened and it was on!
You are known for your painterly illustrations and your designs seem to bridge fashion and art. Would you describe your designs as wearable art?
I like the idea of providing people with a piece they can wear and keep forever so I guess it could be appreciated like you would a painting on a canvas. If something is hand finished then it is truly a one-of-a-kind.
What artists inspire you?
I am inspired by artists of all kinds, from musicians to performance-based artists. I recently hosted a Tate workshop where I talked about a DIY aesthetic and the idea of using everyday objects to make your own clothes. I used Tracey Emin, Margaret Harrison, Rosemarie Trockel and Annette Messager as examples in my workshop as I admire the way that they use everyday items and subvert them into artistic statements or beauty while challenging the ideas of gender and their place in society.
Your spring/summer 2014 collection was informed by magical influences and other-worldly elements. Are the mythical and fictional important ongoing themes for you?
I look to all places for inspiration. I like people who have a strong sense of identity and my work began as an exploration of people expressing their personality through their clothing, so my designs explore both mythical elements and everyday life.
Is music just as much of an influence for you when in the process of designing?
I’m really into finding good music so it will be an ongoing source of inspiration for me, I like collaborating with artists and there will be some strong references to some of my musical icons in my fall/winter 2014 collection, which is something I have never really showcased so explicitly, you will see…
You describe the Claire Barrow aesthetic as ‘DIY’, and you have made bespoke and personalised leather jackets for clients in London as well as celebrities. Is individual expression something which is important to you and which you try to balance with the seasonal nature of fashion?
I definitely want to challenge what fashion and style means to me and communicate this through my clothing. It is important to create strong pieces that people love to wear. To a certain extent fashion is becoming less and less seasonal.
Do you aim to make a statement with each collection? Are the fundamental ideas behind collections more important to you than the clothes themselves?
It is important to me to make a point but not to let the concept interrupt the product too much. It will always be about the product, and it makes me excited to see my designs in stores around the world and people choosing to buy and wear them in their everyday lives.
Your collaboration with Joseph featured your signature hand-painted biker jackets and last year you created a capsule collection of leather jackets for MATCHESFASHION.COM. Is your signature leather biker jacket something you want to incorporate into and interpret differently within each of your collections going forward?
Working with leather and hand finished elements is something that will always inform part of my aesthetic, as I am keen to develop interesting pieces that people will covet. Outerwear is definitely a strong part of the label but I am always looking for new techniques, like my hand painted hooded ‘biker’ raincoat for spring/summer 2014.
What obstacles have you encountered in establishing your label and how have you overcome them?
I have always had a clear idea of how I want to develop each season and I am ambitious with my goals, so the challenge could be seen as continually improving each season. It is also about running a business as well as being a creative, so being able to manage all aspects.
Soon after graduating from Westminster, your spring/summer 2014 collection was sponsored by Fashion East and for this season you have received NEWGEN sponsorship. In what ways has this aided you in developing your label?
It has been such a privilege to be part of the Fashion East platform and being selected by Lulu Kennedy to show my designs was an incredible honour. Following on with NEWGEN felt like a happy progression and I am joining some huge names who have shown under those banners so it gives me the encouragement to push further with my brand.
What can we expect from your collection at London Fashion Week fall/winter 2014?
Iconography, shrines, movement, silks, and dancing.
What is next for Claire Barrow, how do you see the label progressing and what are your plans for the next 12 months?
I am presenting a film for my fall/winter 2014 collection and I hope to be travelling a lot. I hope to show my collection in New York and LA. And of course developing my brand further and working with some new stores.
Claire Barrow will exhibit her fall/winter 2014 collection between February 14-18 at Somerset House Designer Showrooms.