Hey Billy, tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background?
I grew up in Dorset in the countryside and have been taking trips up to London to see exhibitions since I was small. I have a vivid memory of my first exhibition visit being ‘Tiaras’, at the V&A museum in 2002. It was SO sparkly! My mum and dad are both creative minded people; I’m very lucky to have parents who understand why I do what I do and for that I thank them. Whilst growing up I was always strongly encouraged to make a mess and experiment with lots of materials. When my mum had to go away from home she would leave newspaper all over the kitchen table with loads of bits and bobs to make things from. Everything from coloured sweet wrappers, glitter and pom poms, to tin foil, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. Having the freedom to experiment growing up gave me the confidence to express myself through making things. I studied Textiles, Art and Drama at school and now specialize in Fashion design at University in Brighton.
When did you realize fashion design was something you wanted to pursue and what is it about it that you love?
For me fashion is a method of communication. I’ve always been encouraged to not compare myself to others and be myself. Clichés aside, I feel that growing up with this attitude helped me develop a way of dressing that maybe differentiation me from others because I didn’t care if they liked what I was wearing or not. Fashion became an extension of my personality and I loved that about it. Every party I had growing up was a costume party; Insects, Bollywood, Gypsies, Faeries, you name it. I’ve always had a passion for cultural and historical costume; being lucky enough to have a fabulous dressing up box definitely had a large influence on my early love for fashion!
One of your recent projects is inspired by American motel rooms, what made you come up with that idea and how did you develop it?
The aim of this project was to encapsulate a ‘sense of place’ though the designing and making of an outfit. During the summer of 2014 I went to the East coast of America to visit a number of artist’s studios for my dad who was working with them at the time. Throughout my trip I spent a lot of nights in motel rooms. I started to analyse how odd they were with their bizarre, tasteless interiors of matching upholstery and hypnotic patterned carpets. I was fascinated by the ugliness! I wanted to reflect this whole look in an outfit. My aim was to combine the dated 80’s upholstery with the over glamourized dreamy pink motel room setting, which is often seen on screen. The hardest part was making it all look intentional!
Talk to us a little about the pieces you created?
The jacket I created was strongly inspired by 1980’s power dressing, with signature wide shoulders and cinched in waist. I used nude polyester satin (to my technician’s disgust) and shop-bought white cotton quilting to mimic the blanket I had on my bed in the motel room. I wanted the jacket to embody the kitsch glamour associated with TV shows like Dynasty. I even bedazzled the surface of it with rhinestones to amplify this affect with strong intention. The bustier top is made from peach toweling, similar to the towel next to the grubby Jacuzzi bathtub in the bathroom. Complete with iron-on rose buds over the nipples and lace frills, I wanted the top to look more like lingerie than daywear. Traditionally, some of these places rent by the hour so I thought I’d have to play on that somewhere in the outfit! Finally the waterfall-hemmed skirt is made from a second hand length of Japanese printed cotton that I bought from a Uni sale for a couple of quid. The upholstery-looking print helped me achieve the look of drawn curtains I wanted for the skirt.
Who has been your most influential designer so far?
Meadham Kirchhoff had a very sad departure from the fashion industry last year. 2 weeks into my first year at Uni in 2014, I was told to study their work for inspiration. When I tapped them into Google images I was overwhelmed by saturated colour, glitter and sheer attitude. Watching their runway shows for the first time led me to believe that heaven was a place on earth. It was tasteful chaos on a runway and I loved it! Sadly for Edward and Benjamin, funding their extravagant work became unrealistic and led to bankruptcy. Their story serves as a tragic reminder of how tough it can be to survive in the fashion world. But there is no denying during their success, they were magnificent. Similar to Meadham Kirchhoff, to cope with the serious nature of the fashion industry I often react by generating humorous and tongue-in-cheek work, this by no means implies I don’t respect and understand it.
What’s your big dream for the future once you have graduated?
That’s scary. I’m lucky to have very honest friends and family who have helped me understand what I’m good and bad at. Fashion design is a process that requires many different skills, I think its natural to not enjoy or be good at all of them. Above all I like to generate a strong image. My love of theatre has fuelled my interest to create work that embodies a narrative. My dream would be to work as a stylist, and have the chance to create imagery by identifying the potential of clothes and accessories in relation to each other.
What advice would you give to people just starting out on a fashion design course?
Develop! Don’t become complacent with first ideas, finished pieces or even your own opinion. Context can change everything.