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A CONVERSATION WITH PHOEBE KIME

THE FINE PRINT: When deciding which aspect of fashion you would like to pursue, what first attracted you to knitwear design?

PHOEBE KIME: Knitwear for me has no boundaries. I don’t regard knitwear as just knitting, instead creating a form of fabric from scratch to me is knitwear: it’s a fabrication and the fashion knitwear course at Central Saint Martins was able to provide me with these limitless boundaries I needed to let my imagination run. Its sculptural allowance was and still is able to let my creativity be pushed. It’s not easy, knitwear never really does what you want it to do but then usually this brings more excitement for something unpredicted, unplanned turning out to be more beautiful than anything you were trying to purposely create.

THE FINE PRINT: How would you say your London lifestyle influences your designs?

PHOEBE KIME: Described to me as beautifully strange, my work evokes what I see, my inspiration profoundly personal draws focus to oddments of information normally missed. I find interest in what other people don’t see. The normality of everyone on the way to work on the tube, the contrast of trainers with office suits or women with large rucksacks and tight party dresses. How people’s bodies interact, shapes forming together as though they are speaking to each other. They form silhouettes together, a collaborative oddness.

THE FINE PRINT: What was the inspiration for your latest collection and lookbook “Fannying around at the back of Church”?

PHOEBE KIME: An artist will always be excited by the same subject matter, exploring it almost as an obsession with every part having a personal understanding. My research has always taken me to the exploration of religion, something I have found immensely interesting yet also profoundly personal. Drawing from experiences as a child growing up in the Catholic Church, remembering the humorous appearance of the congregation. Mismatched attire, some smart in Sunday best and others sporting tracksuits and trainers. Yet in contrast I was completely mesmerised by the ambience of the celebrations, ornately elaborate decorations, flowers and stain glass windows. The collection portrays opaque semi-transparent layers, presenting the soft angelic appearance set against a contrast of beautifully weird eclectic colours to challenge the chaotic inspiration. A congregation of awkward oversized shaped collages, the textiles are layered semi- transparent to produce the outer silhouette and ghost shapes beneath. Unpredictably the appearance is light although the shape would naturally contradict this apprehension. The layers build upon my childhood awkwardness in the church, of alter-serving and wearing ill-fitting gowns that covered up what I believed was fashion at the time. I remember the gowns never fitting anyone properly, either being too long and dragging on the ground or way too short so the tracksuits, trainers or tarty heels were revealed. These are clothes you wouldn’t normally associate with the church, neither virginal or respectful. This inspired the normality of the shapes beneath these fanciful collages that echoed the rushed appearance of dress. The idea of garments hanging, suspended from one shoulder, portrays a moment of panic that highlights one’s imperfections and manner of getting to church on time.

THE FINE PRINT: You were part of Central Saint Martins’ White Show in 2012. What did you learn from creating and participating in a collective runway show?

PHOEBE KIME: The White Show in 2012 was something every first year BA student at CSM was part of and for me it was the first time I was part of anything so big. Coming from such a small town and college it was slightly daunting but exhilarating to be thrown straight into the project. I knew I was working towards a goal where the ending would be my mark and introduction to the next four years of my degree. However, I think being part of the BA graduate press show at Central Saint Martins was the first time my work was really seen by a wide audience. Of course being part of something which is a collective like the White Show or Degree Show is highly competitive, but you have to stay focused. I always found myself comparing my work to others but I now realise that this can hinder the work process. The relief and feeling when it’s over is strange, it’s like a happiness and worry mixed into one. So happy for it to be finished and for people to see it but then mixed with the worry of what people thought and how it was perceived.

THE FINE PRINT: You won an LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship, a prize many designers only dream of! How did it affect your schooling and career?

PHOEBE KIME: Being awarded this prestigious scholarship was an extreme boost of confidence. The belief that someone else believes in me, believes in my imagination and can see something in me that perhaps needs help to let out, was and still is immensely gratifying for a young designer. Although this brings with it a lot of self doubt. It felt as though people were expecting something more, and I felt like I had to live up to that expectation. But this gave me even more determination to achieve and to prove to my self-doubt that a company like LVMH believed in me. Without the support of the Scholarship I would not have been able to achieve my full potential, for which I am immensely grateful.

THE FINE PRINT: The illustrations for your designs are gorgeous! I wish more designers showcased their drawings as it really makes you better understand what they are trying to accomplish with a specific piece. Tell me more about them and how they are part of your creative process.

PHOEBE KIME: Yes I agree, in a way I’m always so disappointed that in fashion the only thing the wider audience can see is the catwalk or the product in the shops. The content behind the clothes to me is perhaps more important than the final product. I work very closely with my drawings, having more of a fine art background than design, and I feel that for me they show more fluidity and naturalness like it all just happened in a moment. Something so quick excites me and my drawings became a large reference for how my silhouettes developed. They’re not perfect. But to me their imperfections only made them more perfect. The way a sleeve was too low or the neckline was misplaced let me create and develop an untimely fashion, transitioning into the awkward positioning of these transparent silhouettes. Distorted and disproportionate in proportion. Yet still the collection echoes this abstraction to display a clean fluidity of line and oddness of symmetry.

THE FINE PRINT: What is your favourite type of knit or fabric to use when designing and why?

PHOEBE KIME: For me I don’t have a particular go to fabric or knit but let the work develop naturally. I believe a sample can be a source of inspiration for a starting point as I regard my previous work as a library, remaking and reinventing in a completely new way. I like to experiment with unusual materials, things people wouldn’t necessarily use to make a textile, often sourcing things people discard. However, my work isn’t planned or organised, it just happens and develops until it’s representable as a collection. I don’t want my work to be contrived, to keep going back to the same materials and techniques, obviously there are always similar references and no doubt will have similar inspirations but I want my work to evolve on its own. I let it grow of its own accord and hope it finds its way.

THE FINE PRINT: What are you hoping for the future of your brand? Any upcoming projects or collaborations you’d like to share with us?

PHOEBE KIME: The next step for me is a Masters which I am currently lucky enough to be continuing at Central Saint Martins with the support from The Isabella Blow Foundation, who I am incredibly grateful to. I want to see where my work evolves and what direction it takes, and I feel I have a lot to develop and continually push further. My work will no doubt derive from a similar place but I want to see if there is a different full stop. I want to find out where I’m going, what I’m suited to and where my work sits in the vast industry that fashion is.

Text by ESTELLE GERVAIS