Simone Rocha: Family and Femininity

A decade after graduating from CSM, the Irish designer shares a few pearls of wisdom at The Sarabande Foundation. 

Tousled hair tucked back by pearl-encrusted clips. Billowing fabric framed by hyperfeminine frills at the collar and cuffs. Matronly silhouettes shrouded in graphic floral prints. This is the paradoxical prism through which Simone Rocha sees the world. Her designs could be described as feminine and tomboyish in the same breath: “I love the mix of hard and soft, manmade and natural,” she says. “I think that stems from being from a mixed background.

The daughter of Hong Kong-born, Ireland-based designer John Rocha, fashion runs in Simone’s blood. As a child, she would dart around backstage at her father’s shows. It was here that she first met fashion journalist Sarah Mower. Their paths would cross again, years later, in the cramped and colourful office of esteemed CSM MA Fashion tutor Louise Wilson. “I was petrified of it, but always gagging to get in and hear what Louise had to say,” remembers Simone. A decade later, on a balmy evening, the pair are rapt in the conversation for the Sarabande Foundation’s Inspiration Series, Sarah in a cream blazer and Simone in a ruffled white shirt of her own design. Here is a round-up of what they had to say.

“Home is where the heart is. If you put your heart into your work, that’s when people will respond to it because people respond to emotion.”

Rifle through the Simone Rocha archive and you’ll find direct lines to the people and places who have inspired her. Swimming in the sea off the west coast of Ireland inspired her to create a lacquered lace, and spotting Ireland’s first female President, Mary Robinson, wearing pearls in an airport cemented the stone of the sea as a Simone signature. Her long-time love of Louise Bourgeois – whose estate Simone collaborated with in May this year – started when she visited the Stitches in Time exhibition with her mum, aged 16. But closest to her heart is the first window display she created for Dover Street Market in 2013, inspired by the lanes behind her childhood home: “I remembered smoking fags, kissing boys, pigs running after me. The whole thing, I put into that collection.”

“Have a bit of patience. Just because it’s not happening for you right now doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen.”

In 2013, just a few short years after graduating from CSM and Fashion East, Simone topped the Emerging Talent, Ready-to-Wear category at the British Fashion Awards. The following year, she was promoted to The New Establishment Award. And it was at the BFC’s NEWGEN showroom in Paris that she was first spotted by Rei Kawakubo, who would become a firm supporter. When you’re feted as an emerging talent, when do you fully emerge? For Simone, it wasn’t until she exhibited a collection in the Tate Modern. “That was the first show Anna Wintour came to,” she says. “And so many great artists have shown in that space, I really felt that I’d made it.”

“When your aesthetic is innate to you, it’s really important to keep challenging it.”

Finding your look as a designer is only half of the battle. How do you maintain it without it feeling stagnant? “I think that’s something I learnt from Louise Wilson. She told me to go out and look at things that you want to look at that don’t feel like something you should be interested in. She said, you’re making all these beautiful dresses, who cares? Go look at porn, go look at Indian movies…The reality is that whatever I design is going to go under my guise because it’s in my DNA. I’m going to go in and out of fashion, and I’m okay with that. I just have to make an effort to push myself out of my comfort zone. ”

“Get to know back-of-house and get a good accountant”

Before starting her own label, Simone did her fair share of internships, but she didn’t limit herself to design. She worked under her father, Marc Jacobs and Dazed to name a few. “The way our company has grown has been really organic and slow, and we work very closely across all departments. Production is very important and it shouldn’t be separated from design.” Her team now boasts more than 40 members, and she’s keen to make each feel valued. “Your pattern-cutters are the technical graft that bring your ideas to life.”

“If you want to show alone, you really need to figure out what you want to say”

For Simone, family and femininity are the two pillars around which everything else forms. Her mother, Odette, is her business partner, she collaborates with her partner on videography, and her daughter plays a crucial role in keeping fashion in perspective: “Having a young child really takes the edge off,” she laughs. Even her grandparents have played a part, albeit in mindset rather than mucking in. “My grandparents had this ethos of making the most of what you have and that has stuck with me. We always try to incorporate fabrics that we over-ordered into the new collections.” When it comes to femininity, inclusivity reigns. “I think a bit of macabre running through the femininity is realistic, but it is not one age, shape or size,” she professes. “Even though I have a very specific aesthetic, I don’t want it to be alienating. I want my casting to reflect my customers.”

This article was originally published on 1Granary – you can read it here. Image by Niko.

1Granary interview: Steve Salter

Steve Salter is best known as the Fashion Features Editor of i-D, but it was his menswear blog, Style Salvage, that first put him on the fashion map. Part of the 2007 blogging wave, Salter segued into mainstream fashion media via a spate of digital roles. He started at Dazed as Digital Sales Executive, later moving to i-D as Online Editor. Before taking over the Fashion Features role from Anders Christian Madsen in 2017, he also acted as Social Media Editor and Digital Editor. Steve was the last person employed by i-D founders Terry and Tricia Jones before they sold to Vice in 2012.

Writing with one eye on fashion and the other on the world, Steve manages to make heavyweight topics like cultural appropriation as accessible and engaging as lighter notes on meme fashion and microbags. His degree in Law and Sociology might seem irrelevant now, but his love of words and debating remains. Plus, it was academic boredom that first pushed him towards journalism: his first published pieces were music reviews for local zines and independent publishers in his university town of Warwick.

What attracted you to i-D?

I grew up in a small seaside town – Margate – which is popular now, but when I was there, it was the arse-end of nowhere. Reading about London and the creative scene in magazines like i-D was my escape. I knew I had to be there. Even when I accepted the Law degree, it was all part of the plan of getting that bit closer to London. I moved as soon as I graduated, worked in a few marketing jobs but soon transitioned into fashion. Being offered a role at i-D was everything, it felt like home then and still feels like home today.

Do you think it’s true that to be a fashion journalist in the UK, you have to live in London? 

Location shouldn’t be a barrier today, so we’re trying to break that a little bit. Historically so much of British fashion has centred around London – as it has done with other capital cities around the world – but in this hyperconnected world, why should it? Everything is under a microscope in London but we all have to look beyond our immediate surroundings and discover the unknown because that’s where we find the best inspiration. It’s a case of us all having to look beyond our surroundings. Of course it helps when everyone is in one city because you meet people and it’s easy because everyone knows each other, It’s such a community and that’s beautiful, but if you’re coming from the outside then it’s hard to break through that. The internet has helped somewhat, but there’s still a way to go and that’s on the people who commission features.

How has the menswear scene changed since you first came to London? 

When I started covering men’s fashion on the blog, it was really around the birth of London menswear as we know it know but it was still a tally-on to the women’s show in those early days. At that time, Fashion Week was around the grounds of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, and Fashion East had a house just opposite that. It was an old Georgian townhouse, and they gave designers a room each to do an installation. Those still rank as some of my favourite fashion events. It’s where I first encountered Gosha Rubchinskiy, Nasir Mazhar, Meadham Kirchhoff, and so many more. I was so fortunate that I was one of the few journalists covering it at the time. Well, I wasn’t really a journalist, I was a blogger. It felt like we were at the start of something and, looking back now, we were. I love covering the established designers and big fashion houses today, but I can’t imagine a time when I’m not excited by the energy of emerging talents, it’s infectious. i-D has always been about new ideas, new talent, and new energy so that’s why we’re a good fit.

You just touched on it a little bit, but I’d like to talk more about your transition from ‘blogger’ to ‘journalist’ – what is the difference in your mind? And when did you start calling yourself a journalist? 

I don’t know whether there is one to be honest. It’s just a title change. My Instagram bio says: a fan, not a critic. That’s something that Terry Jones actually said at i-D and it’s one of the reasons I feel so at home there. As a blogger, I only covered what I loved and as a journalist, I only cover what interests me because there’s enough negativity in this world already. If it’s not for me, I either ignore and move on, or if it’s there’s something there, then I commission it out. It’s about being honest, but it’s coming from that mentality of only really writing about stuff that you really like. That’s what I did with my blog and it’s what I try and stick to now.

It sounds so obvious but a piece always reads better if it’s written by someone who is knowledgeable about and excited by the subject. If that’s not me, then I’ll just commission it out.

It seems like we’re having a renaissance of the freelance writer, but so many of my friends that are freelancers joke about being terrible at pitching. Being able to pitch a feature is such a good skill. Someone might say they want to do a feature on a designer, but if they just googled it, they would see that we’d just covered them. So what I want to know is, what’s the hook? Why are they the best person to write it and why do people need to read about it?

I think your career trajectory is really interesting. How has your early digital focus shaped the way you approach journalism? 

I would say that it’s been shaped by digital and my various roles across the business have helped hone a unique perspective but it’s always been powered by real-life interactions. Throughout my time at i-D, I’ve always gone where I felt I was most useful to the business. When I joined, there were two editors – Sean [Baker] and Sarah [Raphael] but i-D was a very simple Tumblr site back then. Terry and Tricia brought me on to help relaunch it but then they sold it to Vice. In those early days, we would only post articles on social media occasionally, the digital strategy was in its infancy. Once we joined Vice, we needed to grow our audience, and social media was the way to do that so that’s what I moved into and it was exciting because I, along with our former Editor-in-Chief Holly Shackleton, was shaping the tone and voice that enticed new readers to the site.

However, after a couple of years focussed on digital growth, I had a bit of a mental breakdown, just because of the relentlessness of it all. It’s easy to get too obsessed with the numbers side, because you’re tracking it in real-time and it’s addictive. During my time as Social Media Editor and then Digital Editor, we saw figure growth with the help of Vice and we truly became a global voice.

Aside from the obvious points – more daily content, a more immediate interaction with readers etc. – how do you think social media has changed fashion journalism? Has it changed the way people write? 

Definitely. I feel guilty for it because when I watch shows now, there are times in which I think about it in terms of: what’s going to be the headline and what’s going to be the sell? You’re kind of writing the piece as you look at it because that’s the reality of fashion’s pace today. It extends beyond fashion week coverage too. Social media has essentially homogenised how content is presented and there’s been little opportunity to escape clickbait culture but we’re all increasingly moving away from that world. How many features have you been drawn to because of a really good title or tweet only to discover that there’s not much else to it. It’s all smoke and mirrors and it can perform well in the short-term but people are beginning to wake up to just how problematic it can be in the long-term.

That leads nicely into my next question, actually. How relevant do you think good quality fashion writing is to online audiences?

There’s been so much dumbing-down across the media landscape, just to reach a wider audience but I always think it’s our role to educate. Going back to your earlier question about personal milestones, I loved it when tutors at LCF or CSM told me that the blog was on their reading list. I want everyone that arrives on i-D to take away something new and ideally, involve them in a conversation. It’s about immersive storytelling across platforms because our work extends beyond published features alone. It’s about making the most of our access too, we as fashion journalists have to take audiences on a journey inside our fashion world. Beyond being presented what’s shown on the catwalk, our audiences, are interested in discovering the human stories behind fashion week. By this, I mean the designers, the models, the behind-the-scenes creatives, the assistants and everyone beyond too. They want to hear about the fascinating, the underrepresented, the challenging, the amazing, the funny, and the weird. We should inform, critique, challenge and entertain, involving our audience in each.

Have you noticed any shifts since the beginning of your career in what you want to write about and what people want to read about? 

I guess putting fashion through a wider cultural lens. When events happen like the Met Gala, that doesn’t really interest me all that much personally – what celebrities wear to events – but that is something readers always like to see and know about. I just try and think, why would you come to i-D specifically for that story? I think that’s also what’s happened with the digital explosion: publications have lost their tone of voice and their perspective a little bit because everyone is covering very similar topics and talents. And it filters down to print as well – who magazines have on their covers, how things are angled, the language used in headlines – everyone looks at what everyone else is doing. That’s the biggest shift I’ve seen, but I hope that’s going to change. Especially now publications like Vogue are considering paywalls. They will no doubt need to hone in on who their reader is and what they want or it won’t work.

What, in your view, is the i-D tone of voice? What is the filter that you put on a story to make it i-D? 

I guess it’s that fans not critics mantra. Informed informality. We’ve always joked it’s like the slightly older sibling, maybe, who is either encouraging their younger sibling into a new scene – you might like this, you might like that – and giving them the encouragement and platform-sharing to feel like they can be a part of it too. i-D shouldn’t be exclusionary, it should be celebratory.

You mentioned putting fashion through a wider cultural lens – I think that’s something i-D do really well. It’s never been shy about discussing gender, sexuality, race, politics… 

One thing that does annoy me actually is how fashion journalism in the wider sphere isn’t seen as real journalism. Someone said that fashion journalism is closer to fashion than it is to journalism, and I think that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t evolve and become something more than that. We’re seeing the likes of Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times and Matthew Schneier at New York Magazine who are doing some really interesting pieces and exposés. I don’t think i-D will necessarily do that, but we can push for positive change.

Yeah, I think what i-D does well is intellectual fashion coverage without intellectualising it. 

Exactly. Whether designers are being political in their work intentionally or not, there is always an element of that, because we can’t separate ourselves from our environment. It goes back to what i-D is, it’s about identity.

How do you integrate politics in a meaningful way without losing engagement or alienating people who don’t want fashion to be overtly political, and also without it coming across as tokenistic? Especially with digital pieces, where the headline has to be so succinct and the piece itself is more snappy. 

It can never feel forced. It’s really difficult because, with social media, someone might come to an online piece with no prior understanding of what i-D is and they might have never read another article on there. I think that’s the difficulty of commissioning out opinion pieces too, because it’s obviously the opinion of the writer, but it’s also the opinion of the publication. It’s a balancing act. Within the piece, you have to make sure you’re linking to a number of other pieces that are part of that wider argument. It doesn’t all have to agree, but it needs to give a wider perspective of the issue.

You must spend the majority of your time thinking, talking or writing about fashion. What do you think are the most pressing conversations to have in fashion right now?

Sustainability. We have to make fashion a cleaner industry. So many designers are beginning to think about it now and fashion is getting better at responding to criticisms, like Extinction Rebellion’s, but there’s so much work that needs to be done. It’s a wider conversation that the industry needs to have in terms of the post-production too and how we cover stuff. We send people all over the world to see the shows, to cover launches, to profile talent. Is it all necessary?

Yeah. We often talk about fashion’s impact on the environment, but one thing that gets glossed over is the fact that journalists and models fly a lot

Exactly. I hope the industry realises that and changes accordingly, especially since far-flung destinations – like Marrakech for the Dior cruise show and Prada showing men’s in Shanghai – seem to be becoming the norm. People who don’t really get fashion always ask me, ‘so how long is the show?’ or ‘what are you actually doing there?’ You know, I was in Marrakech for two or three days, but the show itself was about 20 minutes long. Of course, it’s a wider experience that builds the narrative but it’s such an expense of resources and there are many ways to tell stories.

I guess the other side of keeping fashion clean is, how do you maintain journalistic integrity when you’re being given so much free stuff by brands? And maybe that feeds into the ‘fan not a critic’ thing as well – a sort of criticism by exclusion? 

It’s really tricky. My point of view is that it’s okay to go on the press trips if it’s transparent. The gifts thing is a whole other thing. I often get emails asking for my shoe size or something and it’s like, what are you sending me? It feels weird. I’ve got a very particular style and, this sounds ungrateful, but I don’t want random things sent to me and I’ve been sent some really weird things.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been sent? 

Just really colourful things and crazy hype hybrids of things that just aren’t me. I end up giving them to people in the office who can appreciate them.

It all feeds into the discussion about sustainability and how much unnecessary stuff we produce and consume. It’s not just the press and influencers being sent gifts, it’s the acceleration of the fashion calendar and the high turnover of designers too. If we’re talking about sustainability more broadly or holistically, how do you think we can make fashion more emotionally sustainable for the people within it?

It’s difficult, because so many designers in recent seasons have pushed back on the sheer volume of fashion. That’s probably one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced in the industry – it’s gone from two seasons to four seasons to everything else in between, collaborations and stuff. I look at people like Virgil [Abloh], Kim [Jones] to an extent as well, and I think, how are you doing it? Obviously they’re part of a bigger team, but they do so much. Some people seem to thrive on it, but it doesn’t seem sustainable to me and an increasing number of designers are finding a way forward that works for them. I don’t personally thrive on the relentless pace. I need time to breathe and comprehend a little bit. Hopefully there’ll be a slight pushback on that, I think there has to be.

Yeah, especially when mental health has become such a big topic within fashion, and you’ve obviously had your own struggles with that. 

Yeah, completely. I think the biggest thing I’ve had to navigate is being a writer and dealing with any kind of depressive or anxious episodes. Fashion isn’t really an industry that’s great for it, because things can happen at any time and it demands a lot. I always liken mental health to the weather really, and I’m aware of certain triggers and things now, but it could happen whenever. I’ve missed deadlines because of mental health struggles, but it’s something that i-D has been great at understanding and I think the wider industry is waking up to it now too. The more we talk about these issues, the better it is.

Social media and mental health seem to be closely linked. Especially this idea that, as a writer, you have to have an online persona – a ‘personal brand’ if we’re being that synthetic about it.  How would you advise young journalists dealing with that? 

I used to be a lot more active across social media during my blogging days but I’ve moved away from the infinite scroll because it can easily become too much. My advice to any young journalist is just to really think about what you’re posting and why you’re posting. I’ve always seen social media as an extension of what you’re writing and how you’re presenting yourself to the world but just do what’s right for you.

One final thing. I found an old copy of i-D where you said that your advice to your 16-year-old self would be: don’t do what you think you should do, do what you want to do. Would you stand by that advice now? 

Totally. That goes back to the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was 16 – or 18 or 21 for that matter – and I might still not know exactly now. It’s always transient, it’s always changing. It sounds really cliche, but do what you want to do, not what your parents want you to do or what other people expect of you. It’s your life. I’m realising as I get older that we put so much focus on what our first feature in print is going to be or something, but it doesn’t matter. Things are forgotten pretty quickly.

This interview was originally published on 1Granary – you can read it here. Image by Ottilie Landmark 

1Granary interview: Heather Glazzard

After writing a preview of photographer Heather Glazzard’s Queer Letters exhibition for TANK, I interviewed them for 1Granary

Early in 2018, Halifax-born photographer Heather Glazzard launched a series called Queer Letters, inviting members of the LGBTQ+ community to sit for a portrait and share advice with their younger selves. Glazzard, who is currently on the Fashion Image MA at Central Saint Martins, started the project to shed light on the diversity of queerness, normally overlooked by mainstream media. A year later, it has been exhibited by Vogue Italia and Open Eye Gallery, and received funding from Arts Council England, an achievement recently toasted at twin exhibitions in Manchester and London.

You explore gender and sexuality a lot in your work. How did you get into photography and how did you develop your own point of view?

When my dad passed away, I used it as a form of therapy. I was already exploring photography, but not seriously, and when that happened, I needed a creative outlet. I went to study Fashion Styling at the University of Salford, with a focus on photography. I started photographing naked women – friends and people I was sleeping with – because I didn’t know what I wanted to say with my work. My tutor at the time saw that I was exploring sexuality, even before I realised that’s what I was doing. Then I went to intern for the photographer Richard Kern, who does a lot of nude photography, and he told me I should do something about being queer, because nudity wasn’t as interesting anymore. Originally, I started a collective for women, non-binary people and femmes called Moist. We did club-nights, events like queer speed-dating, poetry nights, exhibitions, residencies with Islington Mill. But it felt like a lot of work, and I realised if I was going to do something, it had to be in my own way.

Where did the idea for Queer Letters come from?

When I was growing up, I didn’t have something to relate to. I realised after Moist that I wanted to create a space where queer people could feel seen and understood. That’s how Queer Lettersstarted. I applied for funding from Superbia, Manchester Pride’s year-round culture programme, in June 2018. It’s just grown from there. I got more funding from Arts Council England in January, which means I can pay everyone involved. It feels really good, knowing I can pay people, and I think it incentivises people to take part as well. The funding also included dyslexia support, which is so helpful.

The premise for Queer Letters is so personal and powerful. How do you find people to feature and make sure it’s inclusive?

The queer space is a community where you can be who you want. I don’t think we can escape labels, but queer feels more free. It’s how I personally identify. That said, I want to give visibility to new ideas of gender and sexuality. The project started with me photographing friends and people I knew, but now I find people on Instagram and when I’m out. I get quite paranoid about it, because I want it to be diverse and inclusive. I’m trying to do something worthwhile, but am I doing enough? There was one about being Muslim and someone told me it changed their life when they read it. I want as many people to feel like that as possible.

Why do you think the project resonates with people?

My therapist encouraged me to write to myself after my dad passed away. It’s so powerful, because you’re speaking to a part of yourself you might have forgotten. Writing feels like a form of therapy, so asking people to write letters to their younger selves provokes really interesting responses. When I see them all together I feel quite emotional, because even though they’re individual letters, they’re part of something bigger. People aren’t just writing to themselves. A lot of people write what they think would be useful for others to hear. Everyone keeps asking why I haven’t done one myself. I feel like I should. Maybe that’s the next step.

Styling Sustainability with Fran Burns

In the last two years, the conversation around sustainability in fashion has heightened to a deafening crescendo. After years of campaigning from environmentalists and human rights activists alike, brands finally seem open to change. And those that aren’t are facing customer backlash. But it’s not just brands that need to step up, and we can’t just idly wait for legislative change.

Unsustainable practises permeate every layer of fashion, which means everyone can do their bit. And stylists are not exempt, as Fran Burns was keen to admit at her event with The Sustainable Angle last week. “The subject of sustainable fashion has been making me increasingly uncomfortable, mostly because I know so little about it,” she explained. “But we’ve inherited an industry with so much work to do, and it’s time we do it.”

Fran has been working with non-profit organisation The Sustainable Angle, to learn more about how her work impacts the industry and what she can do better. These were the five key lessons to take away:

1. Know your stuff

The Fashion Transparency Index has been holding brands accountable for their sustainability efforts since 2016, rating them in order of how much information they share. In 2017, a tidal wave of open source reports were published, and Greenpeace tackled overconsumption in Fashion at the Crossroads. Back in February, the British government’s Environmental Audit Committee released the Fixing Fashion report to an expectant readership of conscious consumers. Read up on the statistics so you can understand how your actions impact the industry and the environment. It might sound boring, but knowledge is power and all that…

2. Fabrics come first

Fabrics are often the first step in a supply chain, which is why many brands fall at the first hurdle. Nina Marenzi, founder and director of The Sustainable Angle, wrote an entire dissertation on organic cotton. She found that fashion was dragging its heels when it came to fabric choices, often seduced by the aesthetics but paying little attention to the provenance. And when 60% of a product’s environmental impact lies in material choice, there is a high price to pay for overlooking it. That’s why she developed the Future Fabrics Expo, the perfect place for stylists to learn more about the fabrics they’re working with. The expo plays host to over 170 global suppliers, showcasing 5,000 sustainably-sourced fabrics. “I used to think faux fur was better than real fur,” says Fran. “Then I found out that faux is acrylic, which is way worse for the environment. Now I try to avoid both. You have to really think about the fabrics you’re using, because they become aspirational.”

3. Use your voice

Junior stylists might not have the power or security to ask brands hard-hitting questions, but they can make suggestions. Fran has found that putting a positive spin on things really helps. “Greta Thunberg was just on the cover of i-D,” she said. “That shows sustainability is something young buyers want, and brands need to acknowledge that.” Nina agrees: “Nothing kills a brand quicker than if they are seen as tone-deaf.”

4. Tell a story

Fashion Revolution has been asking #WhoMadeMyClothes ever since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, when 1,134 garment workers died making clothes for retailers including Primark and Matalan. According to Amanda Johnston, curator and education consultant at The Sustainable Angle, storytelling like this is the key to spreading sustainable practices. “We need to make stories about where materials come from and the clothes’ sustainability credentials part of the conversation,” she said. Brands that use recycled materials are a great place to start: Vegea make a leather-like fabric using grape skins from the wine industry, whilst Parley partnered with Adidas to turn ocean plastic into trainers.

5. Take it slow and appreciate the effort
Not everyone is going to care as much as you do. People move at different paces, and some face bigger barriers to change. It’s more complex for an established to pivot on all its policies than it is for an individual to swap their shopping habits, but shopping sustainably can also be a privileged option. Many sustainable brands are more expensive, and some customers don’t have the time or means to research every item they buy. Former Vogue Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Schulman pointed out that “people don’t want to read huge reports about where their clothes come from.” Accept that you can’t topple the whole system overnight, but do what you can. As Nina said, “It takes time to change.”

This article was published on 1Granary

TANK preview: Queer Letters by Heather Glazzard

Early in 2018, Halifax-born photographer Heather Glazzard launched a series called Queer Letters, inviting members of the LGBTQ+ community to sit for a portrait and share advice for their younger selves. A year later, the project has been exhibited by Vogue Italia and Open Eye Gallery, and received funding from Arts Council England. Glazzard is celebrating with twin exhibitions in Manchester and London this month.

Glazzard’s subjects pen letters to their younger selves, but they speak to a wider community as well. “Speaking to your younger self is powerful, but it also gives younger people a chance to take advice from those who are photographed,” says Glazzard. The letters reflect on queer identities and how they shape people’s lives, balancing catharsis with community. Often handwritten by the subjects, and always accompanied by raw, film portraits, the letters are deeply moving in their intimacy.

The project not only documents queer creatives, but raises questions about representation and visibility. By including a broad spectrum of gender and sexual identities, Queer Letters shows the people behind the pride rainbow in their full, technicolour glory. “I want to give visibility to new ideas of gender and sexuality,” explains the 24-year-old. “The people included might not necessarily see themselves represented in mainstream media or fashion. Queer Letters provides a space for them to share their experiences.”

Queer Letters was exhibited at Caustic Coastal in Manchester and Vogue Fabrics Dalston in early May. The project is funded by Arts Council England, and donations on the door went towards Jay Gilby and Lucia Blake’s transition surgeries. 

This article was originally published on TANK Live, here

i-D designer interview: Goom Heo

Goom Heo won the prestigious L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award for her CSM MA collection, and now the young Korean designer is planning her next move.

As the lights went down on the CSM MA fashion show in February, Goom Heo was awarded the prestigious L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award alongside her classmate Sheryn Akiki. It was her second accolade, having won the equivalent BA prize back in 2017. “I thought I’d screwed up because I couldn’t speak very well in my interview,” she recalls. “I found out about ten seconds before they called my name and just couldn’t believe it! Now, Goom is back in her native Korea, gathering her thoughts and getting ready for her return to London.

Goom’s off-kilter sportswear earns its sophisticated stripes in a new collaboration with photographic duo Reece + Dean. Strips of blue and green jersey adorn the arms of a monochrome striped bodysuit, like a subversive Sonic the Hedgehog with a black plastic codpiece. Another look — flowing brown chiffon erupting from bold, geometric embroidery — provides a more metaphorical sonic boom. Her work is an otherworldly ode to the spaces and places she has occupied. “I grew up in South Korea, spent some time studying in Illinois and now live in London,” she says. “My work is inspired by all of those places. Some people see my designs as crazy, but I just think of them as everyday clothes.”

You’ve lived in a lot of very different places, each with vastly different approaches to fashion. How have those experiences shaped your work?

My hometown — Jinju in South Korea — is really quiet and a lot of the people there are farmers, so there is nothing related to art. I didn’t even know how to draw, because in Korean schools you are taught to reproduce what you see in front of you; there is no creativity. Then during high school, I went to Illinois as an exchange student and took an art class which was so free, I couldn’t believe it. My teacher showed me a documentary about fashion schools and I decided that I wanted to go to CSM because of that. I started preparing my portfolio as soon as I got back to Korea. I changed a lot during my foundation year at CSM. I had never dyed my hair in Korea and always wore simple colours because I wasn’t brave enough to try anything bolder or more playful. Seeing how my friends at CSM dressed up inspired me so much. It made me want to try something new.

When I went back to Korea for summer after my first year, my hair was pink and blue and I dressed differently to everyone else. People in my hometown just didn’t understand it. They were so shocked, they would call me “crazy” and “weird” and whisper about me. That was a few years ago, but this collection is a delayed way of processing that reaction. I wanted to redefine and reclaim those words to show that what other people see as crazy and weird could just be normal. Those things don’t have to mean standing out or having people point at you.

The idea of dressing up for the everyday and normalising “crazy” clothes is really popular at CSM — who do you imagine wearing your clothes?

Yeah, watching what other students were wearing definitely gave me the confidence to dress differently and rethink what normal was for me. There’s no specific person I design for, though. I do menswear, but it could be for anyone, anyone brave enough to walk down the street, get on a tube and go to work in my clothes and not be ashamed of what they’re wearing. In the kind of world I imagine those people living in, my clothes are just normal everyday clothes.

You took a year-long break after your BA to recalibrate, before switching from womenswear to menswear for your final collection. Why did that break feel necessary and what did you learn from it?

It was about myself as a designer and how I wanted to change and progress. To be honest, I was really scared when I decided to take that break. All of my best friends were in my class and they would have graduated by the time I got back. Even my tutor advised me not to do it, but I just wanted to go home, go somewhere that has nothing to do with fashion. It was really relaxing, although I did end up taking a course on traditional Korean embroidery with a load of grannies! I realised I wanted to do something different. But even then, menswear wasn’t on my radar. It had always seemed too technical and difficult. I worked on menswear at Kenzo for my placement year, which finally prompted me to make the switch. After that, my work developed a lot. It felt more natural.

Your designs have received both critical acclaim and popular critique — you won the L’Oréal Professionnel awards for both your BA and MA collections, but the former was made into a series of memes. How did that impact your work?

When I started my MA, I had the added pressure of living up to my BA, because I’d won the L’Oréal Professionnel Young Talent Award. Fabio [Piras, director of the MA Fashion course at CSM] realised that and helped me to block that out. I just tried to focus on my own work. I couldn’t believe it when Fabio told me I’d won again. There are so many people at CSM who get recognition and coverage before they’ve had a chance to figure out their aesthetic. I want people to judge me by my work, so I want my work to represent me.

As for the memes of my BA collection, I loved them! My brother kept sending me links when comedians were making fun of my work. People in Spain and even in Korea were seeing my work — I found it so funny. Those people didn’t work in fashion, but they were still interested in my work. I think less about what people say about my work and more about the statement I’m trying to make. If I design for the statement I want to make, the reactions will come without me trying. Whether it’s a good or a bad reaction, it’s better than nothing.

Has did you find this collaboration with Reece + Dean?

We had so much fun on set. It inspires me to see someone from a completely different area of fashion change my collection in such a cool way. They thought of poses I never would have suggested and brought a sense of drama to the clothes. I think it captured how the clothes look walking down the catwalk: the way the chiffon pieces expand and flow freely whilst the tighter clothes underneath create contrast. We also found a great hair and make-up artist, Daeun Jung, who mirrored my textile prints on the wigs. I’m really happy with the photos!

This article was published on i-D in association with 1Granary

Designer profile: Maja Leskovsek

A longform designer profile written as part of my MA in Fashion Journalism at Central Saint Martins. This was a truly immersive project: I sat with Slovenian designer Maja Leskovsek for hours as she finished her final collection, which was presented as part of the CSM MA Fashion show in February 2019. It was part of a broader project in collaboration with MA students from Fashion Image and Fashion Critical Studies, aiming understand Maja and communicate her designs in both written and visual formats.

Read the full piece here.

Roundtable Journal Issue 03: Skin Deep

A piece I curated in my role as Features Editor for Roundtable Journal. This was published in Issue 03, but you can read the full feature in PDF form here. The below image, which I creative directed in collaboration with the photographer Jenna Foxton, was shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photography Portrait Prize, and displayed in the National Portrait Gallery.

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Roundtable Issue 03: Finding Your Fit

The third instalment of my feature for Roundtable Journal, Finding Your Fit. You can find the feature in our new print edition (available on the Roundtable e-shop) or you can read it in PDF form here.

Concept, styling and words by me. Photography by Hanifah Mohammad, hair and make-up by Nina Robinson. Featuring Mia Maxwell and Faith Aylward

TANK Magazine internship, 2018

The following are online articles published during a one month internship at TANK Magazine from September to October, 2018.

The Black Image Corporation 

Preview: Fondazione Prada celebrates the legacy of Johnson Publishing Company. 

In the company of

I reviewed In the company of, a new exhibition at TJ Boulting, curated by Katy Hessel of @thegreatwomenartists.

This Happened © Nick Paton
Double Sign (2017) by Jessie Mackinson, courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting.
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Concentric #1 (2016) by Juliana Cerqueira Leite, courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting.

Read My Lips

A preview of the first UK exhibition of the work of Gran Fury, the arts activism branch of ACT UP, formed thirty years ago.

Yayoi Kusama

The new Yayoi Kusama exhibition is the artist’s twelfth at Victoria Miro Gallery. Read my review here.
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Slow Fashion to Save Minds

A short interview with the multi-disciplinary artist Georgina Johnson, who founded The Laundry and their new mental health and sustainability movement, #SlowFashionToSaveMinds.

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Georgina Johnson, Campbell Addy, Sara Radin, Seetal Solanki and Tamsin Blanchard at the #SlowFashionToSaveMinds launch event. Photographed by Sara.

Eczema!

A visceral new spoken word EP by art critic Maria Fusco, examining the chronic skin condition. Read my review here.