The fashion world consists of those who adorn latest ‘it- items’ as stated by the fashion glossies and enhanced by celebrity endorsements, others that will note or religiosity transpose trends summarized in post catwalk reports, tribes who prefer to adopt styles from by-gone eras or rebel against the consumer machine and opt for vintage, homemade or independent pieces.
Then there are the style innovators or anomalies, who will neither follow nor disregard what’s ‘in’ but dress to the syncopated beat of their own fashion drum. Genuinely accidental trendsetting ensues, their ensembles garnering intrigued looks from the safe clotheshorses and admiring glances from the outlandish fashionistas.
Accessories and set designer Fred Butler falls into the latter. Whilst she admits that her own dress sense veers away from the multicoloured hedonism of many of her pieces she feels that, ‘My accessories are open to everyone whereas my style is very personal and particular to my lifestyle.’ Her attire holds the same power as her unique sets and accessories, stirring voyeurs to steal second or third looks.
The 29-year-old’s acclaimed A/W 09 collection, Helocentric, saw her collaborate with Elisha Smith Laverok to make striking still and moving imagery, which alongside her trademark use of kaleidoscopic colours, saw a new concentration on metallics. “I had a happy accident using a left-over marathon blanket that was from an old set design job. I used it to make a one-off accessory for a shoot and discovered that it did something special when treated in a certain way so decided to explore it further for my ofﬁcial collection. I always incorporate metallics in my work but this dictated a strong element of silver.” The project came into fruition after she was ‘lucky’ to receive much needed and sought after funding from NEW GENERATION.
The ﬁlm, which is “not crucial but a privileged bonus” in Fred’s humble opinion, is an alternative method of kinetic display, away from the hysteria of catwalk theatrics. This is a medium which many fellow savvy designers and stylists have recognized as a great forum for creative possibilities, becoming an increasingly more attractive alternative to indulgent and exorbitant runway productions during this time of economic uncertainty.
Awareness of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace et al are fast becoming vital ingredients to success of those in artistic industries-valid and accessible arenas for creative ventures as well as great marketing tools. “That is the beauty of having the Internet now, so that work carries on living after the initial presentation. Fashion Film is only in its embryonic stage and it’s going to take over as the most effective art form for the industry in no time at all. Although a runway show is exciting, ﬁlm is a more practical way to realize your concept to reach the widest audience possible”.
Collaborations have lead to some of fashion and art’s greatest and most iconic visions and involve mutual respect, something that Fred more than understands. “Elisha works with choreographer Chloe and I to put total trust in their working relationship to design this part of the production. For the ﬁrst time I tried to take a back seat and hand over decision making to the different collaborators within their role. Although I am a megalomaniac in some respects I think that it is important to have faith in who you work with and not dominate their contribution. Then everyone shines and the purest and most unexpected work is achieved.”
The aforementioned dancing, which veered between Bollywood and Ballet – mystiﬁed with a smoke machine – is accompanied by music which resulted in the amalgamation of ideas stemming from Fred, Elisha, creative consultant Alex Cunningham and stylist Kim Howells. Rio En Medio’s accompanying stripped back style was discovered via MySpace. Tinkling sound mixed in for the credits to echo the use of bells in the collection. Dancing has always had a place in Fred’s life, as “it’s a form of therapy for my well- being. Therefore it’s integral to my work too. My degree show at graduate fashion week was choreographed using dancers instead of models. So when new collaborators suggested the idea 6 years later for the Ballerina collection, it made perfect sense to go in that direction again.”
As with most creative processes, experimentation is necessary and innate for imagination-ors and perfectionists like Fred, happily enabling implementation of quality control. ‘I never know what is going to happen when I start testing out ideas and that is the beauty and adrenaline in inventing and creating. So what happens to the less successful forays?” If I can control myself and stop giving everything away as presents, I try to keep prototypes. Sometimes I give up on something if it isn’t working out the way I hoped, but I like to persist and revisit a technique. I never know what is going to happen when I start testing out ideas and that is the beauty and adrenaline in inventing and creating.”
To deliver prints that capture the colour schemes which ‘subconsciously’ stem from artefacts from our play time when we were ‘impressionable’ youngsters, (The Rubik’s cube, Spiro-graphs and Kaleidoscopes come to mind) Fred has once again sought
collaboration for this task in the shape of the print/ textile designer Brie Harrison
“I make everything myself. That is crucial to my craft. Therefore sourcing fabric is quite traumatic because I never ﬁnd anything that lives up to my expectations. I end up doing a lot of handpainting and dyeing and folling. Designing my own pattern was the most logical progression and so I approached my friend Brie to collaborate on this part. I showed her my initial mood and experiments and she went away and played around with her interpretation through print. We chose a selection from her options and had them printed as a large test strip, which I spliced up to, look like patchwork in the ﬁnal pieces. It was a section of the collection that I wanted to make more accessible and possible to reproduce for production. This is why we decided on digital print.’
Throughout my conversation with Fred, it’s clear that she knows exactly what she wants to achieve and she is unfaltering in her dedication to delivering it. As well as maintaining a quality and theme she generally turns to craft to put her ideas into form, one of the most prevalent being the ancient traditional Japanese art form, Origami. “I love making paper-cuts and collect interesting paper to use for these collages. It just so happens that Origami paper is the best and the packets usually contain a sheet of instructions to make something. Out of curiosity I tried some of them out and as a result got hooked on the craft!” Alongside this she uses international embroidery, patchwork and quilting often teaching herself from well-worn books found in charity shops and ﬂea markets. I wonder if the handmade nature dictates that she isn’t looking to reach a wide audience but I am assured this isn’t the case.
“I like to create new surface patterns and textures from fabric manipulation. I would love to translate that to larger production and have a diffusion line in addition to the bespoke pieces that are made in-house and of a higher price-point. It think its hilarious that if someone buys one of my accessories they probably don’t realise that I have actually hand-made it myself!”
So apart from dreaming of the diffusion line, what’s next for Fred? Will she be making another of her stunning ﬁlms? “I was incredibly lucky to receive funding from the New Gen award to make the ﬁlm. I would love to do another so it all depends on whether I get the same opportunity again.”………. So, New Gen, if you are listening…
WORDS: SOPHIE EGGLETON
PHOTOGRAPHY: ALBERTO NEWTON