Saturday, 19 February 2011

Interview with 1883 Magazine

At a point in time when industry giants are struggling to reinvent themselves, Flick Hall is presenting to us a world of moulded, pleated and pierced leather frocks, creating an aesthetic not seen since the likes of Thierry Mugler. Just as remarkable as her design work is the path she is taking to bring her creations to the forefront. Anyone who’s aspired to design and sell their own clothing knows the marathon of obstacles between conception and consumer. Anyone who has ever assumed position as a cog in the machine that is the fashion industry, knows just how tiring even one aspect of the industry can be. Still, the everpresent hardships and fierce competition has not scared away the heaps of design hopefuls graduating from Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and the likes each year.

London, of course, is one of the worlds’ biggest stages for new fashion talent. To distinguish oneself takes a great deal of commitment, creativity and vision. Felicity (Flick) Hall has found a way to set herself apart by playing the game her own way. After completing a foundation year at the famed Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, she found herself struggling to choose between pursuing a degree in fashion design or fine art. Rather than choose between academic study of her artistic passions, she choose to begin interning at fashion houses in London. She began at House of Holland, where the designer says she learned how the business end of fashion worked, and after a year migrated to Giles Deacon, where she practiced technique.

While on the subject of interning, I paused to ask Felicity her thoughts on the idea of working for free, and the necessity of it in the industry. Her initial response: “It’s necessary for small designers to function”, is inevitably true, and unavoidably so as she checks her phone for a message from an intern on an errand. As a young designer currently producing two collections per year, I can see why she would be grateful that our industry dictates no one gets a job without paying their dues. She certainly has paid hers. Over two years of experience at House of Holland, Giles Deacon and others, usually working long hours and not even being paid the transportation costs internship providers are legally required to provide, she is now more than happy to have the helping hand of her very own wide-eyed intern. Felicity also admires the level of dedication it takes for one designer to work under another without compensation. Still, in her later interning days, she split her time between gluing Swarovski crystals for Giles and forming the foundation of her own label, all while sleeping in the living room of the two bedroom flat which she and two friends called home.

The latest collection from Flik Hall, Spring/Summer 2011, is derived from a quite dreamy sequence of visuals taken from a Mexican vacation. One week in the country left the designer with feelings of hospitality and visions of little girls’ dolls and teddy bears. About the translation between concept and collection, she said, “After some research, jumble and juxtaposition, it all seems compatible.” It takes a great deal of talent to turn such humble elements to the levels of innovation and edge that has been achieved in the collection, appropriately titled “Mannequin Parade”.

The repeating pattern seen on the pleated, rouched and lazer-cut leather pieces are mirrored images of baby doll arms, joined and arranged to create a very classic geometric shape or print. Most looks in the collection; save a couple sleek LBD’s with leather and paten leather panels, perfectly fit leather shorts, and a strappy black and tan romper, all carry the doll-arm print with poise and intrigue. Leather has been a staple of the collections from the beginning. It’s easy to tell why, as she sits dressed in one of her own blue and black, leather detailed jackets, the girl simply adores working with (and wearing) the material. This love, combined with the use of fur in her earlier fall collection, prompted me to ask whether she has the misfortune of dealing with any sort of backlash. Laughing, she went on to tell a story of how she once walked around the block in a fur coat to avoid a random animal rights protest on the street. As for the collection, happily, “No PITA people yet”.

As Felicity treated me to rails of Fall 2011 samples, we got to talking about some challenges she is facing as a young independent designer. Sourcing, for one, can be difficult. A beautiful smokey blue wool, for example, has come all the way from the states because she wanted to be sure to have the colour right. Working with unconventional materials has also proven to be a struggle between finance and creativity. From a large board stretching from wall to wall in the sun filled studio, I picked out a sample of graded foam cones, which in dark gray looked rather industrial. Felicity explained to me that this material was the same that is used to sound proof recording studios, and special ordering the graded cones would have cost her around £7000 and left her with eighty meters excess. Needless to say that specific material is not seen in the collection.

I was also curious to know the designers thoughts on a recent big issue, that of model size and the presence of cuvier girls on the runway. Like many sceptics, she is doubtful of the staying power of this trend, though her line does not cater to size sixes only. All garments are cut up to a size 12, with a selection coming up to size 14. When asked if she would use a voluptuous Crystal Renn in future Flik Hall runway shows, she cautiously replied she would “see how it is at the time”. Unfortunately that time is still TBD. Plans for Flik Hall this fashion week include no runways, but lots of press and sales building. In an industry that is all about who you know, Felicity says people have been very willing to help. This being especially true in earlier days when she was literally a one woman show, handling all PR as well as design and production.

Aside from theory, whimsy and travel, I wondered if London street style had any conscious influences on the collection. “I saw a lot of exciting dress around my neighbourhood”, Ms. Hall disclosed, and as she explained to me how a black and blue, wool, leather and foam dress would make an amazing day look, I pictured edgy twenty-something’s trotting through Dalston, coffee in hand. It’s great to see a designer willing to bend the rules a bit. Admittedly, Felicity is not a fashion follower. Back on the subject of education, I wondered if she felt any regret at all about passing up the famed CSM fashion program. “It’s not a miracle school”, she noted, “a BA would be helpful, but not necessary”. Clearly the path unbeaten is working for her. What other aspirations does this self-taught entrepreneur hold? Travel, reading, collecting books. All decidedly leisurely hobbies, well deserved after what I anticipate to be a long and exciting career in fashion.

Written by Julie Slavin

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