In the same month that Rishi Sunak [Chancellor of the Exchequer] suggested that people in the arts should retrain and find a new job, Australian-born, London-based designer Bianca Batson was granted a UK global talent visa. In a moment of irony, Batson wanted her first collection since receiving the visa to be a massive middle finger salute to Sunak’s remarks and a celebration of the UK’s thriving arts scene: with proceeds going to Help Musicians, an independent charity helping self-employed musicians who don’t qualify for income support.
Deliciously titled, Have Fun or Fuck Off, the capsule features a range of comfy tracksuit pieces alongside accessories, all adorned in Batson’s signature graphics – this season includes a topless self-portrait holding a switch-blade. Spotlighted in a collage lookbook, images feature musician friends CC Honeymoon and Aimee Gillingwater spliced with ripostes to the government’s suggestion that artists should retrain and Batson’s government career quiz results that say she should become a horse groomer.
Below, Batson talks us through the anger, enjoyment and hope behind the collection.
On the inspiration behind the collection…
“At the beginning of October I was granted a global talent visa for the UK, so when Rishi Sunak essentially announced that musicians and other out-of-work artists should retrain, I thought it was incredibly ironic. The UK has a creative economy worth billions, and yet artists are being told to take a careers quiz to find alternative jobs. I actually worked for a corporate company in 2019 (they sponsored my visa and I thought I would give it a go)… it was awful… I left and never looked back. It’s a given that you should do something you love and my life motto is have fun or fuck off!”
“I thought about my last corporate job and what would make their jaws drop, so one of the graphics is me topless holding a switchblade [laughs].”
On how this translated to the collection…
“When I did my MA collection in 2017, I used the phrase ‘have fun or fuck off’ on the t-shirts and socks I pre-sold to fund my show. To be honest, I just thought it was really funny and that friends would buy them to support me, but people did genuinely seem to love it. That whole project was based on visa struggles, Brexit and other world events, so the phrase was very fitting.
This new outrageous claim for artists to retrain felt like the right time to bring back the phrase. I wanted this to be a wholistic project and create signature pieces to sell so I could donate some profits to a creative fund helping struggling artists at this time. I wanted all the graphics to be fun and cheeky – everything a square would hate. I thought about my last corporate job and what would make their jaws drop, so one of the graphics is me topless holding a switchblade [laughs]. The pieces are all super wearable: tracksuits and socks to get cosy for winter and some latex earrings in case we’re ever allowed to dress up and socialise again.”
On the lookbook imagery…
“I didn’t want this to just be about the clothes, it was super important that the final images were fun. It’s meant to be a subtle fuck you to anyone who has undermined the creative industries or refuses to see it for how impactful it is. I did that stupid careers quiz after Liam Gallagher posted the funniest parody of it on his Instagram (go look at it, I laughed for so long) and I was recommended to retrain as a stable lass, or horse groomer. Who needs designers, photographers & musicians aye?
The models (who are also friends) are all artists themselves too. Asher, aka CC Honeymoon, is a musician and Aimee has her first record coming out soon! It was really fun getting them involved, in fact, everyone who worked on the shoot are my friends, and all super talented. I couldn’t imagine any of us doing anything else!”
“I wanted all the graphics to be fun and cheeky – everything a square would hate.”
On the government’s (lack of) guidance and help for the arts world during this pandemic is…
“A lot of creatives work freelance, so It was disheartening to see how long it took for financial assistance to come in for freelancers. While everyone works from home and binges Netflix, it’s the creatives who are producing content for entertainment and helping to build better digital experiences – all of which the government seem to forget. I like to think that most of us are just laughing and ignoring their instructions to retrain, but at the end of the day, lack of support (financially and emotionally) is hard for anyone.”
On hopes for 2021…
“I hope younger generations are not discouraged from pursuing creative careers. We will always need arts and culture to enrich our lives!”