Tough Love

Super bugs, reverse evolution and medics in the basement: The Claire Barrow (SS15) Experience
By Tempe Nakiska | Fashion | 16 September 2014
Photography Harry Clark
This article is part of Fashion Week – London, Milan, Paris, NYC

Claire Barrow’s ethos is not so much ‘fashion’ as it is pure vision.

Artistic vision? Aesthetic? A celebration of her own beloved subcultures, or a vision for a societal alternative to the one we’ve been landed with? All of those, really. But ask anyone what this designer’s on about and if the response you get doesn’t tout experience as a defining factor then you can tell them to go shopping. Go touch her pieces; the prints; the punk detailing; biker jackets she hand paints herself and has done since well before she entered Fashion East and the public consciousness four seasons ago. They’re larger than life, transcending fashion and gender (Barrow is just as happy for boys to wear her pieces as girls). That’s what really makes them something.

The weekend saw Barrow invite the attendees of her SS15 presentation down into the basement of an old BBC recording studio, where she painted this season’s sci-fi landscape. “It’s the uniforms for men and women with medical expertise curing a super bug which has taken over the Western world,” Barrow says. “The bug reverses evolution and humans become four legged creatures.”

The designer’s story was channeled via her signature balance of delicate and tough (think back to SS14’s artsy DIY punks), her mutated creatures hand painted and printed across lamb nappa bikers, shirting and boots.

Claire Barrow SS15. Photography Harry Clark

Claire Barrow SS15. Photography Harry Clark

Claire Barrow SS15. Photography Harry Clark

Still, there was method in the madness: “That’s the story, but I wanted every piece to make sense standalone,” she explains. That the one men’s look (shown on Barrow’s friend Shola, a fiction writer – no guesses as to why these two are mates) had its own language as much as speaking that of the entire collection says she achieved this aim. The other models were cast from medical schools, while a performance piece, specially composed by Owen Pratt for the presentation, saw the collection interpreted via the voices of experimental musician Ebe Oke (who’s previous collaborators include Brian Eno) and Sheffield actor and theatre and ballet student Mathew Hickey.

Incorporating traditional Japanese scales and Steve Reich’s concepts of phase, the music further channeled Barrow’s holistic devotion to conceptual beauty, logic balanced with imagination and emotion.

“It’s tough but it’s also soft… it’s about tender love and care,” finishes the designer, reflecting on the overarching feeling of the collection. For when you get down to it, that pretty much sums up the Claire Barrow DNA.

And that’s why she’s so good.

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