• Text Sara Semic
  • 17th February 2020

Nothing new

In tune with the popular adage, for FW20, Phoebe English turned other designers’ waste into treasures of her own. While many designers are clamouring to improve their green credentials and making token gestures towards sustainability, English has been at the vanguard of driving real, meaningful change in the industry through her collections. Last season, the Deptford-based designer chose to work with certified sustainable fabric suppliers and for this collection, titled Nothing New, she went one step further and sourced all of her fabrics from various studios across London, pooling together their deadstock to make an entire collection.

“Last season we worked a lot with certified sustainable fabrics but we were still having to ship them from quite far, so it was really about exploring locality and trying to see things we already have as treasure,” English explained backstage. “The collection as a whole is a patchwork of all of the different design communities and studios we have here in London, so it’s kind of a lot of different personalities in one body of work.”

Community was at the heart of the collection, from the show notes – featuring an illustrated map crediting the studios sourced from (from Martine Rose to Charles Jeffrey, to name but a few) – down to the choice of venue. Staged in Shoreditch’s Tab Centre, which channels the money it makes into supporting the local community, a live psaltery performance (a medieval string instrument) on the balcony above, lent the space a numinous quality, as models stood in formation, their faces bathed in white light.

Boasting quilted jackets stuffed with silk organza offcuts, panelled dresses made from reclaimed silks and linens in English’s signature monochromatic palette, the collection had a sense of simplicity that belies the hard graft of the designer’s zero-waste pattern cutting and upcycling skills. Looks were finished with sustainable fishnet tights from hosiery brand Swedish Stockings (who use recycled nylon yarn) and cross-shaped silver earpieces, handmade by jewellery maker Carol Wiseman from old silver tablespoons, which “symbolically cross out and block out the sound of our right-wing politics”.