Pretty in Pink
We waste no time getting started with Clio Peppiatt.
In the first 10 minutes of our conversation we cover topics as far reaching as the complexity of the modern woman, fashion’s lack of diversity and fetishisation of youth, and the loud, voluptuous lady sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle.
The much-loved emerging designer dives in by telling us about her Female Matters exhibition. Co-curated with Ione Gamble, Editor-in-Chief of the proudly trashy zine Polyester, the event explores sexual liberation in the 21st century. Along with over 30 artists, photographers and creatives, the designer is customising a pair of knickers to coincide with the event. They are to go on display on a washing line in Shoreditch in a bid to raise money and awareness of female genital mutilation.
“The reason we’ve taken this stance,” she tells us, “is to get people to come in and feel able to talk about it in an environment that’s not intimidating.”
It’s not the only potent collaboration she’s working on. Her Autumn/Winter ‘15 collection includes three handbags, the first collaboration between Peppiatt and accessories designer Sara Sboul. Sboul’s heart-shaped doggy clutches are so in sync with Peppiatt’s crafty, emoticon- embracing sensibility that you wonder how they weren’t already sipping from the same punch bowl for years before now.
These two designers are part of a wave of London talent, including Cassandra Verity Green, Piers Atkinson and Ashley Williams, who are disregarding definitions of good and bad taste with their alternative fabrics, neon palettes, pop imagery and faux furs. Indeed, such concepts feel like anachronisms when observing the output of this creative set, where craft, detail and fun is placed at the heart of all work.
Feminism is also a big part of Peppiatt’s vision. She aims to confront the realities faced by modern women through myriad textures and patterns, though the message at heart is really quite simple: you can be whatever you want to be.
“When I first set out I had a really strong feeling that a lot of the time, when a designer presents a collection, it’s for this kind of girl, or that kind of girl,” she declares. “It’s often quite a two-dimensional representation of what a woman is. I try to present a multi-layered, real woman. That’s reflected in a very literal sense with print, embroidery, beading, working with layers, and also by having a range of different garments just to reflect the fact that you don’t wear the same thing every day. It depends on what mood you’re in and how you wake up feeling, how you want to represent yourself that day.”
The reductive portrayal of women – whether it’s through age, race or attitude – is something that continues to crop up in the industry. A backlash to fashion’s minimalist tendencies, the multi-faceted modern woman is a core element to Peppiatt’s vision, striving to evoke complexity in collections that are cohesive.
“I’m interested in presenting traditional femininity with something new,” she explains. “The pink colour palette, embellishment and fluffy textures are all traditionally linked to femininity. I’m also interpreting handcraft – crochet, needlework, all of those things that women traditionally did – in a modern way, as well as trying to pull different ideas of femininity into one so you have a well- rounded representation of a woman.”
She describes her aesthetic as a melting pot of femininity, combining oft-fetishised materials like latex and leather with cute, pretty details like crochet and beading.
“I build up layers of different techniques and textures on quite a simple, wearable shape, just so that it’s not too close to costume – not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Peppiatt graduated from Ravensbourne University with a BA in Fashion Print and Womenswear in 2013. From the age of 16, she began securing placements with fashion houses during the summer breaks. Interning at Cassette Playa and Madrid-based Agatha de la Prada no doubt consolidated her love of bold colour and pattern – the latter’s upturned umbrella skirts, ball pool dresses and fried egg prints make Jeremy Scott’s Moschino look discreet.
Printed on a cropped shirt from Peppiatt’s current Spring/Summer ‘15 collection are heavy-lidded eyes, muscly mermen in sailor caps and cocktails complete with pink umbrellas. This bedecks a backdrop of patchwork pattern: zig-zags, love hearts, and tablecloth squares. The detail of the print does indeed verge on maniacal. “I’ve always really loved detail,” Peppiatt explains. “I will sit for hours and hours working on something and really enjoy it.”
The coming Autumn/Winter collection features patchworked stripes of alternating coloured fur and love hearts. A bubblegum pink velour leotard wears a textured blue and yellow heart on the crotch, calling to mind Vivienne Westwood’s fig leaf bodystocking from 1989.
“When you are discussing serious ideas, making them inviting with colour and detail helps,” Peppiatt explains. “Maybe it’s about drawing people in. But yeah, I’ve always liked shiny things, pink and shiny things!”
Throughout our conversation, 70s fashion, the work of Grayson Perry and Niki de Saint Phalle are all cited as influences for Peppiatt’s bright, uncompromising style. Indeed, those three points of reference are a good way to summarise her work: joyful, political and profoundly feminine.