Through the doors of a small, somewhat chaotic East London studio, sketches, scraps of fabric and half-dressed mannequins are interspersed with curious pieces of copper. Designer Sadie Clayton sits at a desk, surrounded by her sculpted creations. Some have been hammered into protective breastplates, others detailed with spiked studs.
“My design aesthetic? Power, elegance and a strong silhouette,” she says. Wearing a shimmering Lurex knit — one of her own making — atop her head is perched a feathered 1950s headpiece, while chunky rings adorn her fingers. “If I can capture that in my designs, my job is done.”
Clayton, for the uninitiated, is a relative newcomer to the fashion scene, having established her eponymous label in 2015 and launching its first commercial collection in February 2016. Her sculpted, avant-garde designs often blur the boundaries between art, style and technology, and she gleefully experiments with the cutting-edge. A collaboration with MHD Hologram saw her S/S 2017 collection brought to life with hypnotic visuals at the Royal Academy of Arts, while pieces from her S/S 2018 range took on a new dimension through augmented reality when shown at the M&C Saatchi offices. Other achievements range from product partnerships with Cutler & Gross and Swarovski to debuts at Art Basel Miami and Singapore Design Week.
Fundamentally, I design for a strong woman who isn't afraid to express herself
Frequent themes in Clayton’s work include abstract meditations on time and “headspace”, in addition to stylistic takes on her beloved crystals, from structural manifestations to decorative embroidery and embellishment. As might be guessed from the hardware scattered about the studio, her wearable copper sculptures have also become something of a calling card. Clayton sources metal from Copper Trade organisations and far-flung destinations, such as Chile — she relishes the idea of creating artistic synergy with traditionally industrial environments.
Once the raw material arrives in the studio, she makes a mock-up model from plaster of Paris bandages before following the same old-school process she uses when creating clothes: draping on a mannequin to find the right pattern to cut — “I cannot think two-dimensionally,” she says.
Clayton cites architects and sculptors — Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor and Barbara Hepworth — alongside the likes of Alexander McQueen and Martin Margiela as her icons, with the inimitable Grace Jones as her muse. “Fundamentally, I design for a strong woman who isn’t afraid to express herself and doesn’t look to the usual designer brands as the only way of showing her style,” she says. It makes perfect sense — one can certainly imagine a commanding figure such as Grace Jones donning Clayton’s feminine armour.
Pushing the boundaries of structural femininity is what makes my label shine
Clayton is clearly uninterested in mass commercial appeal.
“I have never compromised to fit in with stereotypes. Pushing the boundaries of structural femininity is what makes my label shine,” she explains. “Beauty is just an opinion. The heart of the industry is being eroded by a throwaway mentality and a focus on fast-changing commodities, limiting the scope for young designers, such as myself, who still believe in the beauty of the bespoke.”
By disregarding the constraints of fast fashion, Clayton is free to focus on her craft, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that stand their own against fickle trends. Indeed, while most fashion designers are currently racing to finish their S/S 2019 collections, Clayton is instead working on a series of sculptures. “Usually I create these to complement clothing, but this time the clothing isn’t actually there. It’s a challenge, but I’m enjoying not having to worry about limb constraints. I also have two fashion/tech projects and several exciting collaborations underway that will run through 2019 — the first will be revealed at Shanghai Fashion Week, so stay tuned...”
This one-of-a-kind designer is a definite one to watch.
Integrity —and a love of all things sartorial —has taken Simon Crompton’s respected blog from strength to strength.
A cultured voice rising above the babble of the blogosphere, Simon Crompton’s considered commentary on men’s fashion has earned him a loyal online following. Permanent Style is a haven for all things related to classic menswear, from crisp tailoring through to such casual staples as well-crafted leather jackets and denim, in addition to the occasional piece on fragrance and watches.
“Integrity has always been core to Permanent Style,” says Crompton, straightening his impeccable Sartoria Dalcuore suit. “We never take money for content — unlike the vast majority of the fashion media — and we’re also not afraid to write negative reviews. Professionalism is also important; we publish three times a week, without fail.”
An Oxford alumni and born-and-bred Londoner, Crompton has worked as a journalist since the start of his career, although his focus was mainly on running finance magazines — Permanent Style was initially started as a hobby. “It was back in the days when having a blog was still pretty unusual,” he recalls. “My professional background helped because it grew steadily, largely by word of mouth, until it was big enough for me to leave finance and do it full time. It was a very long segue into fashion.” His editorial background and genuine passion for quality, craftsmanship and stellar design soon shaped an intelligent platform populated with labels including Drake’s, Private White VC, Ralph Lauren and Ermenegildo Zegna.
Consequently, over the past decade, Permanent Style has gone from strength to strength. Alongside approval from such sartorial behemoths as Esquire and The New York Times, Crompton also counts interviews with Brunello Cucinelli and Pier-Luigi Loro Piana as some of his standout moments. “The ones I remember most, though, are the artisans, because their work is so personal and you’re often interviewing them in their atelier, next to their work, sometimes with family members in earshot.”
As befits a blogger of Crompton’s pedigree, he spends most of his workdays in style at Fitzrovia members’ club Mortimer House. Alongside research, writing and editing photographs, much of his time is spent engaging with his online audience. “The great comments we get on the website have become such a rich resource and that’s something you can’t really replicate on social media,” he says.
“The biggest challenge, though, is trying to swim against the tide — writing in-depth, independent, original articles in an age when every marketing tool prioritises shallow, image-driven commercial content.”
The biggest challenge is trying to swim against the tide
Somewhat unusually for a blogger, Crompton is a keen advocate of print media and is pleased to see the industry making signs of recovery. “I think people have realised what they value about books and magazines; the visual and tactile experience.” He has also authored five books to date — two self-published and three for professional publishers — including The Style Guide and Best of British, complete with stories behind the nation’s most iconic brands.
As an authority on luxury menswear, what are his thoughts on the future? “British tailoring is in a good place, with young people coming into the industry. It’s never been more fashionable to be a tailor, but some of the traditional tailors can be a little trapped by their traditions. Classic menswear does evolve — it takes years rather than months, but they need to keep up with it to stay relevant.”