For most people the word alcohol conjures up memories of a stumbling, drunken stupor. For Claire Barrow, it translated into a collection of finely illustrated and hand painted silk shift dresses, rubber pieces, Pollock-esque cigarette trousers, and of course her signature, the leather jacket. This season she produced them bearing ghoul faces and otherworldly creatures, applied with a swirly brush stroke that in itself denoted an intoxicated experience. “I was looking at all the old good drunks, like Charles Bukowski. The regality of alcohol packaging directly inspired all of the prints,” the designer said backstage at her S/S 13 show and official London Fashion Week debut, presented as part of the Fashion East lineup.
Barrow’s unique vision, be it this season’s inspiration or the Surrealist movement and promiscuity for her graduate collection, has not gone unnoticed. There are the pieces she created for Rihanna’s Loud tour on one hand, collaborations with the likes of Joseph and Underground on the other. What marks Barrow’s work as especially refreshing is the handcrafted aspect of it all, a return to a punk, DIY aesthetic, but with an added finesse. There may be the raw, in your face energy and attitude about her creations, but at the same time an appreciation for something more delicate. An ode to art forms of the past and a certain sensibility that is often overlooked in the genre of safety pin earrings and slashed trousers that her aesthetic is often associated with. In the same way that Barrow doesn’t fully commit to either womenswear or menswear in her collections, neither does she allow herself to be pigeonholed into a certain category of fashion design.
“I like the aspect that at this point, having just graduated, I am really in touch with what I am making, it is all very hands on,” says the 22-year-old, who completed her Womenswear degree at University of Westminster. That approach extends to her carefully painted name on the back of every leather jacket, giving each design the feeling of being produced by an exceptionally talented friend, rather than a fashion brand. Her intimate mode of creation presents a comforting antidote to the ever-quickening pace of the fashion industry’s mass production methods. Barrow sums up the raison d’être of her young label by passionately stating, “This is my artwork. It’s great to see people wearing something that I have had such close contact with”.
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