Phoebe English is committed to keeping her boutique fashion line local. Phoebe founded her women’s and menswear label in 2011 off the back of her debut graduate collection. It’s built on rejecting “fast” fashion; she champions sustainability in her designs and her business decisions. She knows that small initiatives can have profound impacts. Her approach to sustainability began with a sole focus on packaging. “By examining and analyzing our packaging, we then decided to remove all of the plastic,” she says. It’s these seemingly simple changes that have led to larger brand-wide initiatives. As her business has grown, she’s remained committed to producing all of her pieces in England with close attention to detail and quality. So, she was eager to step up to the unprecedented challenge posed by Augmented Atelier.
Phoebe’s clothing has become a cult favorite over the past decade, consistently showing at London Fashion Week with a dedicated, global following. As an artist and designer, she focuses on structure and textile engineering, employing a straightforward, natural, and utilitarian edge to her androgynous designs. Her process is traditional and done by hand, with a painstaking attention to detail that’s apparent across her entire company.
When approached by Jaime Perlman from More or Less to be a part of the Augmented Atelier, Phoebe was excited at the possibility of more sustainable, fabric-free designs—but also curious about what fully digital production would look like in her studio and when applied to her handmade process.
Designing a digital garment seemed like an intriguing challenge for such a hands-on designer. “It’s not something that plays to my strengths. I don’t use any computer-aided design tools at all, it’s not part of my practice,” she says. “I was quite excited to see how I could work with Augmented Atelier as a process and what I could do with it.”
The experience opened Phoebe’s eyes to the new direction technology might take fashion in the future. “To be able to pull an augmented design out of the computer and have it within human scale for designers is really incredible. It allows us to understand how we can develop ideas or push the fabric representation or fit into a new dimension,” she says. She also sees promise in how it can function as source of collaboration.
“Often when I’m designing, I’m trying to portray something in my imagination to other members of the team, and this technology could make some aspects of that process of interaction easier.”
- Phoebe English
“When you're working on a mannequin, you have the limitation of the size of the mannequin. But when you're working with technology like this, you can easily swap between different sizes, shapes, and heights of bodies which is really useful in terms of making design more accessible.”
- Phoebe English
Augmented Atelier was a step towards the more considered approach to design that Phoebe hopes to see more of in the future. “At the moment, designers in general have very little regard for where a fabric comes from and where the final garment ends up. I hope the future of fashion takes into consideration the beginning, middle, and end of the design to a greater degree as part of our general practice —and begin to loop these things up into a more circular and less environmentally damaging industry.”