We meet Clio Peppiatt and get a sneak preview of her AW16 collection.
In the midst of Storm Imogen, Clio Peppiatt’s cheery voice rings down the phone with welcome warmth. I’m catching up with Clio ahead of her second presentation at LFW. Whether it’s dropping into her UK suppliers to discuss final design details or receiving beautifully beaded finished pieces from India (and taking some time to design some custom celebrity pieces on the side) the Lewisham based designer is deep in the final throes of the collection, getting ready to show a hotly anticipated presentation for AW16.
Peppiatt’s brand has gained a cult following in a short amount of time. Having completed a foundation at LCF, she then earned her stripes at Ravensbourne, studying Fashion Print and Womenswear. Her laminated puffa jacket covered in hamburgers from her graduate collection was picked up by Style Bubble’s Susie Lau, and after a stint working for a wholesale supplier, Clio decided to make it on her own in 2014. When Peppiatt first debuted at LFW last season, she made a serious splash with a SS16 beauty pageant themed collection. The label has since become synonymous with a light, playful femininity that comes served with a ladel of pure, unadulterated fun. With Peppiatt, more is more, and you’re likely to find her glitter fuelled, metallic pink, faux fur trimmed jackets, skirts, tops and trousers on the crush list of every fashionista worth her salt.
Ahead of the AW16 collection, we caught up with Clio to chat sinister american motels, developing a slinky new aesthetic and designing for Lena Dunham.
Was fashion something you were always interested in?
I always always wanted to do fashion. When I was younger I used to make little clothes for my dolls and stuff like that. I was really interested in it! My main thing was I liked drawing so I ddi art at school and I could have gone the fine art route or fashion. I think what attracted me to fashion is that it can be so current. I come from quite a fine art background in terms of my parents as well and there’s something monumental about it. It’s a bit intimidating. Whereas I think with fashion you can constantly re-invent what you’re doing and I really like the thought of that. So I did foundation at LCF and then a degree at Ravensbourne. I worked for a little bit and interned a lot. I had quite a pushy mum! I was interning from the age of about 16 every summer.
Where were you interning?
I did McQueen, Anya Hindmarch, Cassette Playa and Matthew Williamson. It was a really broad range of places which helped me to discover what I wanted to do and what direction I wanted to go in after I graduated. Stylistically it was really varied.
It’s interesting because you can actually see that diverse range of influences in your work.
It was a mix of weird different things! I learnt so much that I ended up taking into my own practice. And then when I graduated I worked for a big wholesale supplier whilst trying to balance my own thing because thats what I wanted to do. And it got to a stage where it was kind of impossible and I thought why not just do it now? With the hours you’re working.. there’s such pros of waiting until you’re 30 when you have all these contacts. But the hours you’re doing, and you know the budgets you have to work on, I thought ‘I can’t do this when I have kids’. So about two years ago I started my own brand.
How have you generally found the transition from graduate to a designer?
It is my dream job. Although there are so many things you don’t think of. You’re working like 8 roles as one person. I have external support from HPR and interns which is fantastic but there is such a practicality to running a business, I really enjoy that bit. Sometimes though you want to just sit there and draw and not deal with sales… it is a huge learning curve, but I feel very lucky.
Art schools have a reputation for bringing together an eccentric bunch, did your experience at Ravensbourne influence your style?
It was actually really business focussed! Everything had to make sense. It had to be very considered. There was a lot of pressure on things like the finishing of your zips…I did commercial projects where we collaborated with brands like Toyshop and Hobbs. It was a very different education to traditional art school but you’re also reigned in a bit more. So you’d present an idea and they’d say “well no, because that’s not going to work in real life.” I think it’s good practice, but wasn’t held at all. We had ridiculous work rates with not much support. At the time, it was awful! Now though it’s actually been quite useful. And it meant you really learnt to know your own aesthetic.
So how did your aesthetic develop?
I think it didn’t really happen until my final year of uni, in my final collection. I’ve always loved drawing and I can draw quite realistically, it’s one of my strengths. And I think the first two years I wasn’t using that, I was studying print making and creating patterns, but in my final year I was like “oh, I can draw so maybe I should start using that in print”, which is when the illustrative side of my work really developed. I can draw quite realistically and also very stylistically. That’s something that I’ve kept because it does make your work slightly more individual. It’s like your handwriting.
What was the first piece you made in that kind of style, your breakthrough moment?
It was a couple of pieces where I suddenly thought “Oh I can have fun with this”. It wasn’t like with Hobbs –
I was going to say, what did you make for Hobbs?
…I didn’t do very well with Hobbs!
So you found your style in your graduate collection?
Yes. I did this laminated puffa jacket with hamburgers and food all over it. It was absolutely ridiculous and kind of the first time I had the freedom to something like that without being too serious with it. That’s something I’m still trying to do with my work: fashion can be fun and it doesn’t have to be taken too seriously. I always work with quite simple shapes so in terms of decoration, that’s where I have fun. I want it to be as creative as possible.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
I find it really difficult! It’s definitely one of my weaknesses because for me, more is always more! I find it hard to stop and think ‘“that’s absolutely finished.” I think it’s something I’ve learnt more as I’ve carried on. This season there’s a few more minimal interpretations as well as the really fun, showy pieces. I guess it’s about developing the commerciality of it all as I’m going along and learning which pieces are great press pieces and which are going to sell. And I find that often that’s very very different.
Which is a shame right?
It is! But, it’s really interesting as well. In social media you see the showy pieces are one that people fall absolutely in love with and want, but then no-one really buys them. So, it’s always the simpler pieces, and not necessarily the ones with tinsel hanging off it, that do well.
Have you ever made a piece that you look at in a presentation and think ‘argh why did I do that’?
Definitely. I can’t think what it would be but I mean, I’m super self critical and a lot of things I look back on and think “oh i could have done that better” or “oh it would have been better if I tried this with it”. When you’re in such a short time frame, sometimes you don’t have the option of exploring every possible avenue. But I think that’s something you learn as you go along. For illustrations this season i’m using a lot of embellishment and embroidery. Rather than just printing, I’m taking a simple aspect of the drawing and having it embellished. Which makes things like simple jumpers a bit more special.
Let’s talk AW16! What was the inspiration behind this collection?
This one is really inspired by motels and hotels. I normally take a huge amount of inspiration from films, and I’ve been watching a lot of American Horror Story. I love the hotel in it! I think i fell in love with the idea of the anonymity of it: all these people in one building but no-one knows whats going on in the room next door. They’re just linked by a location. I find that really interesting and I like the seediness of it. My main reference point was Grand Budapest Hotel crossed with The Shining: pretty and very aesthetic but also a little bit dark and a bit twisted and full of secrets. And then also looking at all of these incredible, 70’s American hotels which are so beautiful and a bit gross at the same time, but kind of gorgeous.
And there’s something quite sinister about hotels –
Yeah, exactly! I’ve been looking at an amazing photographer who’s pretty dark but the way I’ve interpreted all of these thoughts into my collection is a lot more light and fun and in keeping with the brand. But in particular I’ve been looking at this photographer called Joseph Finnigan would would stay in a hotel for three nights in the north of the UK. When he was there he would get all of these volunteers who were coming in just for sex and he would photograph them just before. And they’re all kind of masked so you can’t tell their actual identity, but they are just incredible photographs. Again it just ties into the secrecy of it. People living a complete separate life just because they’re in an anonymous location.
How has that translated into the collection?
So quite a lot of the jackets are hotel room scenes. You can see what’s going on in the hotel room, that’s been quite fun.
Are you keeping to the same silhouettes, in terms of the simple shapes?
There’s actually quite a lot of different shapes coming in this season. I feel like I’ve done a lot of very cute, very girly collections and with this one it’s a little but more grown up. It’s quite sophisticated and sexy. In terms of colour palette, it’s still very fun and very youthful but there’s more pyjama shapes which are a bit slinky.
In terms of personal style, do you wear other people or is it only your own designs?
I wear my own mostly! I do a lot of second hand shopping as well, especially 70’s clothes. That plays a massive influence in my designs as well. So no I don’t wear other people’s clothes that often. I think all of my collections are basically collections of what I want to wear! I’ve always thought why not make your own dream wardrobe, because surely there are also going to be other people who also feel that way. So it’s quite nice, every season there’s like a whole new wardrobe!
Your designs do have that girl gang vibe. Charles Jeffrey has the Loverboy night, have you ever thought of taking your aesthetic outside of the catwalk?
Well a lot of the girls that we saw last season, which was the first proper presentation in LFW, we found on instagram or were girls who just really liked the brand, who had been commenting and sharing things. We thought these are the perfect girls because these are the girls who will wear it in real life as well, it’s not an act they’re putting on, they are girls of the brand. And that’s something that we’re hoping to do this season as well. You see so many beautiful, gorgeous girls for casting, and it’s the ones with the personality that you remember because they really stick out. Especially girls that really embody the brand because they’re un and chatty. They have to be there for two hours and they have to fill a room!
And how do you find putting together the presentation?
I love it! It’s one of my favourite things each season. I like thinking about how the set is going to represent the presentation and thinking about the invitations… seeing it all come together. With me as well, it’s always more is more so it’s always going to have to be very perfect with lots going on. I work with an amazing set designer and stylist. It’s so much fun because its a collaborative process and it’s so nice to hear other people’s ideas based around the clothes and seeing that come into a real life moment. It wouldn’t be right showing them in a stripped down, minimalist scenario. This season I wanted to create a mini, motel Clio. It’s been really fun so far.
How do you find the presentations?
Last time was the first one and I just kind of wanted to blend into the background! But obviously it’s not the case and you have to talk to people. I was completely calm and completely fine up until the doors opened…And then it’s really overwhelming, you know when you feel like you’re not really there? I think it will a bit easier this season, it’s just a matter of getting used to it. It’s quite a private thing to open up something you’ve been working on for six months. I still work in my bedroom, it’s very much just me seeing it. It’s quite intimidating seeing what the reaction is: do people like it, do they understand it? But this season it’s a bit more grown up – there’s black in it! It’s kind of growing up with me and i’m interested to see how it evolves. I think it will always have the core in it but just reinventing it a bit each time.
What’s the most stressful part of the process?
Pre season. The month before the presentation there’s so many things are up in the air. I like being in the midst of it all, but working with so many people you realise that even though for you its your baby, other people have other things to work on. Just scheduling things is a huge learning curve! Every season it’s just like ticking off a few more things. I’m lucky in that a lot of my peers and friends are doing similar things, so they understand when you disappear for two weeks and don’t answer your phone. My boyfriend is a solo artist and it’s just as tough for him. But it’s great because you understand each other so well and everything links together because you’re in the same world, which makes it much more interesting.
Is there a creative crossover at all?
His aesthetic as a musician is very different from me, it’s inspired by a completely different set of things. But he did the music last season and he’s doing it again for this presentation. It ’s so much fun to work and make like cheesy 80’s music.
What type of music were you listening to whilst designing?
So the base point for the whole presentation is Klymaxx, Meeting in the Ladies Room. It’s been a lot of 80’s dance music, really sassy.
Looking ahead for the rest of 2016, what’s the plan?
Last year we did a project called Female Matters which raised money for the Dahlia Project, a charity that supports survivors of FGM. This year we’re going to re-create it but in a different way. We wanted a massive collaboration project so last year we had loads of white knickers and sent them out to all kinds the amazing girls working in creative industries. And then we had a one off exhibition with artists like Georgie Grace Gibson, Eleanor Hardwick and Maisie Cousins.
From a design perspective, I’m really into doing custom pieces. I just did one for Lena Dunham which was high point. I love her. She completely embodies the brand and the type of girl I want to be designing for. I love those type of projects, and now because the production of my designs isn’t just being done by me it fi is being done in factories it gives me time to focus on the one off pieces. So hopefully more of those!
First published on Wonderland, February 15th 2016
Read the Clio Peppiatt AW16 show report by India Doyle here.