“I had a subscription to Dazed when I was about sixteen for a year. That was probably the only time I ever really read a fashion magazine.” Evan Phillips is not a stereotypical fashion designer. His ambition? To create beautiful compositions that provoke emotions and meaning. What he creates, he says, is not high-fashion, but wearable art.
It was during his childhood years that Evan discovered an artistic talent and developed a creative mind. “We have boxes of my drawings from when I was around ten that my mum’s kept. I used to listen to really awful pop bands like Atomic Kitten and I would sit on the floor and draw all these terrible concert outfits for them and sketch the sets and everything.”
Always drawing, playing and inventing, design came naturally to Evan. From a young age his mother encouraged him to look at art works, visit galleries and attend exhibitions. His father was always outdoors, gardening, surrounded by nature and the greenery of the countryside. “I didn’t go into fashion as a fashion person,” he says. “It was more that I loved art and fashion was just the path I ended up taking.”
To Evan, recipient of the McQueen scholarship, inspiration comes from all aspects of life and the world that surrounds him. “Subconsciously things work their way in,” he explains, “I think that happens a lot with me, something pops into my head, but I can’t really explain where it’s from. I have to think about it and then I realise it’s that film that I watched ages ago or this book that I bought about something really random.”
His MA collection consists of eight sculptured and detailed looks in neutral-toned organza, stretched over the head to mask the face, creating a tent-like illusion. Each unique look is accompanied by a pair of oversized platform boots that encourage a distorted human figure. “I wanted the feet to be quite big in proportion to the rest of the body. They were actually the shoes from my previous collection, I took them apart and now they’re a more sophisticated version,” he explains.
Splitting his time equally between the chaos of London and a quiet village in Surrey meant that Evan remained involved in busy city-life, but could find sanctuary in the peaceful surroundings of his home and maintain a happy balance.
The ideas behind his MA collection sprung from spending long days outdoors in the summer. Evan found himself inspired by the beauty of nature: “I was doing a lot of gardening and taking a lot of pictures,” he explains. Surrounded by fresh air, Evan began to think of a world without technology, one that relies solely on the earth’s resources. His collection was created to tell the story of a life without computers and machinery: “There’s lots of references to nature, leaves, people wrapped in sheets, that kind of thing.”
Evan worked with CSM Fashion graduate Richard Quinn during his first year, helping with fabric cutting. Richard introduced Evan to a wealth of new medias and solutions that could manipulate shapes and textiles. “This gel saved my life,” he says, pointing to the translucent, glassy fabric pasted on his garments. “It’s similar to one Richard used, like PVA glue but more sophisticated. It shrinks the fabric to the exact size of the shape underneath and becomes quite plastic-y.” Experimenting with inks and paints, he was able to create materials that differed in stiffness and translucency, “I kept a pin board with all these different colours on: red, green and purple. It felt kind of like oil and petrol,” he explains.
Growing in artistic maturity, Evan wanted to progress further from his designs at BA level that incorporated heavy and detailed embroidery. “It was super labour intensive,” he says, “so this time I wanted to keep an element of that but make it more transferable and realistic.” By cutting holes in fabrics and stitching in three dimensional “leafy shapes,” he was able to develop an abstract form of embroidery, combined with the gel solution, to create layers of distorted fabric and clashing textures.
Although he appreciates everything he’s learnt, the 25-year-old prides himself more greatly on his artistic work as opposed to his academic achievements. “I’m glad I wasn’t in the show because I feel like at that point the collection wasn’t quite there yet,” he says. “Art is really subjective, one person might see something in someone’s work that other people don’t see.”
Having spent the past seven years as a student of Central Saint Martins, the idea of venturing solo into the competitive world of design and fashion is a daunting prospect for Evan. “It’s so weird because I spent so long thinking about my MA collection and now I’ve completely switched off after finishing. It’s quite scary, that jump afterwards. At some point I’d like to do my own thing, whether it’s illustration, textiles or pattern cutting – things that are within my aesthetic,” he explains.
Whichever path Evan chooses to take, his innovative working methods will allow him to grow and succeed, encouraging others to think outside of the box and implore new ideas. His designs are not simply fashion, nor strictly art. They are stories.
Words Sophie Swietochowski