Representing the creative future

The Masters: Phoebe Kime

Meet the CSM MAF Knitwear graduate who was inspired by the vibrant colour clashes she spotted on the subway.

Big cities. They are filled with the restless energy of crowds, with strange encounters, with opportunities, failures, romance, life. Sometimes it is hard to find the desired serenity amidst its chaos. CSM graduate Phoebe Kime, however, exudes the calmness and transforms the place around her. If it was possible to describe people with a colour palette, one would struggle with her – vibrant and sharp, she is also shy and warm, with a quiet voice and infectious laughter.

Phoebe recently graduated from the Fashion MA, where she combined her love for knitwear and colour. “Starting my BA in fashion knitwear was weird. I remember my mother teaching me how to knit at the age of 7, and I threw the needles at her because I hated it so much… And now I have just finished my MA!” The designer came from an art background, and it reflects in her process: instead of indulging in library research, she always preferred to collage, draw and take photos.

Phoebe comes from an ‘arty’ family – her mother was a textile restorer and her father collected 20th century furniture. She spent her childhood in church, and those experiences frequently creep into her work: the designer was an altar server clothed in long gowns that were never a perfect fit. “You could see what people wore under – fishnets, trainers, things that you would never associate with church.” Although her graduate collection doesn’t directly reflect religion, Phoebe’s work still references juxtapositions, things not looking quite the way they should be. “I like to look at things that people wouldn’t see unless it was pointed out to them.”

The designer’s graduate collection reflects this ‘more than meets the eye’ concept. The original inspiration was a fruit of a collaboration with a dance company, where she saw her own work in another context. “My work is quite sculptural, but as the dancers moved it really opened my eyes – I realised that it doesn’t need to be a solid shape.” Phoebe focused on movement: she wanted the jersey to echo the body as it moved thus creating an ephemeral yet sculptural shape.  The concept came to life when the designer started cutting through her knits and adding inserts of light jersey in contrasting colours. The fabric was sourced from the company that worked with natural dyes, which resulted in different shades every time. The colour combinations were never specifically worked out, and Phoebe recalls how it just worked in the moment. “It may not work another time. But this is very important in what I do, because it is always just trial and error.”

Knitwear is an unforgiving craft for experimenting – one small mistake can torment you for days after. But Phoebe stresses that the epitome of her work is imperfection: “I never planned ahead. When I cut through my garments to insert jersey, it was never the perfect cut – but I just did it.” There was a conflict between the shape and textile: the designer created countless samples of similar textiles just to get the right weight, which was one of the biggest challenges in her process. It was also the most rewarding. “The process to me is almost more important than the outcome – I like to see the life behind the garment.”

The colourful playfulness of the collection draws you in immediately. Phoebe laughs and remembers how she took the tube around London, noticing people’s bags or clothes cutting through in different angles and clashing shades, taking photos of little details others could miss. She created spontaneous and colourful collages, always  trying to hold on to her child-like qualities. “My work is quite naïve – everyone around me always felt so professional, but I just learned that it was what works with my work. I am myself with my work. I want to hold on to that aspect.”

In the world of overexposed sexuality, Phoebe has carved a place for her own understanding of femininity: the illusion of the body underneath the massive fabric of the garment. “The mystery that is there, is what is sexy to me. Seeing something new every time you see someone.” The designer chose to forego layering and create each piece as a unique look of the collection. It made it more special for her, and reflected the concept of movement. “All of the garments are dress variations, because I have always worn them. And I think the collection needs to have the sense of you. You need to be true to yourself, not just in your collection, but in everything. I am never going to be someone I am not.”