“The shop has supported me as a working-class person. It has helped me to stabilise my life.” – Bailey
For Bailey, Fantastic Toiles did not only showcase their work, but it also helped them. Coming out of university, Bailey highlights the class struggles, which are deeply embedded in the UK. After graduating from the Chelsea College of Fine Art, they needed something to support themselves. “I come from a very working-class background, so after university, I started to curate clothes since that was a way to make visual work having to pay for a studio space. This is why I went straight into making clothes basically. The shop has supported me as a working-class person. It has helped me to stabilise my life,” Bailey says. With fashion being so exclusive to the middle class, Bailey wants to open the conversation and give their voice to people that tend to be overlooked by the system. “It is really important for me to have a product that is affordable to buy. If a working-class person walks into the Fantastic Toiles shop and they couldn’t buy anything, I would be upset by that,” they add. “Of course, it is important to have a budget, but it is equally important to price certain items so that people from different social backgrounds can afford them.”
“Creatively, it pushes you more. You are not only putting yourself on a pedestal – it’s everyone, shouting together.” – Leo Carlton
“Know your power. We are so much stronger than apart. Designers, makers and artists to the front. If we all work together, and with people from within the community, we can create magic, beautiful, thriving, and healthy environments. Don’t let middle people take unrealistic cuts from your profit,” states Nasir as the ethos of Fantastic Toiles. By creating this shop, he didn’t only create a retail model, but a whole new movement. “Creatively, it pushes you more. You are not only putting yourself on a pedestal – it’s everyone, shouting together,” says Leo Carlton, a headwear designer.
After working for Steven Jones, Leo initially put down their fashion intentions. “Working in the industry, meaning working for someone else, I was paid to make certain mistakes. That helped me to learn. The thing is, the longer I was working in the industry, the less I enjoyed it,” they say. Then lockdown hit, and Leo taught themselves how to properly do 3D modelling and how to use unusual materials such as fermented corn starch for their creations. That paved the way for their brand. “I was going to leave fashion. Then, I came back to London, and I did a pot wash job, which I really enjoyed. I just didn’t think about everything. Then I slowly started to seek out work again. I wanted to give it another go – I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines, complaining about the industry,” Leo says. They poured their energy into what felt right for them and ended up selling for Fantastic Toiles whilst getting the NEWGEN sponsorship. “Being part of NEWGEN pushed you into much more of a business space. In Fantastic Toiles, we all are super expressive creatively, we learn a lot from each other. This model feels a lot more realistic in today’s vibe,” they add.
Besides clothing, a good atmosphere and a heartfelt community, Fantastic Toiles is also offering a catalogue, called Offerings. Leo says that it is a visual collection of everything they are inspired by. Unlike usual magazines, it depicts creativity at its bone, without having to please an advertiser. For the future, Nasir would love to have it stocked worldwide. He wants to open up the pop-up to the rest of the planet. “I also would love for us to have a permanent space in London, a proper home for us,” he adds. And for their international fans, Nasir would love to start an online shop.
For now, Fantastic Toiles is operating in London. Having recently caught the eye of Nick Knight, the universe of the initiative is growing. Fantastic Toiles is not just a shop or an opportunity to purchase garments in a more sustainable, more local way – the intention goes way beyond the notion of conscious consumerism. It is a movement, protesting against the system in a postmodern way of being punk. “The only thing that is missing is a club night,” Nasir himself says.