We catch up with new girl on the fashion block, Sadie Clayton, to get the lowdown on her decorative industrial designs

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As a self-confessed fashion magpie with a weakness for bling, interviewing Sadie Clayton, who has a borderline obsession with copper – as a colour, a material, or even as a plumbing bracket (!) – felt like a meeting of two metallic minds.

After graduating from Kingston University last year with a BA in Fashion Design and a second place position for the Innovation Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2013, Clayton stormed on to present her Autumn/Winter 2014/15 collection at London Fashion Week. A surprise only to her, the show was chock-a-block with London’s fashion industry: all wanting to catch a glimpse of this up-and-coming designer’s architectural yet ornate pieces.

We recently caught up with Clayton over a bottle of red to discuss what the future has in store for this whirlwind of young talent…

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What was it that first inspired you to become a womenswear designer?

I’m from up North, and grew up in a tiny little village called Mirfield. Everything there always felt kind of backwards to me, as everyone dressed the same. I got to about the age of 14 and I was like “Mum, I don’t want to wear what everybody else is wearing”. So I started going to charity shops. I’d buy dresses and cut them up and I’d get loads of beads and wear loads and loads of beads around my neck with gold Converse. All of my friends were like “Sadie, what are you wearing?”, and at that point I realised: if I’m doing this now then I should look to do this long term.Then when I finished my GCSEs I applied for fashion school – Batley School of Art where Christopher Bailey went – and I got in and I just flew through the entire course. I really enjoyed it. I put my heart and soul into it, and that’s when I truly felt like I’d become a fashion designer.

Who or what inspired the decorative-meets-industrial aesthetic of your designs?

I was always inspired by Gareth Pugh. I even managed to get an internship with him when I first came to London. I’ve also always been inspired by architecture. I wanted people to wear sculptures that would sit on a human form. So, for instance, in my final collection at college I’d made these dresses that had got these big steps and this big jumpsuit with a huge comb on it. Not necessarily wearable – you wouldn’t catch a woman wearing that down the street! – but at the time it felt right.Then, obviously, when I went through university I felt I had to refine that and become more mature. Of course you can’t help what you’re inspired by, therefore I couldn’t ever shy away from this architectural form, but I did refine it. Even now, the Spring/Summer 2015 collection that I’m working on at the moment, it’s not as industrial, but I’ve still chosen fabrics that aren’t necessarily conventional. So I’m still juxtaposing materials. Also, the minute that you separate my latest pieces, you’ll see that they are wearable. Not all of them, don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got the element of editorial, but the majority are completely wearable.

Can you talk us through your upcoming Spring/Summer collection in a bit more detail?

It’s inspired by something so simple, the Pompidou Centre. And the only reason I say it’s simple is because when you actually look at it and study it you’ll see that all its forms come in three. And the number three is my thing. When I did my final collection at university last year, the sculptures that I made all had three straps. The print that I designed had three chairs, which I developed. Everything was all about three. So when I looked at the Pompidou, there were three funnels, there were three pipes… And looking at the negative space between them made my form and pattern cutting plans start to evolve. Of course, I’ve been inspired by my previous collection as well – the patterns from that – but I have developed them. My last collection was all black and copper, and this collection is all white and copper. I’ll always keep the copper element.

Interesting, and why the obsession with copper?

The reason I chose copper is because in fashion – up until lately, because now I feel as if I can see it everywhere! – it was always about brass, silver or aluminium. It was never about copper. Fabric is my thing. So when I was doing my graduate collection I came across these plumbing copper brackets. I was playing around with them and then I ended up making my own fabric from them. I placed three copper brackets together, and it formed this lovely shape, so I just repeated it and repeated it and it ended up forming a dress. I also have got something similar in my next collection.

Tell us a bit about your jewellery collection.

After I graduated I had all these copper brackets leftover, so I started making bits of jewellery. They got really well received, so I thought that I’d keep going! Then, obviously, the more I kept going, the more I wanted to make bigger and bigger pieces. The beauty of the copper brackets is that you can make all these different shapes with them because of the nature of their own shape. And you can also attach them at any point. I’m constantly just evolving the shapes that I can make with these copper brackets. They are expensive though, so at the moment I’m trying to limit myself!Copper obviously will oxidise at some point, but I’m looking forward to seeing that transition. The sculptures from my graduate collection initially looked as if they had never been touched: bright, mirrored copper metal. Now there’s hairspray all over them and finger marks, but they still look good. It looks like it’s supposed to be there. I can’t wait to see my pieces in ten years.

I like that your pieces will change as their owner does.

Exactly. In both my last collection and my upcoming collection I’ve got garments that have the woven fabrics and the copper brackets as well, so the wovens will always stay the same, but will be next to the copper brackets that are going to change and deteriorate and I’m looking forward to that.

Have you got any upcoming plans or collaborations?

I’m collaborating with Mary Franck at the moment. She’s a milliner. We’ve got these two amazing, amazing hats, but I’m still waiting to meet her in a couple of weeks for the third hat. I don’t want too many I just want a few. So I’ve currently got hats and shoes [a collaboration with London College of Fashion’s Charlene Ong], and that’s enough for the moment.

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

I think my ideal would be Piers Atkinson. I’d love to collaborate with him in the future. Ultimately, I would like to collaborate with someone who is extremely well known, but, at the same time, I’ve still got to know my limits. I am only a year out of university, and so for now I want to keep my progress slow and steady.

What do you love most about being a fashion designer?

I think the thing that wins me over is when you see your pieces in an editorial; whether it’s print or online or being worn on a celebrity. The most recent press for me was Ellie Goulding at Glastonbury festival. My press agent had mentioned that she might wear my copper-coloured bra, but I’ve had celebrities request items before and nothing has ever come of it. I went online though and there Ellie was, performing to 947,000 fans in my bra! And that’s when I was like “wow”.

What has been your biggest breakthrough moment so far?

When I had my debut show. I graduated last July, and then I had a press day for Spring/Summer 2014 and then Autumn/Winter 2014/15 was my debut London Fashion Week show. I was backstage looking over the make-up and the nails, and my press agent said that people were queueing outside the door to come in. I actually didn’t believe it, so I went outside and saw them all. Because they’d seen my graduate collection they wanted to see what was in store for this season. So that was a big thing for me. It’s encouraging more than anything, and it just makes me want to keep going. Because of course you have days where you wonder if you can keep going and when it’s going to happen. So I just think I’m lucky to have the support from the press, and from my family and my friends and I want to keep going for them, let alone for myself. I’m really grateful, and I just hope the next show will be even bigger and better.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for new designers at the moment?

Getting noticed and getting seen, for sure. You could have all the talent in the world, but if nobody sees it then you’re just going to get blown away. You need to be present, you need to have people supporting you and representing you. So I think a lot of people might not know where to start. But you’ve got to be tenacious and fight for it, because otherwise it will be really, really hard.

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Sadie Clayton will be showing at London Fashion Week on 12th September 2014, 7pm, St Giles-in-the-Fields


Words: Samantha Southern


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