As fashion and art fiends the thought of someone designing ‘wearable art’ sends our imaginations into overdrive. It is the dream combo. Jane Bowler is the explorative designer behind the hybrid, transforming mundane, everyday items (she has used a shower curtain before) into encrypting headpieces, strapping chokers and metallic sculptural two pieces.
The explorative designer is constantly discovering innovative processes and materials to intricately work into her garments that she delivers each season, and she hasn’t disappointed for AW16. Her developed signature style of using plastics and fringing effects is still clearly evident whilst pairing together interlocking chains, knits and dense metals Bowler has created a uniform for an empowered, self-determining woman that are immediate head turners, and we’re into it.
She has also amped up the volume in the jewellery department, creating statement earrings, heavy-duty rope wrist cuffs and billowing fringed necklaces. Her totally unique way of designing has us completely obsessed and wishing we had a fabulous party to attend in one (or all) of her pieces.
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you always know you wanted to become a designer?
I come from a textile design background rather than fashion, so my approach to fashion design is very different. I always loved creative subjects at school and didn’t specialize in textiles until University and never intended to work in fashion. I was told that I wasn’t a ‘designer’ during my time on my BA, and was classed as a ‘textile artist’ so when I was offered a job for a freelancing fashion and textiles studio after graduating, I though I would give it a go… this was where my love for textiles for fashion began. This led me on to study at the Royal Collage of Art with the intention to set up my own label.
What inspires you?
I am hugely inspired by materials and processes. The idea of transforming mundane materials into innovative luxury fashion and textiles is my inspiration, I don’t tend to look at visual inspiration or other designers.
What was the concept behind your AW16 collection?
To be honest, I never really have a concept… each collection starts with a series of material experiments looking into surfaces, construction techniques and material combinations. The samples naturally evolve and grow over the mannequin to create what I would refer to as ‘wearable art’. Its such an exciting way to work, as quite often we cannot predict the end result. It is really important to me that the clothes make the wearer feel amazing, it was fantastic to see how the models mood was transformed when she was adorned in this seasons pieces! I love how the pieces make women feel so powerful.
Your pieces are so intricate, talk us through the process of making them?
Craftsmanship is a huge part of the brand, all of our pieces are developed and constructed by hand in our London studio. We hand cut and hand construct everything, I think that’s what makes the pieces so special. I work very closely with my head of knitwear Heather Orr, we work together to successfully combine constructed plastics alongside macramé and knit to add greater surface interest. We spend a lot of time developing the textiles each season, the garment shapes are then dictated by the characteristics and properties of each sample.
How do you have the patience?!
I have a fantastic team working with me each season. Everyone is so passionate about each collection, our love for the work that we produce means that we forget about the patience that is needed to create them. Although, I must admit our patience is sometimes tested! I’m sure Team Bowler would vouch for that! Particularly following the epic trousers in this new collection!
Tell us about your favourite detail from the collection?
The knotted surfaces and layers of fringing in combination with the plastics has to be my favourite detail.
What songs were on repeat whilst creating the collection?
Our team tune was ‘Work’ by Rihanna along side Justin Bieber’s new album… Not particularly cool, I know! But they always managed to raise the spirits in the studio!
Who were you designing for this AW16?
A strong independent woman who like to stand out from the crowd!
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
I would love to collaborate with a film director, costume is another area that I am interested in… working with Tim Burton would amazing! I would also love to work with fashion photographer Tim Walker, I think my pieces would compliment his magical story telling imagery perfectly.
Who would you love to see sporting one of your designs?
I would love to see FKA twigs, Beyoncé and Bjork wearing Jane Bowler.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
I would simply say, being able to do what I love everyday and being surrounded by a team of talented and supportive people is my career highlight, I couldn’t have done it without them.
If you had to wear one of your designs to a dinner party, which piece would it be?
Well, I don’t ever go to dinner parties, which are extravagant enough to wear this! But I would probably say the long plastic and leather macramé dress from this season teamed up with a blinging headpiece!
Tell us about your work at the V&A Museum?
I have been working with V&A for several years now, it is a fantastic place to work as you are constantly surrounded by amazing inspiration, I work with the education team and run workshops for budding creative, schools and people from less privileged backgrounds.
You also run workshops from your studio. Is teaching a passion of yours?
Fashion can become quite self indulgent, so giving up time to others through teaching gives me the perfect balance. We set up Jane Bowler workshops several years ago with the aim to inspire, encourage experimentation and explore sustainable design. Heather and myself run the classes from our East London studio, this also allows participants to gain incite into the fashion world and the work we create. I love teaching and feel like it is invaluable for students to be taught by someone who is actually working in the industry.
Any words of wisdom for young fashion design hopefuls?
The fashion industry is one of the most difficult industries to work in but if you work hard, be nice! Love what you do and never give up… then you will go far!
What’s next for Jane Bowler?
We are working on a new range of affordable JB accessories for our online shop which we are currently crowd funding via Kickstarter. We are also working on a new Jane Bowler bridal line, we are super excited about this!