Monday, November 14, 2011


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

Simeon Farrar at The Basement Gallery, in a t-shirt of his own design
Last week, I spent an afternoon with artist and fashion designer Simeon Farrar at his current exhibition at The Basement Gallery. The interaction between art and fashion is always hard to pin down; probably because there are so many ways that the two can be combined. So, I wanted to share Simeon with you because he is an artist who has carved out a popular fashion business by transferring what he does as an artist onto clothes.
The paint dripped shed forms the centrepiece of the exhibit, inside are Simeon's sketches of models.
'Of Rainbows and halos' is a return for Farrar 'The Artist' having focused on his fashion business for the past seven years. His last solo show was back in 2001. It is a kind of mini retrospective with work which he did before his foray into fashion, as well as pieces which he has worked on as part of displays and installations in the past few years.
A shopper from Simeon's weather themed SS12 collection- image by Richard Lonsdale

Farrar trained in Fine Art at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. From 1997- 2004, he was very much an artist, a versatile one at that; Farrar would prefer 'no labels' saying simply 'I'm an artist' rather than pigeon holing himself into categories such as 'painter', 'screen printer' etc. Indeed, his explorations of different techniques were what initially led him into fashion after he decided to make up some t-shirts. His success was virtually instantaneous and he was soon exhibiting at London Fashion Week. He calls it 'the biggest learning curve of my life'; he didn't even have an order book, but nevertheless received plenty of visits from buyers and was awarded the NewGen award three times.

The t-shirt which accompanies the exhibition: £50 at The Basement Gallery
Since then, Farrar's work has been bought by some of the world's coolest shops- Liberty in London  and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong amongst them. Although he would never claim to be any kind of fashion insider; he was recently approached by Colette's buyer at LFW and was the only one in the room not to recognise her. You may be most familiar with Farrar's 'Kate Mouse' character which he created last year as part of a nursery rhymes collection. He worked with Net-a-Porter to produce a t-shirt version which was sold in aid of the Japan Earthquake Relief appeal. Fashion-wise, it is this humour which Farrar puts into his prints which is his main attraction. Inside the shed are lots of prints of Simeon's model sketches- if you fancy one for your wall as well as your wardrobe then prices are between £30 and £75 depending on the size.
A halo print by Simeon Farrar. Available to buy from a selection at the exhibition

Kate Mouse at Net-a-Porter £50

 He has thrown himself behind efforts to fundraise for those affected by the earthquake, perhaps because a number of his stockists are in Japan. His right hand woman- womenswear designer and pattern cutter Mika Haverly- is also Japanese so the label has close ties in the country. I love the video below, by Richard Lonsdale, of the screen printing event he did back in April at Johnbull in Tokyo. Each of Simeon's t-shirts (his collection can be found at Young British Designers) is washed after printing so that the pattern becomes becomes completely unique. We compared some t-shirts when I met with Simeon and it really is amazing how the colours can blend so differently each time. This is one of the reasons why Farrar keeps all his printing in-house at his studio in Shoreditch; it is details like these which demonstrate the art aspect of the Simeon Farrar brand which he is determined to keep at the heart of what he does.

Simeon Farrar: Japan 日本 2011. John Bull, Daikanyama from The Field Office on Vimeo.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition were the perfume bottles which Farrar originally created as part of an installation for Lane Crawford. He was interested in the way that smells jog our memories. One of my favourite literary moments ever comes in Proust when the smell of madeleines (little french cakes) cooking takes the narrator back to being a child. Perfumes are particularly good at evoking such remembrances, possibly because we tend to attach their smell so much to the person we know who wears it. Simeon asked people to write down the thoughts they had when they remembered the smell of somebody special. He then trapped these written thoughts into the bottles as he made them. There are also delicate scraps of fabric in the bottles, making for a quite beautiful and emotive display. Simeon has melted the bottles so that there is a sense of decay as they drip over the edge of the table and shelf on which they are displayed.

For Lane Crawford, the bottles were made into a chandelier which became a window display. Farrar is enthusiastic about the effect art like this can have on democratising fashion. 'People waiting at the bus stop outside the store would be looking in at the chandelier, trying to read all the little messages on the bottles' he told me, 'they would never have looked in that store otherwise, thinking it was beyond their reach'.

If you like the look of the bottles then purchasing them is up for negotiation.
At this exhibition, the perfume bottles neatly represent what Simeon Farrar in 2011 is all about; an artist who has successfully established a fashion label. He has relished the opportunity which the exhibition has given him to just do art, immersing himself for days in transforming the gallery space, away from the admin side of having a fashion brand. I asked if he felt that fashion was a phase in his life as an artist? 'I used to, yes, but now I employ people and it's doing well so I can't stop'. But now that the fashion side is ticking along quite nicely, I get the impression that Simeon will make sure he gets back being 'the artist' a bit more frequently. I could share more insights and stories from the exhibition with you, but really you should pop in yourselves to take a look.

Simeon Farrar: Of Rainbows and Halos is on at The Basement Gallery at 10 Newburgh Street until 24th November.