Graduate designer Ellen Brown is channeling the energy of a divided world into her graduate collection ‘Panopticon’. Her gender fluid designs are heavily influenced by 1970s pre-EU Britain, focusing on the strikes and protests that happened at the time. With the desire to reflect the feeling of confinement, Ellen has focused on industrial materials and hardware that’s created a collection which exudes a raucous sense of fun, along with a heavy dose of sex appeal. Aspects of solidarity are mingled into her designs through the use of safety pins and witty graphic badges that read slogans such as “Babes Against Bigots”. Her collection reflects the anger and frustration many of the public today feel with the current political climate and pokes fun at governmental distrust. We spoke to her ahead of Graduate Fashion Week to find out more.
Notion: Can you tell us what inspired the concept for your latest collection Panopticon?
Brown: Panopticon was inspired by Brexit, and the feeling of being confined to the UK. It all began when I saw the headline in the sun which read ‘make Britain great again’ which to me, was incredibly ironic. This lead me to start researching into 1970s pre-EU Britain, as I assumed this was when The Sun considered Britain to be ‘great’. I took a lot of inspiration from the industrial action taking place at the time as well as contemporary forms of protest such as wearing a safety pin to show solidarity.
How do the designs reflect that inspiration?
Everything in the collection reflects the concept. For example, I have used safety pins as they are worn to show solidarity with immigrants and minority groups. The ‘Fuck this big bag’ was inspired by the miner’s pin badges they wore to protest but I have put a 2017 spin on them. There is a consistent theme of the ’48-52′ referendum results throughout the collection.
It seems that you are very devoted to current political affairs, how do you foresee the future for us as a country?
It’s hard to say as I don’t feel like anyone actually knows what is going to happen in regards to Brexit. We have been told very little and there is a lot of
fear mongering going on in the media. I can’t foresee it being positive for Britain and that itself is quite a frightening thought.
How did people respond to your work when they first saw it?
At the moment no one outside of my immediate circle has seen it. I am interested to see the reaction of the public when it first gets shown in the GFW degree show this week. Naturally, everyone who has seen it so far has had similar political views to me, so with the general election approaching it’s creates quite a climate to exhibit the designs for the first time.
Do you have any predictions as to where fashion and politics will be going next?
I think the use of fashion as a platform to express opinions and be able to communicate with those who are less politically inclined will increase. In the past year, I have noticed that there has been an increase in political collections. The world is a dark place at the moment so it’s great that people are finding ways to channel their opposition through creativity.
Do you have any words of advice for other people who are interested in designing, or producing art work as a way to communicate or even protest?
Go for it. Even if you influence one person to vote or do some research with your creation then you have made a difference. Don’t worry about your views offending those who oppose them (within reason). When you are making a political collection, there are always going to be people who disagree with you but that’s just the nature of the subject. I think the use of fashion as a platform to express opinions and be able to communicate with those who are less politically inclined will increase. In the past year, I have noticed that there has been an increase in political collections.
dress ELLEN BROWN jacket VINTAGE belt ELLEN BROWN
trousers VINTAGE top CALVIN KLEIN shoes VINTAGE scarf ELLEN BROWN bag ELLEN BROWN
trousers VINTAGE jacket VINTAGE shoes VINTAGE hood ELLEN BROWN
dungarees DKNY JEANS shirt DIOR bandana ELLEN BROWN
neck piece ELLEN BROWN top VINTAGE trousers GOAT
trousers PEPE JEANS top RICK OWENS belt ELLEN BROWN bag ELLEN BROWN
bag ELLEN BROWN shoes VINTAGE
necklace ELLEN BROWN corset VINTAGE skirt FYODOR GOLAN
Photography Lucas Fonseca
Styling Max Saward
Creative direction Elizabeth Bishop
MUA Aron De Vallier
Fashion assistant Holly Horne
Models Maj @ Elite London, Toby @ Established and Reason
Words by Elizabeth Bishop