For anyone working in fashion within the U.K, London is the immediate and seemingly only choice to continue a career and curate a brand. For Clio Peppiatt, of her eponymous brand, this is far from a negative. London is vibrance, London is diverse and above all else, London is female strength. Peppiatt’s focus on feminism and community is ever evident, and a huge part of why the brand and the person behind it has worked so closely with Polyester on numerous projects, including the Female Matters exhibition and now, the What Makes Me series in collaboration with Converse.
Unlike the other four contributors in this project, Clio Peppiatt only recently became a fan of the Converse brand. Her newfound appreciation of flat shoes and their place in femininity is evident throughout her interview, with a focus on the duality of individual aesthetics that the iconic Forever Chuck shoe and the Clio Peppiatt brand both strive to achieve. By combining a traditional sense of style and craft with the individuality of the modern day, “real” woman, Peppiatt represents a step forward for embracing diversity and originality in the fashion industry at large.
As a unique character herself, Peppiatt’s focus has always been on femmes — her work is a two way street of inspiring and being inspired by her female counterparts in an industry notorious for its exclusivity. She doesn’t just use embroidery and beading for the effect, but the message behind it — women’s work, techniques traditionally undervalued throughout history, are presented with pride of place in her collections. Peppiatt’s values of inclusion and feminism help create clothes that can be just as easily worn to the corner shop as they are on the dancefloor. The theme is empowerment, and for Peppiatt, it’s a style that’s built to last.
How would you sum up your brand in a sentence?
Clio Peppiatt: Clio Peppiatt in a sentence is modern day femininity. It’s taking aspects of traditional craft and modernising them in a wearable way. For me, craft is really important. It’s something that I learned from my mum and she learned from her mum, techniques that were passed down generations and have been quite lost now. I like that craft is a practise where women used to come together and do it within communities. That’s something I want to keep going through my work, but with a modern day aspect.
It seems like there’s a sociopolitical undertone to how you conduct yourself and operate your brand. So how do you use your clothes as a tool to try and make a difference?
Clio Peppiatt: Although I didn’t initially set out to be a particularly politically engaged brand, I think for example our casting — trying to use real girls as well as models — girls that are every skin colour, bringing in girls who aren’t necessarily sample size, is in some way working towards that. It’s trying to show that all women are beautiful and that beauty comes in so many different shapes and forms.
Would you argue that there’s a gap in the fashion industry as to what young women want and what is available to them? How do you try to bridge that difference?
Clio Peppiatt: The fashion industry is very wound up in itself a lot of the time. It’s not necessarily an industry that is accessible to a lot of people, because it can be quite intimidating, quite snobby, quite unfriendly. That makes a lot of girls feel that it’s not for them. But more and more designers are using real girls and taking into account who they are as people — trying to show them as a real person who works and does things and has friends and their life. Which is so much more relatable than this kind of blank person many houses project.
When you think of Converse, what first comes to mind?
Clio Peppiatt: I’ve always been someone that wears heels a lot, but recently I’ve started wearing flat shoes more and more — for going to meetings and running around London it’s much easier. I still feel confident in them and they fit really well with the way I like to dress. Converse harmonises really well because they are great shoes for girls who do have real lives, do have to rush around, do have people to meet and have a very active life.
You’ve lived in London all your life, how would you say the city has influenced your work?
Clio Peppiatt: London’s influenced my work firstly by being able to be in touch with other creative women, and being able to regularly meet creative girls and have them inspire me. Also, the diversity in London, growing up and living in such diverse areas — seeing different cultures, different faces, and different age groups everyday, I’m very influenced by real people and that’s something that plays a huge aspect in my work.
How does the city inspire both the brand and your own personal confidence?
Clio Peppiatt: Going out in London you get to see people who are so free and expressive in the way they dress, they’re so totally them and that’s obviously and completely inspiring and exciting. Just how they’ve layered their outfit or clashed two really different prints, all of those little details are what really inspires the brand. Women who have strong personalities and are quite sure of what they like, that’s important to me. Being honest about what you like and what you’re interested in regardless of whether other people know it, it’s nice and refreshing to meet women who have this knowledge and this interest in these specific things.
How would you say your work with femininity as a designer pushes feminist ideas forward and challenges what it traditionally means to be a woman?
Clio Peppiatt: Creating and presenting my ideas about femininity means mixing lots of different ideas to prove there’s no one way to be a feminist or to feel feminine. Mixing pieces that could be seen as traditionally very feminine — especially with embellishments — and details that are associated with the way women used to dress, with very wearable shapes that are comfortable and that you can spend your life wearing.
Photography by Rachel Hodgson. GIFs by Meg Lavender. Words by Ione Gamble.