Designer Phoebe English

Phoebe English

Phoebe English

Phoebe English is committed to keeping her boutique fashion line local. Phoebe founded her women’s and menswear label in 2011 off the back of her debut graduate collection. It’s built on rejecting “fast” fashion; she champions sustainability in her designs and her business decisions. She knows that small initiatives can have profound impacts. Her approach to sustainability began with a sole focus on packaging. “By examining and analyzing our packaging, we then decided to remove all of the plastic,” she says. It’s these seemingly simple changes that have led to larger brand-wide initiatives. As her business has grown, she’s remained committed to producing all of her pieces in England with close attention to detail and quality. So, she was eager to step up to the unprecedented challenge posed by Augmented Atelier.

Phoebe’s clothing has become a cult favorite over the past decade, consistently showing at London Fashion Week with a dedicated, global following. As an artist and designer, she focuses on structure and textile engineering, employing a straightforward, natural, and utilitarian edge to her androgynous designs. Her process is traditional and done by hand, with a painstaking attention to detail that’s apparent across her entire company.

Three images side by side: on the left, a white model wears a gauzy black garment and black combat boots. In the middle, a black model wears a white linen suit printed with the machine washing instructions on it. On the right, an Asian model is posed as a life-sized marionette, attached to strings. She wears a black knit top over a white shirt and trousers. Her eyes are closed.

When approached by Jaime Perlman from More or Less to be a part of the Augmented Atelier, Phoebe was excited at the possibility of more sustainable, fabric-free designs—but also curious about what fully digital production would look like in her studio and when applied to her handmade process.

Designing a digital garment seemed like an intriguing challenge for such a hands-on designer. “It’s not something that plays to my strengths. I don’t use any computer-aided design tools at all, it’s not part of my practice,” she says. “I was quite excited to see how I could work with Augmented Atelier as a process and what I could do with it.”

The experience opened Phoebe’s eyes to the new direction technology might take fashion in the future. “To be able to pull an augmented design out of the computer and have it within human scale for designers is really incredible. It allows us to understand how we can develop ideas or push the fabric representation or fit into a new dimension,” she says. She also sees promise in how it can function as source of collaboration.

“Often when I’m designing, I’m trying to portray something in my imagination to other members of the team, and this technology could make some aspects of that process of interaction easier.”

- Phoebe English

This animation shows a digital garment coming to life on a mannequin as it spins: staring with a digital grid draping the figure, which becomes a solid grey garment, which becomes a gauzy black garment with multiple layers. We then see 2 women holding up tablets to look at a physical mannequin. On their tablets, we see the same black garment on the mannequin.
Two images next to each other: on the left, a physical mannequin draped in a white digital garment that is layered and of various opacities. On the right, a woman holds up a tablet we see the same mannequin and garment on the tablet.
Two images next to each other: on the left, a physical mannequin draped in a black digital garment that is layered and of various opacities. On the right, on a tablet we see the same mannequin and garment.

“When you're working on a mannequin, you have the limitation of the size of the mannequin. But when you're working with technology like this, you can easily swap between different sizes, shapes, and heights of bodies which is really useful in terms of making design more accessible.”

- Phoebe English

An animation explains how the digital garments work: Azure spatial anchors allow for 360 degree views, real-time interactions, and multi-user collaborations on a garment.

Augmented Atelier was a step towards the more considered approach to design that Phoebe hopes to see more of in the future. “At the moment, designers in general have very little regard for where a fabric comes from and where the final garment ends up. I hope the future of fashion takes into consideration the beginning, middle, and end of the design to a greater degree as part of our general practice —and begin to loop these things up into a more circular and less environmentally damaging industry.”

Two graphite sketches of a garment, side by side. These feature intricate draping and many layers.
A digital blue grid, representing the final garment, is draped over a physical mannequin. The dress is asymmetrical and layered with long sleeves.
We look over the shoulders of a white man and a white woman who are holding tablets facing a mannequin. On the man’s tablet, we see a layered black gauzy dress on the mannequin. On the woman’s tablet, we see a different garment, still layered and gauzy, but black and short.