Sadie Clayton is exactly what we’ve all been waiting for. Since launching her eponymous luxury sculptural womenswear label in 2015, the British designer has been shaking up the fashion world one catwalk at a time. And we’re not just talking about the head-turning duds — we’ll get to those. From the start, the London-based, biracial designer has been all about diversity and individuality. She consistently rejects homogeneity in her casting, and her army of models have stormed the London, Berlin and Shanghai fashion week runways, clad in her wackily wonderful and wearable art. Recently, the British Government’s ‘British Fashion Is GREAT’ campaign aptly selected Clayton to hold her A/W 2018 show in Rome during AltaRoma, Rome’s biannual fashion week. In Clayton’s true trailblazing form, it was Italy’s first time showing a collection that showcased and celebrated diversity. Mission accomplished. Clayton cast models of varying looks, body types, backgrounds and physical abilities — a model with a prosthetic leg strutted down the runway and a Brazilian-born model who happens to use a wheelchair (and who was clad in a killer turtleneck bomber) closed the show. The 16 models rocked numbers that were both in-your-face rock star and sophisticated Vogue editorial — chaotic cuts, metallic moments, baggy flared leather trousers, oh my!
Also very much incorporated was Clayton’s unique signature element: copper. Hammering and heating away at copper, her architectural (and holistic!)-inspired designs are both beautiful and badass works of wearable art — There’s really nothing quite like a copper choker. In short, someone get Grace Jones (who’s #1 on Clayton’s dreams-to-dress list) on the phone ASAP. With the ongoing battle for equal visibility, Clayton is marching on with many a fashion creative who are rebelling against the fray and effecting change. We caught up with Clayton after her show at Villa Wolkonsky, the gated, grandiose home of Britain’s ambassador in Rome, where she had just presented her collection — a thrilling show proving that the British designer is indeed so damn great. And groundbreaking.
COOLS: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how’d you get your start in fashion? What made you start your own label?
Sadie Clayton: I grew up in a society where being mixed race was a minority. I looked different. So, I had the choice to follow the cultural stereotypes or embrace who I was, have fun with it and take advantage of my cultural fusion. It began at a young age where I’d buy fabric from Ikea and make a dress by draping fabric on a mannequin and jazz it up by adding buttons from my very large vintage buttons collection. Then, as now, everybody wore the same clothes, followed the same trends. But I wanted to wear avant-garde and interesting clothing and create my own trends. Studying fashion, moving to London and creating my own label was a way to do this.
COOLS: Did you always incorporate copper?
SC: I’m a maker and a creator, so for me creating sculptures to fit the human form is only one emanation of my vision. But I suppose at its heart, these particular pieces are almost armor to protect and shield the wearer. I have always loved working with copper. It has more depth in my eyes than many other materials — how it transforms into many different colors and can be molded and hammered into beautiful textures. I have a very holistic approach on life, and copper is the element which brings not only health and good luck, but is symbolic of speed and technology and change, all concepts which inspire me and my collections.
COOLS: What most inspired your Autumn/Winter 2018 collection which you just presented at AltaRoma?
SC: I take my inspiration from everyday life because I find it fascinating and it means that everyone can relate to and add their personal touch to my pieces when they wear them. It makes the whole experience more holistic. The concepts of Headspace, time and energy are constants in my work. For this season, I focused especially on our journey through life — how every day we have to mutate and gently twist ourselves to fulfill the multiple roles that are required from us through our work, friend and family and the layered emotions that this naturally creates. This is my best collection yet! Every collection hones where I am going with my vision of my women and captures some of the feedback that I have received from my clients. This season is twice the size of my past collections and really epitomizes where the evolution of my brand is going toward a luxurious brand with a unique sculptural identity.
COOLS: What was the process like casting this show?
SC: We chose the models with the correct balance between retaining the integrity of a high-fashion catwalk whilst representing diversity as a vision of the real world and not an over representation just to prove a point. It had to be balanced whilst also selecting a cross section of beautiful women who in their normal lives I could imagine wearing my collection.
COOLS: You recently presented a collection at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts in London. How has art inspired your designs? And how has the art world embraced you?
SC: Being a creative, art has always had a big influence on me. I have a close tie to the Royal Academy of Arts where I have presented twice. With my Spring/Summer 2017 collection, I presented my whole collection in holographic form, creating the artistic link with the transient concept of ownership, technology and fashion. At the Tate Britain, I presented as a part of the ‘Nick Waplington / Alexander McQueen: Working Process’ exhibition. And I have held several other interactive demonstrations of my wearable art to up to 600 people at the Tate. I have also created a bespoke piece for Alcantara which was presented at the Protein Gallery in Shoreditch as one of ten international designers chosen in conjunction with NOT JUST A LABEL — a piece which I then took with me to Art Basel Miami together with my key wearable art pieces, which were more recently on display at the Museum of Art and Design in Singapore.
COOLS: That’s a lot! So, is there someone you’d die to dress? How do they represent what you’re all about?
SC: Hands down, Grace Jones. She is my muse and an inspirational woman. She is the externalization of how I want my women to feel in my clothes, whether it is just an accessory or the full look. Confident, empowered and in control of the destiny… even if it is just for that moment.
COOLS: Who besides yourself are you designing for? Who is buying Sadie Clayton?
SC: She’s strong minded and happy to be different, whether a little or a lot. Independent, ambitious in her own way and culturally curious.
COOLS: What is your ultimate hope and vision for the future of Sadie Clayton?
SC: World domination. As I said, I am a creative who is currently developing clothes and wearable art, but I am in no way limiting the reach of my creative vision solely to fashion. Technology and design really interest me and I am always on the look-out for new collaborations to extend my brand and challenge my abilities. Other creatives haven’t held them back — look at amazing architects like Ron Arad or Zaha Hadid! Watch this space. Perhaps I will be helping design a hotel or skyscraper!