Part of: Flora

LiveStudio: Claire Barrow

published on 1 March 2013

Watch the highlights from Claire Barrow's live streamed SHOWstudio residency. The designer hand-painted a leather jacket for Horrors front-man Faris Badwan.

Watch the highlights from Claire Barrow's live streamed SHOWstudio residency. The designer hand-painted a leather jacket for Horrors front-man Faris Badwan.

61 Q&A Posts

8 NOV 2012. 15:19

Q. Would you two ever collaborate on a jacket?
A. No! This is our collaboration right now.

8 NOV 2012. 14:44

Q. Where did you learn to paint or was the skill all self-taught?
A. Definitely I taught myself. You can't really teach someone how to paint. I don't even really think I can paint now.

8 NOV 2012. 14:37

Q. You've done collaborations with Underground and Joseph. If you were ever giving the chance to do a collaboration with a mass market brand like H&M, would you do it?
A. No I don't think I would. I don't think it would work. It's completely away from my aesthetic really. If I'm going to do something that's mass market I don't want to make it acessible that easily. If I did it maybe it could be made in England or something so people could have a go at making it. Because the aesthetic of the brand is all about DIY. I'd consider it, but there are ways to get around it to keep it real alongside the aesthetic of the brand.
Faris: But to grow don't you need to deligate?
Claire: Yeah it's hard. I do think about that, because already I don't have the time to do everything I need to do. I do all the hand painting myself, all the details. So interns can help me but I do have to finish everything.

8 NOV 2012. 14:17

Q. Has being from the North given you a different kind of drive?
A. Yes. Definitely  There is not much industry in the North especially for fashion. So it's recommended to move to London to do fashion as there is nothing to do in the North. At school people never got what I wanted to do. It's a shame. I went to an amazing art college though. It was called Cleveland College of Art and Design and so many of my friends that I still collaborate with today went there. It definitely gives you a different perspective, it's this thing that pushes you to want to achieve. You know what I think is important - people outside of London need to know what not to do and what's already out there, even more than you need to know what to do. It's important to know these things, it'll give you a better chance.

8 NOV 2012. 14:09

Q. What type of paints do you use onto the Leather and how do you protect it from wear and tear?
A. Acrylics. It's usual fine to be honest. If it's fake it will crack as you move it, but if you had in acrylic sealer for leather then it will be fine. You want to do that after actually. Just paint it on after with a brush.

8 NOV 2012. 14:02

Q. Who would you most like to see in one of your jackets?
A. I actually spoke to her about this when I met her but I'd really like to give one to Lydia Lunch. I still think she looks really good. She's a bit mental. But to be honest I don't really think about it, I just get one with making the jackets. Obviously Morissey would be good. But he'd never wear it...

8 NOV 2012. 14:00

Q. Have you had a favourite petal or flower so far? Why did you pick the rose you used?
A. The favourite petal is the ones at the end, as they are the ones that curl up first. The middle tends to protect itself while the outside drops. I picked the rose I'm doing because I felt like it was the most beautiful.

8 NOV 2012. 13:59

Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
A. God! I don't know! Just doing this. Just working and doing what I want. I'd love that. That's what everyone wants really. I don't have any aspirations to be rich or to have a huge business. Nick Knight is a good example because he just does what he wants, he's still making really interesting work and he has all of you behind him. I do understand that London designers have quite a sort life, they are quite faddy in a way, unless you're Westwood or Christopher Kane or Gareth Pugh. But I'd just like to be able to still be doing this in ten years.

8 NOV 2012. 13:56

Q. Why did you want to do those floating petals
A. Because it's dissecting the dead flower. There is something nice about pulling it apart and having all the colours that make up the beautiful flower. On the jacket it's sort of a goodbye almost. It's relating to the funeral aspect of flowers.

8 NOV 2012. 13:51

Q. Do you like being called Petal?
A. It's a bit of a London cab driver thing! We did think about that when we were coming up with the title though!

8 NOV 2012. 13:38

Q. Which other London designers from now do you like?
A. Well we talked a bit about Craig and Nasir yesterday. I like Ryan Lo, he's doing Fashion East with me. His work is really intricate. I like my own work as well. I can't think of anyone! I like bigger brands. I like Prada every season and Dolce and Gabanna and Comme des Garçons. That's just personal though, what I would wear. I think London designers are very creative. There is a clear aesthetic, it's very colourful and they all really express themselves. 

8 NOV 2012. 13:10

Q. What did you do in New York and were you there when the hurricane hit?
A. Yeah I was. I had no power in my hotel and I got stuck in Chinatown. I moved eventual as I couldn't handle going round my room with a torch any more. It was really strange. Very apocalyptic. 

8 NOV 2012. 12:57

Q. Are any of your family artistic? The jacket is looking amazing. Love your work.
A. No! They often say that they don't know where my creativity came from.

8 NOV 2012. 12:41

Q. Hello from Los Angeles, do you have a method for pricing your works on jackets? What was the cheapest and the most expensive pieces you sold?
A. Yeah I do have a pricing system, it's time and the design and it's for what they are for. Sometimes certain collaborations are more than others. The Joseph jackets are £1200. It's got a lot more expensive than it used to be. People always say 'Oh I've missed the bandwagon of getting a jacket haven't I?' But that's not the case. I just didn't know how to price my work before. If you think how expensive a new leather jacket would be in a shop then it's fair that I should charge this amount for my work.

8 NOV 2012. 12:01

Q. How long does it take to complete a jacket?
A. It differs. But for one I'd usually say about three days. I'm doing two days on this one and it's actually quite a simple design. I could easily spend three days on it through. Lots of them take longer. But I don't really have time to spend longer than seven days on the at the moment.

8 NOV 2012. 11:38

Q. We are planning on shooting a two minute 'Claire Barrow' fashion film as part of a uni project, focusing on the essence of the brand as a whole. Is there anything you would really like to see in the film, or any specific music or artist references you would want to be included?
A. Aw that's good! Okay so you should put in this broadcast and my Fashion East show and the soundtrack should be Elvis' Burning Love and Hounddog. And put a bit of Eastenders in there. I love TV.

8 NOV 2012. 11:38

Q. Can you name some of the books you read? Why do you like them?
A. I'm not that good at reading actually. I'm really dyslexic, but I give it a go. My friend got me into Charles Bukowski. I read quite a lot of that. I'm reading Oscar Wilde at the moment and I'm reading a book about boredom that is really good. I like things with, like, dirty bastards. I can't read well so if it's not interesting at all I won't read it.
We once had an assignment at school where we had to read Lord of the Flies and I actually did. But when the teacher at school asked me about it I had a totally different interpretation to everyone else and I actually got detention because she just thought I hadn't read it. I think I see something different on the page to what other people do unless it's quite simple. 

8 NOV 2012. 11:26

Q. What was the last thing that excited you?
A. There's a lot of exciting stuff going on in music at the moment. Like rock music. There are a lot of good new rock bands around at the moment. Like yesterday I said that subculture wasn't important but I guess it is, because you see it with bands. Like The Horrors when they first started so many kids copied them. People like to feel a part of something . Painted leather is a tribal thing, it's saying 'this is me, this is what I'm about'. And that's punk, because punk is all about tribal tendency. 

8 NOV 2012. 11:06

Q. Why did you choose to paint roses?
A. I just feel that they are a symbol of romance. They are stereotypical of the flowers I love. They also have the biggest bloom and depth so they work really well for this. Out of all the flowers it feels like it's the most human, we always have it around us.

8 NOV 2012. 11:04

Q. Does it upset you when you make a mistake like you just talked about? Or can it make the works better?
A. It depends what mistake you make. You've just got to really concentrate on the design. If it goes wrong you can just paint over it but it will get raised up. So you need to start with a pretty clear idea of what you want to do as you can't just keep painting on layers and layers. If something doesn't look great then modify it, so make it bigger or extend it. That's the charm of paint though, you can change it while it's wet.

8 NOV 2012. 11:03

Q. Is it important to keep British heritage as cultural story to your brand?
A. Slightly. I think that my work is very British in a sense. In the sense that it's experimental, and that is common in London fashion. I don't think that it would have a place in anywhere else in the world outside London, it wouldn't really work anywhere else. I would also like to have everything made in the UK, but it's interesting that there isn't really an industry for something like machinists. I noticed that textiles isn't on the curriculum at the moment any more and thats a shame as there really could be lots of job opportunities within the industry.

8 NOV 2012. 10:59

Q. I really enjoy watching you doing your work, but I also like the background music. What are the main gernes and bands you listen to?
A. I like punk music. I also listen to a lot of Morrissey. That's about it. This is Lee Perry playing at the moment. I like a lot of different stuff.

8 NOV 2012. 10:54

Q. Are you sad that the flowers behind you are dying?
A. No! They were dead anyway. They've been dead since they were picked!

8 NOV 2012. 10:50

Q. Where do you source your paint and brushes?
A. I just get everything from art shops. The best ones are where I live in East London, like Paintworks. I do find certain colours that I love an always want to use again and again. I love the System 3 paints for black and white. They can also work as screen printing ink. They have that kind of stretchiness to them.

7 NOV 2012. 16:00

Q. I love what you are making , but I would love to know about the jacket you are wearing?
A. It's part of the installation! It's disintegrating around us! I'm really into this kind of fabric. It cracks and changes as you were it. I used the fabric in my show, but this top is vintage. It's a fetish top according to the man I bought it from. 

7 NOV 2012. 15:57

Q. Are you enjoying working with SHOWstudio. I am jealous.
A. Nice! I am. 

7 NOV 2012. 15:43

Q. As a Print design student in my third and final year, would you have any advice or words of wisdom for my graduate collection/project?
A. Try and make it your dream collection. Don't make it something else. Do you're own thing. Make sure you know about what other designers and doing, new and old, and make sure that it doesn't look like that. And simple starting points are always the best really. You don't want to make it something too gimmicky, something that's been done before. And work really hard, because if you do you'll either end up getting a really good job out of it or doing your own thing. So it'll pay off. And if you think it's amazing, then even if everyone else thinks it's shit then it's fine because you think it's great.

7 NOV 2012. 15:42

Q. Being part of Fashion east.... how much did that impact your career?
A. It had a big impact. It's the best oppertunity ever. It's such a positive thing. You feel so lucky - it's great. You get your own show and the people there to see it. It's the recognition that you are good enough to do Fashion East - so many amazing people have done it. There is always such a buzz about it, because everyone knows that it's the best platform for young designer. And I'm lucky with it, cos I didn't do an MA or any graduate studies or anything. It's brilliant.

7 NOV 2012. 15:19

Q. How do you clean the jackets, given they are oil paints? Or do you make them differently when it comes to production? Say screen print?
A. Some of my collection is screen printed. So I'll draw onto my pattern directly and then it will be screen printed. We've thoughtout about digital but I don't think it matches the kind of hand-made thing I do. We've never screen printed onto the jackets though. That's something I do by hand.

7 NOV 2012. 15:18

Q. Can we play something from Lana del Rey, say Blue Jeans?
A. No Ryan Lo. We can't. Too busy.

7 NOV 2012. 15:13

Q. Would you expand your illustrations to other areas other than fashion such as interior design or objects?
A. Not at the moment but that would be cool. It would be nice if someone asked me to collaborate on something that like. I'd make really shit kind of kitch objects.

7 NOV 2012. 15:11

Q. Why portraits?
A. I don't know. There's something about faces that just intrigues me. 

7 NOV 2012. 14:56

Q. I am completing a PR unit at university and you are my chosen designer. If it was real life what would you want the marketing campaign to achieve for your brand?
A. It it were an editorial advertisement it would have to put across the image of the brand. That's all that would be important. It wouldnt be about selling it would just be about the theme of the brand. It's more about the essence of the brand, that's what makes a successful advertising campaign. Like the ones by Jeurgen Teller for Celine or Marc Jacobs that's what I think is good. It needs to be the essence, even if it's just a person who means something to the brand being featured.
It's cool that someone is doing me at uni though. I'd like to see that. Maybe she can give me some ideas.

7 NOV 2012. 14:46

Q. What's the hardest design you've ever done?
A. In my graduate collection there was a jacket completely made out of acrylic paint, just layers and layers on paint like plastic. It wasn't noticed that much because it was amongst other things and I hadn't experiemented with it enough to make it work really well. That was a difficult design to create, but I like making things difficult. That's what I'm all about. If it's too each then I'm not comfortable with it.

7 NOV 2012. 14:45

Q. If you were to create a masterpiece that summed up you and your brand what would it involve? What object would you paint it on?
A. I think it would be some kind of classic portraiture. I'd do it on a canvas not a jacket. It would be like of Dorian Gray or something!

7 NOV 2012. 14:40

Q. Are there any other creatives (designer or artists) whose work you really like and admire?
A. Yeah there are couple of people. I really like Nasir. Craig Lawrence is good. I'm not actually looking that much though, it's just if it comes on or SHOWstudio I'll notice it. My studio is next to the menswear designer Kit Neale. I like him. He gives me really good advice about business and stuff. He's always spot on. He does Fashion East as well. There are a lot of menswear designers that I like. I think that menswear is really exciting at the moment.

7 NOV 2012. 14:34

Q. In three words how would you describe your brand or style? What magazines interest you and what magazine would you like to be featured in?
A. Three words - DIY. Do it Yourself. That's it.

7 NOV 2012. 14:30

Q. If you were to hold an exhibition what area of your work would be the focus? E.g. Fashion East collection or your leather jackets?
A. I hadn't thought about that before. It's interesting. I feel like it would be the jackets. That's how I see more of the art form of my work, that's how it comes together. But if I were to do an exhibition it would be cool to do something different. Like it's my ambition to do something really big scale, something that I spent like a year on. Something really epic.

7 NOV 2012. 13:20

Q. Do you ever worry about the high street copying your stuff?
A. No not really! Because painted leather isn't a new thing. It's something that has been around for ages. And I've copied things! Everything on the high street is a copy of something, and the thing it's copied from will be a copy of something else. Everything has an origin! I guess I'd only worry if I was worried about money and people not buying from me cos they can just buy it from Topshop. But then, people are buying mine cos I've painted onto it so they are buying into my art work in a way.

7 NOV 2012. 13:09

Q. Your style of work and customising is something that has throughout the years in fashion not been so prominent. Do you think it is important to move away from fashion trends and make fashion more individual to the consumer?
A. Yeah. I mean. I think style is more important than trends. I've never really done anything to do with a trend. I don't know - trends are not important to me what so ever. But then again with anything that becomes popular there is that trend element to do. I like the idea of interesting people wearing my stuff. I think every designer likes the idea of like minded people buying into the brand. In the end you should just do what you want to do though.

7 NOV 2012. 13:09

Q. In the early day of making your jackets is it true, you did them in your bedroom? do you have a studio now? if so do you find you work better having a space to work in?
A. Yer I did. And I even used to have interns, well attempt to have interns come round to help while just sitting next to my bed. I had to get a studio because it's hard to work in the space where you spend all your time. It was a bit consuming of my life, it needed to be done seperately. 

7 NOV 2012. 12:58

Q. What is your favourite jacket to date?
A. I liked the Guernica one a lot. It was the way it looked. You know I am quite critical of my work, there's not been a time where I've been fully happy with the final thing. But that's good, you can't become complacent with your work. I'm always looking forward to the next collection.

7 NOV 2012. 12:55

Q. Do you consider your work to be more of an art form than fashion? Do you have any icons within fashion, art or music that tend to inspire your work?
A. I don't know how to answer this really. It's just about doing it. I don't take it seriously as I would art, to a certain degree. But I do think that it has a place within art. Because it's a form of me expressing myself so it is art. I don't think it's about either, it's about both or neither.
Definitely to the second question - I am always looking at people. But I'm not a big fashion person. I don't know designers collections, I don't go online and look at them. But there is an element of taking stuff in. Like I remember going to college and looking at a Margiela collection from the 90s and fucking loving it.

7 NOV 2012. 12:51

Q. What does 'The Milk Of Danzig' mean?
A. Oh my god. So that's Danzig the singer, ex-Misfit's singer. And it's his milk. That's it. He's got that song 'Mother' and I was just thinking about Danzig's milk. Like his mum's boob milk.

7 NOV 2012. 12:42

Q. Do you think that even without college or university , it is still possible to become successful in fashion?
A. Yeah. It is. But at the end of the day the best oppertunities you get are by knowing people. It's sad but it's true. If you do your own thing you have that satisfaction from knowing what you are doing is good. College is good for meeting other students and people you would in the industry and having the same work load you would in the industry. But you can do it on your own.

7 NOV 2012. 12:31

Q. There is such an association with successful, new, young designers being graduates from St Martins. How does it feel to be from Westminster University and successful?
A. It doesn't feel anything! But I never wanted to go to Saint Martins. Westminster's is so good though. It's such a difficult course. You get so much work. I'm from the North East so maybe it wasn't knowing that everyone good went to Saint Martins. I went straight from school to college to university and Westminster seemed like a great course and I don't think I was ready for that competitive Saint Martins fashion student thing. I didn't actually pass Westminster though, I didn't finish cos I was so busy with stuff, but I did the final show which was the best opportunity.

7 NOV 2012. 12:27

Q. What was it like working with Rhianna?
A. The first ever jacket I did was painted blue and had white clouds on it. Then one her stylists contacted me and asked if I wanted to do something for her. And I was like 'okay - go on then!'. I didn't really promote myself when I started but a lot of it happened naturally through Facebook friends. Also I set up a Tumblr page when I first started and people started sharing them straight away. I'd always been keen on that do-it-yourself thing. So at uni I self published a book and did exhibitions and stuff. I knew I would never really be very good working for anyone else so I always just wanted to do it myself.

7 NOV 2012. 12:23

Q. Are the leather jackets you use second hand? what are your views on recycling within fashion?
A. Yes it's really important to me and it's something I want to get into more. There's just something interesting about something having lived before. Ethical fashion is quite a boring industry. Let's admit it! But I think we have to use what's already there. That's important to me. It's DIY, that's what my brand is about.

7 NOV 2012. 12:21

Q. Would you ever create a jacket from scratch? To make it completely you own. Rather than using recycled jackets?
A. Yeah why not? But what's the point because they are already made and you can buy them. Someone's made this at some point. That's what I always think! But then, as we were talking about with New York, I made that jacket from paper from scratch. But my collection everything is made from scratch, but then that's not just jackets.

7 NOV 2012. 12:08

Q. What are your future aspirations where do you want to take your designing next? What other collaborations would you like to do?
A. I really would just be happy being creatively free to do whatever. At the moment it's a really good time. I've got loads of good projects and lots of exciting things. I don't ever want to be finding it hard and just thinking about making money, that won't make me happy. But I do want to do Fashion East again.

7 NOV 2012. 12:03

Q. Do you ever start a piece and think it's not good enough? If so, how do you change both the artwork and your mindset?
A. I start with quite a clear idea in my head so no not really. There are a few when I haven't been totally happy. But I haven't got the money to do that. I can't afford to be wasting leather jackets. I'd have to paint over it and start again!

7 NOV 2012. 11:43

Q. Leather is quite punk. Does subculture inspire you?
A. Subculture is not important to me but it's important to fashion and to style in general.

7 NOV 2012. 11:29

Q. Did you try lots of different techniques before you settled on painting leather
A. No! I just did it. I saw a leather jacket and I was like this is brilliant and I wanted to paint on it and wear it. Then I thought it looked really cool so I thought I might as well start selling them on ebay for £100. Painted leather jackets have been around for so long since the '50s. I like the whole gang mentality, like painting the gang name on the back or a band or a political statement.

7 NOV 2012. 11:22

Q. You replicated Picasso’s Guernica painting onto a leather jacket. The painting is regarded as one of the most influential pieces of anti-war art. What led you to choose this painting in particular and do you see your practise as political?
A. It's a piece about war, it's dark. This idea of painting onto leather it's quite strong. The early work like Guerinca, it was really what people were commissioning me to do. But that still is one of my favourite pieces that I'd ever done.

7 NOV 2012. 11:11

Q. When you start a new project, for example painting a new leather jacket, is it always thoroughly planned or do you tend to freestyle?
A. I always think about what the piece is going to mean and what relevance it will have. With this today I just wanted to make something that symbolised what I see flowers as. I've painting flowers on jackets for about a year and I'm interested about what they mean to human life. The symbolise love, like you have flowers at a wedding, and sex, so you give a flower to your partner, and then death, because you use flowers at funerals. It's the human cycle of life. Flowers are like life, they bloom beautifully and then they die. It's a quick process. I guess that's what life's about. I wanted it to address that we pick them and then they die. It's a homage to a flower. Everything just needs to have a meaning. So this is quite symbolic to a person living and dieing. This will be the only remaining homage to flower that lived and is now dead.

7 NOV 2012. 11:04

Q. What was your experience like working with Joseph? Did they allow you full creative freedom or were you given a brief?
A. It came about because I made a jacket for Fran (Burns) for Vogue and they saw that and said they'd really like me to do something for them. It went great so now I'm doing a run of like 20 limited edition jackets, bags and trousers. It's a big job. A lot of work!

7 NOV 2012. 10:49

Q. So many of your designs include painting on a jacket. What does fascinate you about the object?
A. It's something to do with it looking really good on people. The jacket is just my signature, it's what I started working on and people still seem to like it so I do bring it back each season. It's also got lots of good connoations with subculture.

7 NOV 2012. 10:37

Q. What's the difference between painting on leather and painting on paper?
A. Well you can't wear paper. I do it because it is just another canvas for my work. The exhibition I just did in New York I did paper with drips on it. It's just another canvas.

7 NOV 2012. 10:33

Q. What are you going to paint today?
A. I'm going to do a floral design. I'm starting with a portrait of a rose on the back and then I'll move on to the back tomorrow.

7 NOV 2012. 10:32

Q. Is leather difficult to paint on?
A. It's actually really good. It's hard if they are bumpy, the heavier ones have more bumps in the skin, but this one is quite smooth. I like using acrylic paints because they have a plasticy effect, you can also mix them in with leather finish but I tend to just leave the acrylic plain so that it cracks after time and with wear. I quite like that.

7 NOV 2012. 10:31

Q. Why do you like working with leather jackets?
A. Leather's great. It's good to invest in a great biker. I got this one I'm using today in New York when I was there last week. It's harder to source them in London.

Valerie Benavides
Film Edit:
Adam Richardson
Technical Supervision:
Technical Assistance and Imagery:



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