Over a decade ago, Simeon Farrar dragged suitcases full of clothes he had designed to London Fashion Week (LFW). As a painter who had studied fine art, Simeon admits he, “knew nothing about fashion; actually less than nothing”. But having started to use clothing as a canvas, and on the advice of a friend, he applied and gained entry to the capital’s biggest and most prestigious fashion event.
For someone who knew so little about fashion – he taught himself to sew – and the business of fashion, Simeon’s not done too badly. His clothes now sell in boutiques and department stores around the world, he shows four collections a year in Paris – two men’s and two women’s – and has launched a diffusion line called Blackscore that specialises in graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts. Oh, and he’s just moved into the neighbourhood, relocating his studio to the Ravenswood Industrial Estate making it even more fashionable than previously thought possible. “My first collection was cutting up old things and making dresses from them,” says Simeon. “I used old band tour T-shirts, cutting them in half, putting them with another T-shirt. I would sew on all these different objects I’d found – words, colours and patterns – and build up the layers. I really liked collage in painting so I used the same aesthetic in creating the fashion. I made this weird cobbledtogether collection of clothes that I could never reproduce.” But when the buyers at LFW saw his work, the orders started piling in; everyone from Japanese boutiques to the trendsetting NYC department store Barneys. “But the problem was they were one-offs,” says Simeon, “and they ordered it in all different sizes and colours so I had to go and just make it.”
After this baptism by fashion, Simeon didn’t even have an order book and had to quickly employ people to help him make the clothes. He soldiered on, got the hang of the business side of things and has never looked back. Twelve years later he’s an international success, but some things remain the same. Everything is still handprinted by him and his team in their studio, with the most of the clothes in his fashion line (Simeon Farrar) made by a small factory in north London. “I like to keep it close,” says Simeon. “Our units are small and, even though it’s more expensive to have it done here, it’s good to support small factories in the UK. It didn’t sit right with me having things made overseas with all the
Simeon has managed to strike a very delicate balance that works well for him – very much part of the fashion world, with his clothes featuring in Vogue and select stores, but also remaining an outsider. “I got totally accepted by the fashion world, and it was great. I think because I was a newcomer and got in through the side entrance they were really welcoming to me. But I’ve always stayed on the fringes of it. I’m not really the kind of person who plays the scene. I kind of do my own thing and fit in where I fit in.”
Simeon already feels right at home in the Ravenswood Industrial Estate; in fact it’s the type of place that he’s been searching for. Having spent the last 10 or so years in Shoreditch, it was time to leave the high rents and creeping corporatisation behind. “All the others places we rented were in office blocks, and the printing we do leaves a real mess behind. Plus, we were never really around our own people – lots of suits. Here, it was great to move into a unit that was rough and ready – where there was already paint on the floor, we could move everything around, push the doors back and be open to the outside world.”
The space works so well that, for the first time, Simeon now has a permanent store front to the world and will be opening the doors to his studio on Friday evenings and Saturday/Sunday during the day to sell direct to the public. The move has even inspired Simeon to start painting on canvas again after a hiatus of 12 years.
“I’ve felt very creative and really in the zone, and there’s something about this space – and I don’t want to get all trippy – but I am feeding off something. There’s an excitement. The estate has this real element of potential. That feeling that I can do anything I want.”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.