Fashion and Film for Rosie Evans AW24

Welsh designer Rosie Evans is renowned for crafting clothes steeped in Welsh folklore and niche cultural references. Having infiltrated the music scene, Evans has dressed folk meets punk Brighton-based four-piece ‘The New Eves,’ alongside band of the moment ‘The Last Dinner Party.’

The designer showcased her AW24 collection ‘The Old School House’ at Bleaq, a creative space in Coal Drops Yard. Alongside her designs Evans screened her film ‘Esyllt and The Ivy’ which featured her SS24 collection, followed by a panel discussion covering all things 80s fantasy, folklore and creativity outside of London.

Evans’s latest collection was born of her own personal folklore. Inspired by trips to her Grandfather’s countryside cottage, she reimagined the use of materials found around the house. Embroidered wall hangings were fashioned into playful wide-leg trousers, whilst wool blankets were remade into jackets. Tartan fabric featured on staple corsets as well as square-neck tops with crossover straps. Elsewhere, cashmere and lambswool jumpers were salvaged from landfill and reborn as zip-up bodysuits.

A long Westwood-esque dress in dark navy and white tartan floated elegantly from the ceiling. Whilst a dusky red Empire line mini dress stood out at the front of the rail, flaunting a detailed rocking horse and street-scene tapestry, a favourite of Evans from the collection. A selection of accessories ran alongside the designs, including a green floral knitted hat, crochet bonnet and backpacks in muted tones with metal hardware. A variety of embellishments were added across the collection with buttons and beads, adding to the designer’s home-spun charm.

The evening’s film screening paid homage to Evans’s creative vision, accentuating the playfulness and pure elation at the heart of her designs. “We chose an old Welsh myth that I really loved from childhood,” Evans explains, her well-loved copy features at the end of the film, its spine comically falling off in the final scene. Cult TV series ‘The Owl Service’ (1969) based around the Welsh legends of the Mabinogion, also served as an inspiration, with producer Angel Beavington referring to it as “one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen.” Evans was also influenced by the charm of “cheesy” and “sparkly” 80s fantasy films, citing the 1985 feature film ‘Legend’ starring Tom Cruise as a lighthearted and novel influence.

Esyllt and the ivy SS24 from Rosie Evans on Vimeo

Shot using a Super 8, a format dating back to the 1960s and originally popularised for shooting home movies, there is an immediately hazy fairytale feel to ‘Esyllt and The Ivy.’ The narrative film follows the tale of (temporarily) thwarted lovers Esyllt and Tristan as they flee from the knights of King Arthur, only to be eventually captured and put on trial. The soundtrack, composed by musician Martin Stenning, features melancholy instrumentals plus the occasional surf guitar riff and nostalgic whistle, dovetailed by the subtle Welsh twang of Evans’s narration. Filmed in and around Brighton, the story predominantly jumps between Brighton Race Course and Fabrica Art Centre, or should I say, King Arthur’s Castle. The 5-minute feature is an endearing turn of events, complete with beaming knights prancing around on invisible horses and a theatrical showdown with escapee Tristan.

With the cast styled in Rosie Evans from head to toe, the film provided a personal framework for the designer, “being able to make an array of characters was really lovely, and for a cast of people too.” The cast itself featured a diverse variety of friends and creatives who provided a charming on-screen chemistry, with Beavington reflecting that “it definitely felt like a labour of love from a lot of different angles.” A particular standout was Graham Walton who played King Arthur, having become involved with Evans and her team after enrolling on a BA in Fine Art at the age of 70. Beavington aptly added, “There’s never not a time, no matter how late in your life, to get involved in a creative practice.”

The panel reflected on their process and conversed about the creative industry as a whole. Producer Angel Beavington stressed the importance of the “realism” involved in “being around people and doing a project like this,” rather than limiting ourselves to screen-based interactions. They express that sharing current and future ideas is essential, “because you don’t know where it’s going to lead.”

Evans notes the influence that current-home Brighton had on the film, “It’s funny because I think so much of Brighton did come into it, not just the locations… but the prominence of folk stories.” Being based outside of London, the designer is an exception to the narrative that London is the be-all and end-all of creativity in the UK. She comments that “the benefits are having so much more space and time and money.” Reflecting that she’s also noticed the creative scene in her home town of Cardiff begin to thrive in recent years.

As for her future plans? Evans declared, “If I ever win the lottery I’m going to make the Mabinogion into a film,” punctuating her statement with “it’s better than Lord of the Rings.”

We spoke to Rosie in the print issue of So Young Forty-Six. Read below, order here.

Who do you have in mind when designing? Do you feel like you have a certain kind of customer?

It’s difficult because I don’t necessarily design every piece for myself, but it’s always something I want to see exist in the world. Beyond standard market demographics of age and gender, I know my customers are after magic and nostalgia in their day to day life. My friend said ‘it’s like they all want to live in Rosie Evans Land with you’

Is there a brand in particular you’d like to collaborate with or design for?

I’ve been really lucky in my career that really early on I got to design two corsets in collaboration for Bethany Williams, who’s brand I’ve adored for years. It was wonderful to get to work with such a warm and supportive team and validating me as a designer. In uni I was obsessed with Eckhaus Latta and the way they played with fabric, Mimi Wade and Charles Jeffery for their commitment to their aesthetics. In proper dream time I’d love to collaborate with a heritage brand like Laura Ashley or McQueen, but it’s probably a while off now.

What is your creative process like? From concept to reality…

For each new collection I basically start immediately after finishing the previous one, I’m really bad at taking down time and not being busy. The concepts are a bit abstract in the beginning, this SS24 was inspired by 1980s fantasy films, so I started by collecting images and watching loads of old tv and films to gain an idea of the feel. Fabric sourcing is a huge part of the design process, because I predominantly use second hand textiles the fabrics often dictate the designs, I go to carboot sales and junk shops a lot to look for interesting materials and then think about how I can incorporate them into a wearable piece. After I have designed and made a few pieces I go back to the mood boards and see what’s missing, for the most recent collection I’d been looking at the mythology of the greenman, and we had a lot of pieces separated by colour, so we made a big multicoloured vest top with a greenman knitted into the front to tie in the separates.

Does music influence your work in any way? If so, how?

It’s funny as I only listen to music on the way to the studio, or if we have lots of interns in, most of the time there’s a podcast playing, or we just chat with each other. But it does end up being a big part of the styling and show production, I make the show playlists from music that has been floating round while I was designing. This year I’ve been working with The Last Dinner Party and The New Eves, dressing them for shows, and getting to work with artists who weave their aesthetics into the performance has been really fun.

What’s been the main challenges starting your own brand?

Sadly money, I’m really lucky that I’m at a stage where I feel more stable with how much is coming in, but it’s not enough to expand the business or afford another full time member of staff. Even if we could afford to expand and begin working with factories it’s hard to find anyone who could work to such small minimums.

Where do you do most of your designing?

Usually at my studio desk, in my diary, I get stressed out with the formality of planners and calendars, so any day that doesn’t have a meeting written in I add in designs. I’ve got into a bad habit of just designing in pencil too and adding the colour in my head afterwards. As we use second hand textiles, I often have to design on the spot, as there’s not enough of the fabric to make a full piece, we have to get creative with patching in other fabrics and pattern cutting.

Could you explain the ‘High Fantasy’ concept.

I’m sure it’s been used before me, but I came up with it while trying to write a business plan for fundraising. It’s a merge of High fashion and fantasy costume, which is basically Rosie Evans as a brand. It’s also like saying ‘Fairytale but you’re high’ which is another good descriptor.

Found imagery plays a big part in your work, how much does fine art and collage influence your practise?

I think of the mood boards we make for the collections as collages in themselves, as it’s less about the individual photo and more about the general atmosphere they create. I tend not to look into fine art as much anymore, as I get a lot of inspiration from old photographs and films, I really like the texture and atmosphere that comes with old photos.


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