Fashion; We want to be; alone

Recluse Howard Hughes is an unlikely influence for fashion designers but, as Susannah Frankel explains, Brian Kirby and Zowie Broach (right) are no ordinary designers. And their `demi-couture' label, Boudicca, is definitely not your average fashion label. Backstage photographs by Robert Wyatt

I first came across Boudicca under less-than-auspicious and typically obscure circumstances almost three years ago. Brian Kirby and his partner Zowie Broach were, like me, talked into visiting the sleepy seaside town of Rijeka in Croatia and taking part in the twice-yearly "collections" there.

Croatia, you might think, is hardly fashion central, unlike say Paris, Milan or New York. And you'd be right. The idea behind our involvement - naively enough - was that to bring a little slice of London to an area hardly known for its fashion forward approach - but still wanting to make a name for itself through its clothes - could only be a good thing.

Broach puts it more pragmatically: "Hey, it was a holiday. We did it because they asked us to. And it was good practice. It was mad though, wasn't it?"

It most certainly was. Six hours and around 50 designers into the event, at around one in the morning - in Croatia, fashion shows are clearly, well, an eclectic affair; an eclectic affair that goes on, and on, and on - Broach and Kirby had their moment. To say that their designs were at odds with everything around them would be an understatement. Croatian fashion turned out to be disappointingly bourgeois - a far cry from the radical creativity in the face of adversity we had been led to expect. There were moments of madness, of course (dogs in psychedelic shades and ra-ra skirts adapted to fit the canine form) but for the most part a deluge of ill-conceived Armani and Versace rip-offs were the order of the day. The spiky, raw-edged sexuality of Boudicca's designs put all this to shame - it was also a million miles away from anything anyone in the audience had seen before.

Several seasons on in the rather more design-friendly environs of London Fashion Week last March and Boudicca, by now a more complex and thoughtful label, is still very pleasantly surprising. To begin with, next autumn/winter's collection is inspired by Howard Hughes - the least likely of fashion icons. To be fair, Broach is quick to point out that Hughes' own look - not a famously good one - is not the key to the collection, rather it is his reclusive lifestyle.

"The collection's about the world we live in," she says. "We are increasingly single - we work alone, travel alone, live alone - but we'd rather be part of a couple, we'd rather have company."

Next season then, Boudicca devotees can look forward to a beautifully tailored "Embrace Me" jacket which not only comes in the type of rich fabric you want to reach out and touch, but also has pockets at each shoulder allowing any potential admirer to hug you inside your clothes. The equally accomplished "Solitary Dress" is slashed at both sides of the waist leading straight to skin, meaning the wearer can hug themselves if they're feeling lonely, poor things.

Also idiosyncratic was the way in which the designers chose to show their clothes. There were only 13 outfits and one model - which not only made life rather difficult for the frankly heroic woman in question but also made the audience feel decidedly uncomfortable. While Boudicca and company fretted backstage with what must surely have been the quickest clothing changes in fashion history, the people out front could only wonder what had gone wrong - had the second model failed to show? And the third?

"We just wanted to slow the whole process down," says Fiona Dallanegra, fashion editor at i-D and the person responsible for this concept. "There are so many ideas going on and the clothes aren't easy to understand. We thought this would force people to look closely."

"There were all these students backstage," adds Broach. "And they kept saying, `Where are all the models?' There were only seven of us there. We had to do the clothing changes really quickly. It was all very Countdown."

Visiting Boudicca in their studio in London's Brick Lane - all painted brick walls and rough floorboards - is a lesson in the imposed frugality at the heart of young British fashion. Despite critical acclaim, Broach and Kirby, partners in real as well as fashion life, live and work in this one space. Both cut their fashion teeth at Middlesex Polytechnic and Kirby went on to complete an MA at London's Royal College of Art.

"We met on a beach in Rimini five years ago," says Broach. "We'd rather not tell you how old we are, thank you."

Anyone who works for the couple does so for love rather than for the money - there is no money. "We don't get out much," laughs Broach.

Boudicca currently has no backer and is not interested in a high-street link-up. "It's really quite hard to do your own thing," says Broach, "but the clothes are an expression of ourselves and we'd rather not be controlled by sales or commercial compromise. Any money we do make goes straight back into the clothes."

Happily, the label is at the forefront of a new movement towards more exclusive dressing: clothes that are perhaps best described as demi-couture. These are either bought in small amounts by enlightened buyers, including directional stores like The Pineal Eye in Soho, or fitted for private clients by the designers themselves. Prices start at pounds 120 and go up to pounds 1,500 for a single garment.

"We want it to be like buying [vintage] second-hand clothes," says Broach. "It should be special and mean something to the person who buys them. I love that preciousness."

Boudicca's clothes are made with love. In an age in which clothing is increasingly bland and homogenised, this, it almost goes without saying, is like a breath of fresh fashion air

Boudicca's autumn/winter collection is available from August. For stockist information and enquiries call 0171-377 5002

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
i100
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments