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Phoebe English – The Extraordinary Process @ Maison Mais Non

Amid the self-consciously conceptual sketches and tech-heavy fashion at Maison Main Non’s inaugural exhibit, one piece stands out to me as considering most thoughtfully the evolving needs of post-Millenials.

Phoebe English’s textile sculpture is a loosely closed shell, tethered by threads to blank walls, resting on a mirrored floor in soft light. Resembling a clam, the pod is explores the potential for textiles to form protective spaces – the outer surface is theorised as ingesting resources to create a self-sustaining environment for its inhabitant.

Building on the encaging broken rubber garments that formed part of her A/W12 collection, English more boldly articulates fashion’s ability to limit rather than promote social interaction. In using the smocking techniques explored in her S/S12 collection, she refers to the shell’s potential to adapt to the needs of the individual it encases – the elasticity usually afforded by the practice is evidently limited by the materials used. The acetate and fishing wire materials are hardy, making clear that the conceptual appeal of this structure is functional rather than sartorial.

The implications of the shell go further than a general re-imagining of the purpose of clothing and the reach of textiles, however. English has envisaged a world in which such a concrete expression of introversion is either necessary or desirable, as a response to very current anxieties about the concept of fashion as performative in an ever-more interconnected world. Social media has given us all unprecedented audiences and subjected us to the scrutiny of the Internet as well as the public –a future in which fashion can enable a retreat from this ceaseless surveillance is as hopeful as it is expressive of an understanding of current social trends.

Installation view of designs by Phoebe English
Photos by Damian Griffiths, Courtesy of Maison Mais Non

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