Briton Giles Deacon has joined fashion’s elite in collaborating on designer rugs. He talks to the South China Morning Post about how he stumbled into the industry.
One wouldn’t normally think of a rug as a piece of art, but some designers are hoping their pieces will become collectables in the future.
The Rug Company saw the potential of celebrity early on, launching its Designer series in 2000. Today it collaborates with some of the biggest names in fashion, the rugs featuring iconic elements of a designer’s oeuvre. Paul Smith, for example, uses his signature stripes; Vivienne Westwood, her favourite tartan; and Diane von Furstenberg, her colourful prints. There are plenty of other companies leveraging the celebrity of iconic designers, whether it’s Designers Guild’s flamboyant Christian Lacroix collection, or Elson & Company’s Fashion Underfoot series including the likes of Narciso Rodriguez and Oscar de la Renta.
“You sort of stumble upon these things,” says Christopher Sharp, co-founder of The Rug Company, whose first collaboration was with Italian brand Marni.
The Rug Company’s latest collaboration is with English designer Giles Deacon, who visited Hong Kong with Sharp recently for a preview of his collection at Lane Crawford.
Deacon is surprisingly tall, with square shoulders, dressed entirely in black save for a pair of pony hair animal print loafers. His signature aviator spectacles add to the art dealer cliche, but once he starts talking, those preconceptions fly out the window.
“I am not specific about what type of collaborations I do, and this project hit all my areas, so we went from there,” Deacon says.
His rugs – which cost between HK$ 12,346 and HK $13,396 per metre – are handmade by Nepalese artisans using wool and silk yarns. He describes them as “Classic in essence, with a slight subversion, thanks to the use of things like chicken wire which has been blown up, or chains,”
It’s hard to believe that Deacon once wanted to be a marine biologist. As a young boy growing up in the Lake District in Britain, he would spend hours in the countryside, which inspired him to study nature.
“While I had my hands in the river, I was also going to Newcastle every Saturday to buy records. It was an interesting way into fashion for me from an aesthetic point of view,” he says. “It was never the thing of `I want to be a fashion designer’. It’s creepy when people say they looked at their mother’s underpinnings at the age of three.”
After failing his science A-levels, Deacon landed a spot on an art foundation course at Harrogate at a family friend’s suggestion. From there he went on to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, where he graduated in 1992 with rising stars and fellow designers Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Stella McCartney and ex-girlfriend Katie Grand.
Rather than launching his own label straight away, he spent the next decade working at Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and later Bottega Veneta, where he became head designer on Grand’s recommendation. He lasted a successful four seasons until 2003, when PPR, the French multinational, took over.
“I was offered a very nice job at a highly respected studio in Milan, but I thought: `Do I want to be working in 10 years’ time at someone else’s studio?’ I wasn’t leaping up and down at the thought. I realised it was probably the worst time to start my line, so I did it anyway, and got a studio and team in place.”
Deacon’s first show was held at London Fashion Week in 2004 to much fanfare, thanks in part to Grand’s stellar line-up of supermodels and his quirky but glam clothes. Since then he has built a name for himself as one of Britain’s top designers, winning awards such as British Designer of the Year in 2006 and the Andam grand prix award in 2009. His use of bold colours and fabrics on dramatic yet playful silhouettes has won over celebrity fans such as Victoria Beckham, Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore.
“The aesthetic I have always liked is about a woman who is forthright and very interested in statement things. She’s not a wallflower when it comes to clothes. They are clothes that don’t come with a sheet of instructions. You see it on the rail and want to wear it.
“The past decade has changed quickly,” he says. “Design is not just about purely the aesthetic, but the functional. It makes designing more interesting, pleasing and easier.”
Another challenge he has taken on recently is the troubled fashion house of Ungaro, which has long been viewed as designer kryptonite thanks to its ever-revolving roster of creative directors and bad management. Deacon signed on in May last year. Autumn-winter is his second collection for the brand, and so far the critics are lapping it up.
“Ungaro is great because it’s got a distinct thing for me, because it’s a different woman in terms of character,” Deacon says. “It’s feminine, a little racy. It’s colour, print, floaty and light fabrics.”
Deacon also plans to open free-standing stores for his own line in seven to eight months’ time.
“People don’t want to see cloaked-up designers. They want to have that accessibility, that conversation,” he says. “The ivory tower concept is a bit outdated, really. You have to know what’s going on in the real world. Events like this, meeting people. It’s a nice, modern way of working.”
This article written by Divia Harilela first appeared in the South China Morning Post on 24th June 2011. Click here to read the article on the SCMP website