Interview: Simon Preen

A graduate of the prestigious London college, Simon studied menswear design but his collections are now almost exclusively for the female form, adored by the likes of singer Jessie J. I meet with Simon Preen in a minimal art gallery come coffee house and given the topics we are soon to be discussing it seems like a fitting location. A gentle and soft spoken character our conversation goes from his time at the London college of Fashion, supply and demand to hot sluts.

So, how do you go from studying menswear to becoming a womenswear designer?

When I was doing menswear I didn’t really do conventional menswear; I was always trying to blur the boundaries between men’s and womenswear. You could say it’s androgynous but I try not to use that word as I feel it is over used. I was always trying to bring one into the other and vice versa. The style I finally chose to adopt was more widely used in women’s fashion. I’ve only just started to do a few pieces for men, but it’s still essentially the same as my womenswear.

Will we see a full menswear collection?

It depends if there is a need for it; the pieces I have at the moment are just to try and test the waters and see how things go. I always wear my own womenswear and people will ask me where I get things from and why I don’t do menswear.  If I do start a menswear collection it will be pretty much the same as my women’s collection because menswear at the moment is awful. I find you can’t get anything, especially from the high street to the mid-range designer’s area, you can’t get anything interesting or nicely cut.

So what do you find yourself wearing?

When I go out to parties I wear my own designs, I don’t really know where I get my clothes from because don’t really shop. I can’t even remember the last thing I bought; I think I just steal things from people! I hardly ever go shopping, I really hate I,t which is bad because that’s my business, but shops confuse me. So I make a lot of stuff myself and my night time look consists of see-through pieces which I like.

What would you say were your main inspirations when working on your collections?

When I’m designing my collection I don’t create a storyboard and I never have a fixed idea in my head of what I want to do. I think my theme is generally always the same: minimal, gothic, bold, geometric and tight. I think I’m quite receptive to what is going on around me; even though I don’t intend to pick up things from what’s around me, I think I just do naturally. Everything I do has to be very sexy; I wouldn’t want to put my name against something I didn’t think was.

Your collections contain a lot of body’s and all in ones, do you see he any plans to develop it into a more conventional collection with other separates, say a skirt or a dress?

It’s not something I really want to do at the moment. I have a few dresses in my new collection that are floaty skirts but with a body-suit attached and the skirt itself is see-through. But again, it still keeps within the style of my previous work.

We’ve seen a lot of your designs worn by Jessie J, how did that come about?

Her stylist at the time borrowed lots of stuff when she first went to America and was wearing my clothes to parties. She really liked it and kept asking for more and wore a crop top and leggings combination for the VMA’s, which she really loved. It then got to the point where she was requesting more and more stuff and I was like, she’s worn everything now! So they asked me to start designing pieces for her, which then led to designing the costumes for her UK tour. Now I’m doing bits for her every so often, mostly for performances. I couldn’t think of anyone from the pop scene who would better suits my designs. It’s good that they approached me and not the other way around because I wouldn’t be really approach a pop star myself.

Are there any other celebrities you’d love to dress?

I’d love Lindsey Lohan as a campaign girl, that’s been my personal dream for the last couple years. She’s just amazing, a hot slut. That’s my mission statement, that’s who I design clothes for, hot sluts, and I don’t use slut in a derogatory term.

With companies such as Wolford straddling both lingerie and fashion would you see yourself collaborating with a company such as them considering there are elements of both your works that are very similar?

I’d love to, I’m always interested in doing collaborations. I love Wolford and I’d like to do something with them, it depends what comes my way. I never actively seek out collaborations and I don’t have anything of that nature in the pipeline, but it would be something I would be interested to do. I’m thinking about going into knitwear and currently in talks with a new production company who can facilitate that. But as far as other labels, nothing like that has happened. I do more collaborations with artists, but doing some kind of lingerie would be great.

Do you have plans to expand the label?

There are loads of people that want my stuff, it’s just at the moment I haven’t had the power to get it out there. I’ve had interest from stockists all over the world. For my Autumn/Winter 2012 collection I will be stocking in a few more stores­- one in Paris another in Brick lane, in East London.

Is it frustrating to have so much demand and not be able to meet it?

It is frustrating, but I’m a believer in growing naturally and I don’t like to force things too much. I think maybe I’m a bit to laid back, but I feel that works for me; I can’t do too many things at once. I have to do things the way the way I have to do things; it will naturally progress, I have a lot of faith in that. I produce all my work here in London and I know there is a temptation to go to China or India to produce your work. But I’ve spoken with a lot of people and there is a resurgence of production in London. I think it’s a good thing because it can be a bit soul destroying the way people are churning out badly produced clothes, where as, having my production base close, I can be more hands on and keep it home-grown.

So when can we expect the new collection?

The new collection is in production now and should be out by the end of summer.

Any plans to show at London fashion week?

I haven’t really wanted to show at fashion week, the whole insanity that goes into a show puts me off. I think it will happen when it happens but at the moment I couldn’t fit in a show. I’ll have to do one eventually, but maybe I won’t. Fashion’s always changing and I don’t think it’s that important anymore and I feel a lot of people put a lot of emphasis into a show and I don’t think it gets you enough attention like it once did. Until I definitely have the time to do it and do it right, I don’t want to do it.

Words: Emmanuela Mbazuigwe

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