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The Rodnik Band: S/S 2012 ‘Cod Save The Sea’ Diffusion Line for ASOS Interview with designer Philip Colbert

Our exclusive interview with The Rodnik Band designer Philip Colbert, talking about his work and the launch of a diffusion line for ASOS from his S/S 2012 'Cod Save The Sea' collection in collaboration with the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Written by Maria Papadimitriou

The Rodnik Band SS12 lobster by Claire Jones Art

The Rodnik Band SS12 ‘Cod Save The Sea’ by Claire Jones Art

You studied History of Art and Philosophy. Tell me a little about these roots, how you ended up working in fashion and your first steps in the fashion world.
I have always been interested in art and art history because there is a lot of meaning to it, and studying philosophy made me interested in thinking about things in different ways. Coming from that background, it was really good I ended up going into fashion quite randomly as it meant I sort of made up my own rules. This is why with time I went away from a slightly more traditional focus, which I thought I should have when I first started. In the beginning I was importing scarves and getting design teams to create well made collections. It was just a business idea, but the end goal was not very personal to me. Being a bit of an outsider and trying to do something without the formal training helped create the fun, ‘anyone can do anything’ spirit of the brand. There is this naive, non rigid and fun approach in the other elements that make up the brand too, like the music or the videos.

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' sketches wall by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou
The Rodnik Band SS12 by Nicola Oprey

The Rodnik Band SS12 ‘Cod Save The Sea’ by Nicola Oprey

Having had no formal fashion training how involved are you now in the design and the making of the collections?
I do all the designs and the graphics and I do work on the patterns, but I also have help with them. I am not really putting focus on reinventing things in terms of the fit of the clothes, in general I go with very classic silhouettes and basic templates as I think this is suitable for the more complicated ideas and prints that go on top. Having said that, I am interested in developing very subtle and sophisticated twists in the ways I can use patterns to help the ideas. For instance, some pieces, like the fish and chips gown for instance, are quite sculptural with a more complex pattern.

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' stop pirate fishing slogan sketch by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

You have said before that for you humour is a powerful tool to push understanding and encourage a thoughtful approach to clothing. Could you comment a little more on the importance of using humour in your designs?
For me the humour is there as this is how I get my kick out of fashion. It is basically because otherwise I find fashion quite boring. Even if there is definitely an art to the hype of playing with trends, and people do it very well, I find it slightly boring after a while, especially after a few seasons. There’s not much content or ideas in it. So I always like it when there’s maybe more playful, actual ideas that come across. I also think that fashion takes itself quite seriously and this can sometimes make it less infectious than it could be. Using humour is a good way of shaking the cage a little and becoming slightly more aware of the nature and the structure of the industry and how absurd it is. For me the value of fashion is escapism and a bit of fun. Obviously there is clothing which is more practical, like uniforms, but when we talk about creating clothing to express a sense of self, or an outlook of the world, or a sense of spirit, or a mood, then the idea of being playful with it and having a mix of fantasy and creativity and a little bit of bonkers in it is really good. This way it injects a bit of surrealism into everyday life which is often mundane. So to make a shark bag or a fish and chips top or things that are referencing contemporary art you give it something extra and can put a smile on someones face or make them think about a new idea. This is for me slightly more interesting than just a floral print. Obviously a floral print could be lovely, but actually if you have seen a thousand floral prints it is nice to have something fun instead or designs that you could have a conversation about as opposed to just say that something is pretty.

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' black dresssketch by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

By creating a diffusion line of your ‘Cod Save The Sea’ collection for ASOS you will be making your designs more accessible to a wider public, which is great. Is this something that you want to do more?
The not so accessible pieces in my collections are great at capturing the more artistic spirit of the brand. I really like the idea of taking an iconic image like Duchamp’s ‘Fountainand all the associations that go with it and make a dress out of it. It was the same idea when Yves Saint Laurent took a Mondrian painting and made a dress out of it, which was a really powerful idea. He took this graphic iconic art and made a fashion statement out of it. So in the same way I thought it would be cool to take the anarchy and the irreverence of Duchamp’s urinal piece and put it into fashion, this is the spirit of what I am trying to do. The more elaborate pieces are more in tone with my interest in art and playing with that cross over, but in addition to that I definitely want to create a world of things which are maybe easier, not in spirit, but are easier to wear, and which are maybe not so specifically about the relationship between art and fashion, but more loose.

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' lobster dress sketch by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' shark pocket dress sketch by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou.jpg

You do use a lot of iconic images both from the art world but also from popular culture, often British popular culture. Tell us a little more about that.
It is good to play with iconic images because they are a language and you can communicate with them and use their vocabulary and associations to put ideas into people’s minds or play with them. This is why I find clothing quite fun and interesting. It is like a platform to express yourself but in some ways it is challenging. Artists have a lot more freedom for instance with a canvas because no one has to wear it, or turn up to work and feel embarrassed they are wearing a soup can. Part of what I like is this challenge of mixing art and ideas but with clothing as a canvas. Obviously one has to try and keep that within a range of what people will actually wear or find that line where something is tasteful yet provoking and still has a sophisticated feel.

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' yellow submarine mac sketch by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' yellow submarine mac on stand by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

The Rodnik Band studio 2012 'Cod Save the Sea' large fishy soup prop by Phil Colbert photo by Maria Papadimitriou

What made you present your fashion brand also as a music band and further incorporate into the package video and performance elements?
The brand/band really captures the spirit of the humorous crossover art brand. It is about presenting ourselves a little bit differently from other labels. In a way it is tongue in cheek and the slightly naive execution is often about being in no man’s land. The brand is always half joking about everything but it also takes people in different places. By creating one off impromptu performances, or fashion shows with performance, song and video elements we are fusing ideas together and by presenting things in this way I do think that the audience understands the spirit of the brand much better.

The Rodnik Band band image

What’s in store for the future?
‘Farm Yard’ is the theme of the next collection, which will explore a cartoony farm world. We are also planning a pop up shop in Knightsbridge in a couple of months and I would like to collaborate again with photographer Alison Jackson with whom we shoot the Pippa and Kate Middleton video. In terms of showing the work I plan to put more focus on the videos than the shows, as video lasts, it captures the multidisciplinary approach really well and can be more widely accessible.

Go ahead and have a look at the super fun designs in The Rodnik Band’s S/S 2012 ‘Cod save The Sea’ diffusion line for ASOS available on the website and you can still buy a special ‘Cod save The Sea’ t-shirt designed by The Rodnik Band for EJF available from the EJF website. Read our introduction to The Rodnik Band here.

All photography by Maria Papadimitriou.


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