Sartorial Musings: A look at Claire Barrow’s work

Claire Barrow injects new meaning into the mantra ‘Fashion is Wearable Art’. A 22 year-old Westminster fashion graduate, this home grown talent began her career customising old leather jackets. Her collaboration with JOSEPH for spring/summer 2013 marks her first full collection; what began as reworking vintage leathers into one-off pieces to kill for – and Claire Barrow’s gang of followers look as if they would quite literally kill – has evolved into a range of androgynous, punk-inspired rain macs, rubber dungarees and woolen shirts.

Pieces in the collection were inspired by and named after tequila, bourbon, martini, gin, and absinthe, and Claire Barrow is indebted to ‘rebels in history’.  No attempts are made to disguise her allegiance to punk. Yet as I flick through images of the collection I cannot help but feel that it is a little too obvious. Whilst this range of elemental, unassuming, anti-nostalgic pieces is striking, I cannot shake the feeling that I have seen it all before – possibly whilst shifting from stall to stall in Camden market. Critics comment that Claire Barrow’s designs defy explanation because, after all, who can really explain the angst of disillusioned youth? This political message propping up the collection is its selling point, but no political protest can compensate for the fact that the sometimes child-like scribbles adorning otherwise wearable garments are simply not to my taste.

It is rare to find someone that is neither solely an illustrator, nor solely a fashion designer. Claire Barrow balances on the cusp between the two. Her credentials could be easily mistaken for a list of the British fashion magazine industry’s finest publications; already she has graced the pages of Elle, Grazia and Vogue, calmly and quietly rising to the top of the pile of would-be fashion designers, and planting herself firmly in pole position of every ‘Designers to Watch for 2013’ list worth its salt.

I may not appreciate her designs, but I appreciate her audacity. After all, who else has graffitied over an Hermès Birkin handbag and got away with it?