Paint Me Pretty

Paint Me Pretty

Myth quashed.  People DO talk to each other on the tube in London.  After seeing the Fashion East menswear collections, I got on the tube at Covent Garden and Holly Fowler came up to me to give me her business card.  I'm more than happy to kick it old school and find designers through face to face encounters.  A few months later, I finally managed to go and see Holly's studio and find out more about her mesmerising painted world.  

Central Saint Martins collection followers might remember Holly's graduate collection from the 2011 BA show.  Browns carried on their tradition of picking up on graduate designers immediately and then asked Holly to create a small collection for them, transferring her painted motifs from stiff canvas to more wearable silk.  After stints at Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, Holly came back to London to get serious about growing her hand painted work and so came up with a S/S 13 collection, which then led to another exclusive collection for Browns, and also for Bergdorf Goodman and Capitol stocking her collection.  That's quite an impressive stockist trio for someone who admittedly "stumbled quite organically" towards her label and initially wasn't aware of seasons, lookbooks and the formalities of creating and selling a collection.  

That free flowing start to Holly's label almost runs parallel to her painting style.  Influenced by her CSM tutor Howard Tangye (looking looking forward to his Kickstarter-funded book Within), who often told her to stop and step back from a drawing, Holly's black ink drawings took on a spare and fluid spontaneity.  The lines remind me a little of Henri Matisse or Toulouse Lautrec but with an innate femininity that comes from her admiration of Cartier and Bvlgari jewellery.  It's that trompe l'oeil jewellery effect combined with dreams of maharajahs, bygone princesses and Wallis Simpson that inspire her regal shapes as well as her opulent motifs.  She also has an imaginary muse called Pamela.  That's Princess Pamela to you and I.  She's based on Holly's grandmother, someone who dressed up for every occasion and took pride in her appearance.  Holly illustrates a tale for every season based around the adventures of Pamela.  For S/S 13, Princess Pamela finds herself in the frozen aisle of a supermarket having lost her rings in amongst the lasagnes but then finding a golden crab with diamonds in its eyes.  And so it is a crab finds its way on a pink silk shift.      

From inspiration to the final garment, everything about the way Holly works is endearingly introspective and steeped in an imaginative dreamer territory.  Holly might chalk up the designs on the garments but the paintings are done free hand and so often, no two are exactly the same.  The danger in taking on large quantities for stockists, is ensuring that they all retain that freehand quality which is why in the future, she's also looking into the possibility of combining digial print with hand painted work to retain her handiwork signature.  It's that tactile hand painted charm, which has seduced those prestigious retailers and a set of bespoke clients in America, who have commissioned Holly to create a distinct garment for them.  Labour of love is an oft-used phrase but it certainly applies in Holly's instance as she talks in disbelief about being fortunate enough to be paid to paint.  It might take up to three weeks (that's working from 8am to 10pm everyday) to paint one single gown but Holly clearly revels in getting lost in these canvases that then take on a life of their own, swirling around the body as though the painting was animated.  

Holly doesn't want her work to exist in a strictly rarified plane though.  For Browns, her hand painted leather jackets, slippers and bags (complete with the most charming of painted silk linings) as well as shorter dresses she'll be creating for her forthcoming S/S 14 collection, means that anyone could be hooked into her work, even if they don't have a calender of "society" functions to attend.  I quite like Holly's dreamer inclinations towards princess ankle length gowns and stiffened flared out proportions.  As houses such as Valentino are showing, there's a way of making those longer lengths and demureness,  relevant and even subversive in some cases.  Princess need not be just be for dreams only.  They can exist in real life too.   





9snake_closeupA/W 13-4 exclusive collection for Bergdorf Goodman

Central Saint Martins BA 2011 Collection 



IMG_9416First collection for Browns

























IMG_9466S/S 13 collection









7mixmatch shoes

IMG_9459A/W 13-4 exclusive collection for Browns


Leave a comment
  1. Rebecca

    2013-08-23 at 4:40 PM

    These clothes are very beautiful.

  2. Victor Stonem

    2013-08-23 at 4:56 PM


  3. FashionSnag

    2013-08-23 at 4:59 PM


  4. Like__Enchanted

    2013-08-23 at 5:15 PM

    Great outfit !
    Love, unicorns and glitter on you. <3

  5. ChamaFashion

    2013-08-23 at 5:40 PM

    Beautiful clothes!


    2013-08-23 at 6:41 PM

    These is what dreams are made of, and make me want to create and dream…
    Thank you, dear Susie.

  7. Ana

    2013-08-23 at 6:56 PM

    Oh dear lord YES!

  8. Lola

    2013-08-23 at 7:51 PM

    Wow! as somebody who struggles to paintbrush to paper, I can’t imagine what it must be like to paint on clothing, it looks so beautiful I was really surprised to read that it was done free-hand and I love that the inside of the purse has things painted in it, such a charming finish

  9. Sulgi

    2013-08-23 at 8:09 PM

    Incredible! Even inside the bag!!!

  10. milex

    2013-08-23 at 10:18 PM
  11. Kel

    2013-08-24 at 6:30 AM

    Love the design on the shoes!! So cute! What an awesome idea!!

  12. Lydia

    2013-08-24 at 9:07 AM

    Incredible pieces, so talented! x

  13. Angelique Jennifer

    2013-08-24 at 9:56 AM

    I probably wouldn’t wear them but they look really beautiful. To me, they look more like pieces of art than clothes, but I guess clothes are pieces of art sometimes, aren’t they?

  14. Nicola

    2013-08-24 at 10:45 AM

    Absolutely stunning!

  15. Kasia

    2013-08-24 at 3:09 PM

    I love these patterns and piece of art on clothes!

  16. Helen

    2013-08-24 at 6:45 PM

    Beautiful!! I love the bags and the slippers!

  17. Sarah Mendelsohn

    2013-08-25 at 4:47 AM

    Her work is incredible!!

  18. Emma

    2013-08-25 at 6:38 PM

    Wow! These are amazing, great post 🙂

  19. Jennifer Chan

    2013-08-26 at 3:15 AM

    Fascinating ! I cannot wait to study at CSM near the future. 🙂


    2013-08-26 at 6:17 PM

    This is an amazing entry..
    The possession of the skill to be able to hand paint so delicately and beautifully is really quite astonishing.
    Kudos on the entry and Kudos to Miss Holly.

  21. Sophster J

    2013-08-26 at 10:15 PM

    Great! Haven’t seen anything new, hand-painted in a while.

  22. Anelia

    2013-08-27 at 3:42 PM

    Really stunning collection!

  23. Alexander

    2013-10-15 at 5:19 PM

    Seventeen years ago I made these “cats”:
    Both photos were published in Internet (at dozen American and European sites) since 1998th.
    Ideas are flying in the air? 🙂

  24. Broken Cookies

    2013-10-27 at 8:42 PM

    the prints are great!
    xx, Sabinna and David
    Broken Cookies

  25. Jasmine London

    2013-10-29 at 3:58 PM

    This is an amazing…

  26. Maillot Bayern

    2014-09-09 at 2:16 AM

    Labour of love is an oft-used phrase but it certainly applies in Holly’s instance as she talks in disbelief about being fortunate enough to be paid to paint.

  27. Casquette Jordan

    2014-11-03 at 2:12 AM

    From inspiration to the final garment, everything about the way Holly works is endearingly introspective and steeped in an imaginative dreamer territory.

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