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PETER SIMON PHILLIPS | COLLAGE ARTIST AND STYLIST

We are lucky enough, over the last 16 years, to have met and worked alongside many CREATIVE and artfully talented people.  Some have helped us shape and grow our brand....

We are lucky enough, over the last 16 years, to have met and worked alongside many CREATIVE and artfully talented people.  Some have helped us shape and grow our brand. And some, well, we just think they are fabulous.

Here with, a series of conversations with CREATIVES we love and admire... we talk about their passions and persuasions... and their desire to create, inspire and forge meaningful paths.

We hope their musings inspire you as much as they do the Momenttain team...

Peter Simon Phillips has worked with us on a number of creative projects… MBFWA shows, shoots, and even a runway show on a plane somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne…

Creating fantasy fashion worlds is he intuitive creative pursuit... his work is always full of colour and life and energy. Hear him muse on his creative process…

 Alexandra: Tell me… what you were like in your formative years. Can you describe what you were like back in those days?

PSP: I definitely wasn’t very academically inclined. But I fell in love with the dark room in my later years of high school, and so I spent most of my time making images. Then that evolved into a visual viscom degree, and then that’s where I fell in love with fashion… and I guess that sort of became my passion. Image making during university was about the story telling aspect of fashion. I think I liked that there was narrative across multiple pages, while often photography is about single images. I think of my job as being a bit of a collage artist, because I work with other people’s things, to tell new stories. So it’s about collecting things and putting them back together, and repackaging them to tell a new story.

When I finished my viscom degree I started working with photographers. I was really lucky as I worked with Justin Cooper, and a few great Australian fashion photographers. It was at a time where all the great photographers where switching over from analogue to digital.

Alexandra: Did you ever think you’d be a photographer?

PSP: Yeah I did, for a long time. But it was quite a natural progression, and I was working across both sides of the lens for a while. But the fashion side just kind of kept pulling me. You know, sequin dresses were more exciting than the technology side of photography. In reality, a stylist is often a glorified pack horse: we are just forever lugging bags and bags of shit around. But bags of clothes didn’t seem as cumbersome as bags of lights and equipment.

Alexandra: So that goes to the creativity part of your brain I guess. Was there someone who sparked that creativity for you?

PSP: Not really, no one specifically. I think as you go from being in high school, where it’s like a mixed bag, and then you go to university, you go, wow everyone has the same interests as me. You're suddenly around all these like minded people and so your community kind of forms. I think there were groups of people that I started to socialise with, and be influenced by, and that’s when I started buying magazines, and sharing ideas and researching.

Justin Cooper was really great to me in the beginning, and then I worked with people like Michelle Jank for a long time, and she taught me about that idea of tactility. And then that evolved into working with Marc Vassallo. So there’s definitely been key people throughout my career who have helped inform me and shape things.

Alexandra: Well, you’ve worked with the best.

PSP: Yeah I had a really nice education.

Alexandra: That is the best education isn’t it, watching what other people are doing at the top of their game.

PSP: Yes, and you know, that’s something that I talk about when I have assistants all the time. We are in a different age now where everybody wants to be something straight away because of social media. I assisted for a really long time, I assisted in Australia and then I moved to New York for three and a half years, worked with April Hughes who again, was a big influence, and an educator. I worked with lots of stylists and I saw everybody’s process and how they did things differently. I sat in meetings with people and saw how they dealt with clients, and that was a great education moment. And I didn’t feel terribly rushed. I was really happy and I enjoyed what I did and I liked helping people create, and being a bit of a bower bird and collecting things for other people and then seeing what they did with them. I think that informed a lot of what I did.

Because a lot of it is about relationships, it’s about how you form a connection with somebody and that’s how you get the trust I think.

Alexandra: It’s everything. Those long term collaborations are long term creative partnerships, and often its about the energy between the people involved, because if you’ve got good people in the room you’re going to get a good outcome. So, tell me your process. After all that absorption of everybody else’s process and all the people you’ve worked with, when you sit down now and conceive of an idea, what’s your journey through that?

PSP: I am informed a lot by the collections that I see. I work out what the brief is or the theme of the magazine, or the client and what message they are trying to get across.

And then it’s about looking for all the clothes. So going for appointments and going through the books, collecting all the clothes and getting them to all come in together. That’s where that idea of collaging comes together. Where you’ve got all of these other peoples’ materials and you are wanting to tell a new story or create a new narrative with them.

When I worked at magazines as a fashion editor on a more full time basis, my motivation was always getting someone to stop for a second on a page. It didn’t matter if they didn’t like the image, it matters that they stop. There is always so much in the image and you really want to give them a reason to say, ‘Oh what’s happening there’ and challenge them. I think that’s the biggest thing… challenge your audience instead of just giving them what they want.

Alexandra: So let’s talk about runway, because we love working with you. Of course I have a strong sense of your process, but talk us through how you approach styling a runway show…

PSP: It’s very different. The reason I love runways so much is because I feel like it’s the final combination of an idea. It’s where we get to sell the biggest brand message. It involves all of the senses not just visual… there’s sound and there’s smell.

So I’ll meet with a designer to talk about the seasons and inspiration. Why are we here? Why has the decision been made to include these styles in a collection? And then it’s coming in and reworking the clothes, pulling the collection apart and putting it back together the best way you can. You know I always say a fashion show is like theatre without a dress rehearsal.

Alexandra: Yeah, it’s totally it’s like a New York Broadway performance without one rehearsal, but that’s the magic and the energy.

PSP: That is the magic and the energy of it.

Alexandra: For us working with you on a runway show is like working with a director. So yes you’re styling the garments and how they are worn and how they are put together, but also directing other parts of the show.

PSP: Well I guess the stylist’s role is big and it’s about bringing in collaborators, and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. I think it works differently for different brands and different environments. In a market like Australia you often don’t have the liberties of a casting director or a choreographer. So it falls on the stylist because you’re working the closest with the designer. I really enjoy that, I love the bigger picture concept.

Alexandra: But I see you running on instinct so much.

PSP: It’s very emotional what I do, yeah I think about that all the time, that it’s educated emotion. It’s a part of my job to look at a lot of things, so I spend a lot of time following fashion. I always say fashion is a little like football. You have to keep following it, you have to know who the key players are, who’s been the best. And you then interpret all of that for a brand and for a local market. So following fashion I think is very important.

Alexandra: So when you come and see our collection in the showroom, do you think… ‘ok I see a sea of colour, I see silhouettes, I see the prints, I see the vibe’. You then presumably go away and think how the music and how all the other parts of the puzzle might come together. What’s that process for you?

PSP: I think it comes from playing with the clothes, which I love doing with you guys. There’s definitely a process in which you two are really like that as well. It’s certainly not - just come in style it and then go away. You come in and work with the collection a few times and then you go away from that and you start to think about how do I hear those clothes walking, how do I see the room, is the room warm or is it cold? Is it futuristic or is it kind of romantic? I also think the time of the day matters a lot too.

I think I’m quite emotive which I think works for people. I think people like to see that I get excited and I’m trying and there is an agenda and there’s a reason why. And it’s making sure everyone is aware of that and then briefing lighting and sound, choreography. Letting the team know why things are working a certain way.

Alexandra: Let’s just talk about you and the creative energy that you bring, because I think that’s what’s so special about how you work with people. What are the sorts of things that you need to create, how do you keep that energy? How do you find that and maintain it?

PSP: Well you’re only as good as your last gig, you know! So I think there’s an importance to everything you’re doing, no matter what that is. I also think you get the best out of people when they’re happy. I’m a pretty positive person. Some people work on fear, I think I work on positivity. Because everything happens at such a fast pace, I have to pull things together and lead people to get an outcome. But I think it’s about giving people information, why we’re here and why we’re doing it and making them feel valued and worthy. I couldn’t do it all on my own.

Alexandra: But that takes great energy to do that everyday. What do you do behind the scenes to foster your creativity? Do you have a practice or a thing that feeds you?

PSP: I have a strong yoga practice and there’s a lot of mindfulness within that. I haven’t always had that but I think that has definitely informed the last few years especially as I’ve gained more control in my job and making sure that everybody does feel good and positive. I think fostering good energy makes good work. I think it shows in an image.

I also I like to sleep. I think there is a certain muscle potentially in your brain that likes to be exercised. I find, especially with fashion week, you’ve got three or four shows on and you’re completely exhausted but for some reason it almost makes everything better and I think that’s because it’s like a peak training period in a way.  

Alexandra: How does your real life and your work life meet?

PSP: They’re pretty integrated. Whether I’m working or I’m not, I’m always working I think. Maybe that’s the idea of working that creative muscle. I’m always looking or searching or reading. It feeds into all aspects of your life I think.

Alexandra: Are you tough on yourself?

PSP: Yeah I’m pretty on myself. I think I’m one of those people. But I think it’s good to be tough on yourself because next time you go into something, you learn from it. One of the other things I say about being in fashion is, it’s kind of like being a teenager your whole life, you know, because you have to be interested in a lot of things, you’ve got to keep up with music and popular culture and contemporary art. And you also get to dress like a teenager everyday which is something I quite like.

Alexandra: I have a question that I want to ask you, and this might be a bit personal, but I’ve heard you comment a few times that your mum was very influential on you …

PSP: Mum was nurturing. My mum was a fulltime mum and I don’t think many people have that liberty anymore. She would sit with us and do our homework and she wasn’t big on television in the morning or staying up late. She liked to make all of our own food. She had a nice understanding of arts and crafts and so we where always making things and doing things. It definitely taught me that I didn’t need to move into academia, because I wasn’t great at maths you know.

Alexandra: Flash forward now 10 years, where is your creativity going? Where are you? Do you have a vision or is it evolving or do you have something creatively that you want to do?

PSP: I think it’s similar to you guys, which I think is why we’ve made a connection. There is a growing interest around the ethics of fashion for me. In the end our job is to sell clothes. I don’t make those clothes, I am responsible for encouraging people to help buy them, and so I’m working harder and harder to make sure I’m encouraging people to buy the right things. So if that means turning down clients or going out and seeking out clients that I feel have ethics and values that align with mine, then I think that’s that biggest thing that’s on my mind at the moment.

Alexandra: It’s been a pleasure as always PSP… until we collaborate again… x

 

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