The Genteel
October 18, 2017
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Zoe Chandler's 'Design Denim' supported by ISKO™, photography by James Rees. Photograph courtesy of Zoe Chandler.

Mine are not the only eyes that follow Zoe Chandler as she floats confidently across the dimly-lit bar. This London-based fashion designer has a presence and it's one that is gathering force.

Extending a hand and a smile, we greet. Her straight crimson bob 'popping' against the backdrop of an all black ensemble - simple yet polished, she is effortlessly chic. I look down at my old jeans, sheepishly. She glances down at the same pair, inspired.

Chandler is the latest designer to be named Overall Winner of the London College of Fashion's 'Design Denim' competition. Another notch on her impeccably well-styled belt, this accolade will stand alongside the time spent working with Jonathan Saunders and Hermione de Paula in London, as well as with Marc Jacobs International in New York City.

Original 'Design Denim' sketches from Zoe
Chandler. Photograph courtesy of
Zoe Chandler.

In collaboration with leading denim manufacturers ISKO, the Design Denim competition challenged Chandler and her competitors to turn rags to riches, producing an innovative new look from just a handful of swatches. "We were each given fabric from the company's factory and expected to manipulate the denim in various ways as part of our design process," Chandler explains when talking with The Genteel.

Chandler's art for manipulation is clearly evident in her award-winning piece. Noting the iconic "bomber" as her starting point, her face is alight as she expresses her passion for reinvention: "I love to work with classic garments, the iconic pieces, the kind people will always recognise and will always want to wear."

The method of this reinvention? "It is always process led," she answers. "I design through creating 3D textile samples. With the jacket, I bonded silk organza to chambray denim. I liked the way the denim changed when bonded together - but the original fabric was almost too concealed and no longer resembled denim. I distressed the surface with sandpaper and the organza fluffed up like candyfloss. It created an interesting surface textile - and one recognisably denim."

The structure of the piece was similarly trial and error. "I became intrigued with encasing wide elastic in denim, it created interesting forms - that's how I developed the jacket's silhouette," she explains. Like many designers, the silhouette plays a central role in each of Chandler's creations. The trousers accompanying the winning design are slightly curved at each side: "I wanted to make their shape different and more contemporary than the standard jeans," she notes.

The inspiration for the piece? To achieve a sense of classlessness - an aesthetic mix of casual simplicity and lavish luxury.

Stealing a bashful glance at my run-of-the-mill skinny fits, I steer the conversation from process technicalities to the design stages. "The inspiration for the piece? To achieve a sense of classlessness - an aesthetic mix of casual simplicity and lavish luxury," Chandler elucidates clearly. 

The pursuit of such "classlessness" is the common thread that ties together Chandler's wider body of work, with the winning design playing just a small part of a much broader collection. It is a quality easily detected in her creation of effortless designs and her painstaking attention to detail; one inspired no doubt, by Chandler's previous stint working for the Trim managers of Marc Jacobs in New York.

"In that role, my focus was always about the finish and detail of garments. It's now something that influences all of my work - my focus as a designer is always on how to perfect the finish of a piece."

This young star's repertoire extends far beyond designing denim; her winning design also comes in luxury mohair, a fabric utilised numerous times by the designer throughout her collection. Having just returned from a summer spent in the ISKO Creative Room on the outskirts of Venice, one can be certain Zoe Chandler's denim manipulation is far from worn out.

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