Meet Sade English, the artist that doesn’t fit the mould
Her body of work defies gender, race and establishment but, most notably, defies the very conception of what people think a fashion designer should be. Sade doesn’t fit the category.
I meet Sade English in her brand-new studio filled with natural light and whitewashed walls, those walls you can sense will soon be completely transformed into living, breathing works of art. “I don’t even draw anything on paper anymore, I just imagine it and create it”, she explains as she apologises for her studio feeling like a blank slate. However, despite the quiet surroundings, the whole studio is charged with Sade’s strong yet poised presence. Her body of work defies gender, race and establishment but, most notably, defies the very conception of what people think a fashion designer should be. “From the moment I left London College of Fashion (UAL), I decided I wouldn’t want to be called a fashion designer”, says Sade. To define her as a fashion designer would be quite the understatement.
Sade’s sewing needle perforates the fabric of society so to expose all its mismatched hems, nonsensical patterns and creased perceptions. Through her body of work, Sade strives to push the boundaries set by our society, culture, gender or race so that we can break free from the mould and start identifying ourselves by what we believe in. The outcome is not merely a piece of fabric we accept to cover ourselves with, but rather a piece of art we choose as a canvas to express ourselves freely with. Her work, despite being “an extension of herself”, once out of her reach and worn, experienced and visualised by someone else, becomes an extension of their skin. This is the Anti-clone movement or, as Sade puts it, “not simply existing, but being”.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the work she produces takes on a unique form that is completely counter current to what we'd see on Instagram, glossy mags or London’s 'hot spots’. Unlike many emerging artists and fashion designers, Sade is not interested in the too-fast and too-fickle world of social media with its trends, popular posts and seemingly empowering hashtags. “Everything that is happening now should have happened a while ago, but now it’s popular because we made it into a trend”, she expresses, referring to the commercialisation of long fought-for movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, which Sade holds extremely at heart - herself being mixed race with part Jamaican, Chinese, Colombian and Peruvian heritage. Whilst she stresses it’s incredibly important to speak up about such topics, they also risk being trivialized when used alongside a hashtag and a selfie. Also, because of the very nature of trends, don’t all things ‘trendy’ soon go out of fashion? For Sade, “the art and fashion world have become so diluted, so mainstream, so accessible that people don’t see through it anymore”. In the now very-much crowded and ego-centric realm of fashion, it’s easy to survive off the elusive glamour granted by celebrities, influencers and bloggers but to Sade “fashion is a craft” and it doesn’t require celebrity endorsements or 1.2M Instagram followers. What it does require is “having a concept, rather than just a brand”. Sade’s concept is simple: don’t conform to suit society.
Ultimately, for Sade it’s the “thoughts that should get spoken about, not the pictures” and when you really stand for what you’re creating “you start to project an ideology that people support and then you surround yourself with like-minded people rather than people who just think it’s cool”. This has been the key to her collage series where Sade has begun to collaborate with friends, artists and creatives from different disciplines because to her “having a concept is also about embodying other people and forming a collective”. This project was born from the collaboration between Josh Faux’s analogue photography skills and Luke Harris’ and Lola Dupre’s creativity and the blending of these talents has inspired Sade to collaborate for future collections opening the doors to new horizons and possibilities.
“I am more myself now than I have ever been”, says Sade with a confidence that exudes freedom, a freedom that we are accustomed with by living in city like London, but a freedom we inadvertently take for granted day after day. “We don't realise how fortunate we are by living in a city as free as London - but we’re lazy”, she explains, wishing people took the chance to stop this fast-paced life for a moment and look outwardly towards other countries, other cultures and open-up to new horizons. “When you look at subcultures in London it’s basically all the same, everyone seems stuck” says Sade, “and you realise this all the more once you go to a different country”, especially if the country in question is Japan where underground subcultures seem to flourish despite the rigid culture and ingrained traditions.
Sade will have the chance to experience these cultural differences in June where she’ll be exhibiting The Anticlone at the Lovely Gallery in Tokyo. Unashamedly, she admits she’s “escaping to Japan, even for just a little bit, to get away from London”. In Tokyo, she’ll be showcasing both her X and Skin collections as well as her more personal, collage-based series of prints based on her portraits. At first, Sade was cautious about using her image as a means of expression in her work. “I never wanted my face to be what my brand is about because people think you’re endorsing yourself”, but she soon realised that “my clothes and the inspiration behind them are all a part of me and it only makes sense that I include myself within the visual process. At the end of the day, it all stems from who I am”, she says, blurring the line between life and art a bit more.