Images: Annie Collinge
Styling: James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks
Text: Jasmin Islamović
The wonderfully eccentric works of James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks, the protagonists of the Rottingdean Bazaar project, took centre stage at this season’s Fashion East menswear presentation, where they showcased their first clothing collection singed with art, craft, and modern mischief.
The Central St. Martins’ alumni’s perversely original approach to textiles was evident here. Pressed-on knickers, legwear, and balloons (both flattened and blown-up) adorned white sweatshirts, expanding on the playful incongruities of fusing every-day lost and found objects with pedestrian materials; a tradition initiated with their Instagram-based ‘@badgetaste‘ project, in which banal items such as ketchup pouches were slapped onto, well, badges. The duo had let their hair down – quite literally – their designs even featured the likeness of one Che Guevara crafted out of their own hair.
It comes as no surprise then, that the plans for Rottingdean Bazaar are now being expanded into a multifaceted affair. We chatted briefly with the designers about their ongoing project, as well as the below series of images created in collaboration with the equally imaginative photographer, Annie Collinge, who joins the discussion.The shoot, starring and styled by Brooks and Buck, took place on the shores of the seaside village of Rottingdean – home to the pair and the starting point of their indisputable, tenacious vision.
JI: How did this project come about? How did you all meet each other?
James/Luke: It was quite funny, because we had both been admiring Annie’s photographs and Instagram page from afar, and then one day she messaged us out of the blue, so we started chatting about making pictures together.
Annie: I actually started following Luke on Instagram, he came up on my list of people to follow. I think it’s because he used to be taught by Julie Verhoeven at CSM, and I have made a lot of pictures with her over the last few years. I just thought his Instagram was really original, funny and a bit dark. Instagram is so full of boring lifestyle fashion photography at the moment so it was great to see pictures of Romaine lettuces in bum cracks and chandeliers made of Wotsits. We met up for an epic coffee in Kings Cross. I didn’t meet James until the day of the shoot, but his work is equally brilliant and I think he has the perfect attitude to styling. They both seem incredibly focused on what they are doing and making and I’m not at all surprised they have been picked for Fashion East.
What was the concept behind the shoot?
AC: There wasn’t really a concept. I just suggested that I come down to Rottingdean for the day and that we make some pictures together. I like to make photographs in a kind of experimental way and just to see what happens, but with some loose ideas in mind.
J/L: We all wanted to do something spontaneous and playful, in the spirit that it could be the beginning of doing other things together.
How did you work together that day? What was your mutual creative process like?
J/L: The shoot was very democratic. We all had a say in each aspect of the images, including the styling. It was very interesting for us working with a photographer who is not mainly focused on fashion.
AC: I like my photographs to be quite simple, which may have reined them in a little, but we worked it out in the end. I think we all have an appreciation for the slightly comic, tragic kind of image.
Annie, how did it differ from your singular process?
AC: I guess I always realise, when I’m making images with other people, what a massive control freak I am. I think what’s good about collaborating is that it slightly forces you out of your comfort zone, to try and be a more reasonable person.
Can you tell us more about the future of the ‘Rottingdean Bazaar’project?
J/L: We will be having a week-long shop in London later this summer, and are aiming to open our website and online shop at the same time too. There will be clothes, accessories, and some household objects – the things we showed at our presentation with Fashion East during LCM, and more hopefully!
How do you feel this sets you apart from the current market?
J/L: With ‘Rottingdean Bazaar’ we are trying to structure the presentation of our work in a way that feels healthy for us. A part of that is emphasising the shop and workshop aspects, so that it can include all elements of our output, like photography, more momentary things and objects which might not fit into a collection or a show. We would like to continue to be free to work on anything, in any medium, with any organisation or person and show or sell it at any time.