Fred Butler's origami accessories have landed her commissions on the pages of i-D, Dazed & Confused, Vogue and V magazine not to mention onto Lady Gaga's head in the diva's video for "Telephone." Photographed last year by Nick Knight, the soft-spoken prop stylist turned accessories designer is a longtime London fashion scene standout with her unwavering head-to-toe monochromatic outfits. Launched in 2008, Butler's line of colorful op-art mutations have been worn by musicians Patrick Wolf, Little Boots, Beth Ditto, La Roux and Skunk Anastasie. Stocked at London's jewelry cache Kabiri and with a hush-hush high-street collaboration in the works, Fred takes a few minutes to talk to Fashionista about her music-fashion collaborations, designing in London and a new era of dressing.
1. Fashionista: Musical collaborations are a massive element in your work, where did that start? Fred Butler: I hated school, hated being a teenager. But music got me through it, I loved going to gigs every week. Now I get to go to my friends' gigs. I also collect records for their artwork. My favorite is an Xray Specs album, a punk band whose lead singer is called Poly Styrene, it has this amazing cover with them in test tubes.
2. What was it like working on the headpiece for Gaga's "Telephone" video? Brilliant, it was a dream! Nicola [Formichetti] just said to make something "baby blue." Only near the end, once I had been staring at it so long, I couldn't tell what color it was anymore...I freaked out and thought "shit this is sky blue!" I had to grab someone and ask.
3. What's unique about being a designer in London? Because it's quite a cold, gray city people do stuff to cheer themselves up, to make their day to day experience more interesting. People here aren't scared. It's a nice thing to be part of.
4. Describe your workspace? It's like being a goldfish in a bowl that grows to the size of the bowl it's in. No matter what project I'm working on I take up all the space I have, pull everything out so I can see it. 5. So much of what's unique about your work are the materials. How do you hunt them down? I'm always on the lookout for stuff but so far things find me. Also, I always accidentally start each collection with a material that ends up going out of stock. You're free and easy using it and suddenly "shit" you're picking little scraps up off the floor and saving it envelopes. Same with my new collection, called "Phosfluorescent Ominpresent," which uses a plastic I found that I'd been looking for forever that reflect all the colors.
6. You're now in talks with a high street chain about creating more affordable pieces. Will that effect how you work? It's important to remain in touch with what you're doing...especially for the way I design. Unless I had people experimenting for me all the time (laughs), but the magic is when you do it isn't? I wouldn't want to ever sacrifice that.
7. Anybody dead or alive you'd love to create a piece for? I'd love to make something for Grace Jones, but it would be terrifying. She looks quite terrifying doesn't she? 8.When was the last time you were wowed by a designer? There was a Viktor & Rolf show at the Barbican a while back with a giant dollhouse of porcelain miniatures wearing all the pieces from their collections. Every time I turned the corner, it was like "those bastards!," every season it's genius. It's exhausting and yet it just seems to tumble out of them.
9. Are there any other designers you'd like to work with? Jonathan Saunders...his colors are always beautiful. 10. You've said that your manner of dressing head-to-toe in a single color depends on what mood you're in that morning. Is there a downside to having such a recognizable fashion i.d.? I'm a really bad jaywalker because I know traffic will see me...except when I'm wearing jeans on a "blue day" though and I forget they're just jeans. I have an all neon-yellow day, though not that often, when I feel brave. I get a lot of stick when I wear that one.
11. What color would you say you wear the least? Before I would never wear black because it absorbs color and I like to reflect. And I hated purple 'til I was given a beautiful jacket by my friends at Three As Four. I'm starting to go multicolor I noticed, a little bit rainbow...it's a new era!
Keep up with Fred and get in-the-studio peeks at her incredible projects on her adorable blog Fred Butler Style.