“I would be a rich tea finger biscuit whist Antoni is definitely a chocolate one, covered in lavishing of cream and glitter!” The perfect metaphor if ever we heard it to sum up a working relationship.
Last week’s ‘Talking Fashion’ seminar at the V&A on a cold, blustery, very damp Friday night was with the ingenious twosome, Antoni & Alison (otherwise known as Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts) celebrating 25 years in the business – both as colleague and friends. Taking the hot seat down on the spotlight lit stage with them was The Telegraph’s Style Director, Tamsin Blanchard (looking heritage chic in a dogtooth crease neck dress from the designers themselves.)
Looking back through the archive, that still holds a proud position at the V&A, it is hard to imagine that 25 years has passed since the still, very current duo met at Central St. Martins. Alison the shy, introverted, dedicated student from Eastbourne studying fine art in the ‘big city’ whilst Antoni the polar opposite- long hair, platform boots, party attitude, debauched lifestyle, missing from lectures, typical “Fash Student” (or “Marvellously stylish” as Alison remembers) yet somehow they were introduced and it happened, on a boat party. “We both couldn’t wait to get the hell off! Art students definitely looked down on fashion- they know how great they are anyway” laughs Alison. “Antoni may have never gone into class but I learnt for him. Our first collection together was at St. Martins- I did the entire pattern cutting!”
From a cheap trip to Greece after they graduated, and Antoni gaining experience with Thierry Mugler in Paris (“I don’t think we are very ‘Paris’”) they determined their future: they were going to make clothes. “We were less fashion more product in the beginning” explains Antoni. “We were seen as product designers because we were inspired by the mundane- absolutely anything can be made into a collection from your sofa where we spent a lot of time, black marker pen, orange peel, we’ve thrown it all in!”
From their South East London council flat, they spurned out their first collection of slogan T-Shirts ‘Be Happy’ which they sold to a shop in Brighton for £200. “My Dad looked after the accounts in the beginning and told me he could no longer watch me throw my money away and to jump ship immediately!” They had a typewriter named ‘Erica’ which soon became Alison’s alter ego: The PA. They used to race round the corner to use the telephone box to make calls in posh accents- where they managed to blag their way into Harrods (“Antoni always had the gift of the gab”). They liked to travel in the beginning for inspiration, “We thought Manchester was exotic” and their collections have been spontaneous,colourful, creative, as individual ever since.
As the powerpoint went through the different collections from the beginning; the ‘Be Positive’ season which lasted 3 years, ‘All The Rage’ in 1991, to nostalgic Britain in 1996 with ‘Egg and Chips’ and the statement, “I Hate My Skirt” piece in 2001 which led onto a collaboration with Uniqlo. But what had been a stand-out collection for the off-the-wall partnership. “Spontaneous (2008) is very special to us” explains Antoni, “because it completely shows what we are about, people say they don’t get out work or its stupid but every detail has been created with integrity- outsiders of fashion? No way, we are the real ones in fashion!”
Opening LFW this season in particular ‘normal’ fashion for the stalwart designers who have be known to send models out with paper bags over their heads. “We liked being normal for a change- we still had a brass band playing live on the catwalk though! We wanted to do something special and new for our 51st show so both Antoni and I locked ourselves away from each other for two days and designed what we liked. Then after the two days we ripped the contents up mashed it all together, and there was our SS13 collection- completely half Antoni and half Alison!”
So what now for the “Mr & Mrs” of fashion who have been awarded MBEs for their servies to design? “We haven’t really explored photography so maybe we will be more experimental with that but we are only just starting. To be honest we still feel like art students, always looking to pursue ideas.”
Here’s to another 25 years!
Next ‘Talking Fashion’ evening at the V&A is with Belle Freud. Click here for more information.-
Sian @ FashionBite xx