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“Use self-isolation to make something more creative than banana bread.” Fashion Designer Patrick McDowell implores you to be creative during quarantine, just without letting capitalism win.
By Naomi Barling.
Name: Patrick McDowell
Profession: Fashion Designer
The shift in perspective ignited by the coronavirus epidemic has sparked new ideas and innovations to crop up across the globe, often at the hands of those in the creative industries. Via our ‘‘Artists in Quarantine’ series, we attempt to reflect these ideas by conducting a series of interviews and digital portraits that document creatives’ isolation experiences and thoughts on the changing world. In this instalment, we introduce you to London-based Fashion Designer, Patrick Mcdowell.
Who is Patrick McDowell?
My name is Patrick McDowell and I’m a designer from the Wirral, Liverpool. I moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins and started my label after graduating. My collections are centered around my family and I use family photographers for the research images. Everything I make either has a neutral or positive impact on the planet. I do this by using materials like Burberry waste fabric, recycled Swarovski, or recycled plastic and bottle wadding. I use my brand to question fashion. I don’t do any wholesale and I don’t work within the traditional idea of what a fashion brand should be.
How do you perceive creativity?
For me, creativity is a way of thinking. In recent years it has become so closely linked to art and design that people seem to have forgotten that you can be creative in any subject. True creativity could save the world because it would teach us all to re-think the way previous systems work. If everyone was taught to think outside the box we would question so much more. I am really passionate about creatively educating everyone at every age and in every industry so they can take agency over their own positions and question them, rework them, improve them and improve the world we live in.
I think that’s what the fashion course at Central Saint Martins really teaches you, to think. That’s why it’s so successful because unlike others it doesn’t focus on fashion per se, it focusses on the process and thinking.
Most structured teaching still caters to how the world used to be. We need to be looking to the future and asking ourselves, how can we save it? How can we make the world a better place?
What’s the overarching feeling you currently have?
I have a sense of relief and recognize that I am lucky enough to use the time to recalibrate. It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to be able to stop and actually think about what you’re doing in life. Maybe this time makes you realize you want to completely change course. I am on my own at home, so it’s is time for a lot of self-reflection.
The irony is that everything was going so quickly, even though what I stand for as a designer is the opposite. The point of what I was doing was to counteract how fast the fashion industry moves, but then the sustainability movement became so big that I was running just as fast, just on another wheel.
I’m also feeling a sense of vulnerability because it’s very rare that I’m alone with my own thoughts for so long, really thinking about who I am. I can’t remember the last time I really thought about who I was. It is reminding me of when you’re a teenager and your figuring stuff out, you’re at home all the time and you have that space and time. It’s a very privileged position to be in I know, and I really feel for people who are struggling, as it is not an easy time at all, but this is my reality. We have to find some sort of positive aspects of this situation, as we do with life, otherwise, we would all live unhappy existences.
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What has fed your soul in quarantine?
I’ve taken the time to prioritize exercise. I am also lucky enough to have a balcony that overlooks London. It’s a small balcony but to be able to see the city makes me feel somewhat connected.
I have been actively doing less, which has been great; learning that I don’t always have to be productive and being OK with that. I think it’s a capitalist construct that we feel we must always be busy and the guilt we feel when we’re not. We shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time off.
I also find how social media is currently being used, interesting. We’ve all had moments whereby in our heads, we make up that other people are living these incredible lives, they live in amazing apartments and houses and have these plates from this store. You always think you have less than everyone else; comparison culture. Seeing people posting their houses and their life in a less filtered way is reminding us that we’re more similar than we think. It’s taken down the curtains that people put up, it’s refreshing seeing people showing who they really are and being comfortable with that.
People want to see things they can connect with. They want to see a how-to yoga in your living room, not a perfect leg shot on a beach. I hope that continues post quarantine; content we can honestly connect with.
What had you forgotten you loved?
Honestly, exercise. We will see how long it lasts, but I just didn’t have time before this. It’s been really satisfying.
How do you think your industry will change post quarantine?
Digital fashion has been bubbling for a while but I think we will see a big shift in the world of digital clothing.
It will also be interesting to see how businesses that functioned on a wholesale model last, as so many orders have been canceled while in the middle of production.
What will happen when things re-open? There will be so much stock. Will the outlet villages be inundated or will brands collaborate with designers like myself who redesign pieces and create something new?
This lockdown is a perfect opportunity to re-pivot your business to a modern model. I hope we see that across the industry.
What’s your biggest fear going forward?
I’m really fearful of climate change and the lack of action. When you read the data and the predictions, it’s terrifying. The way things are forecast to go in my lifetime? By the time I’m 90 it’s predicted that the air will be unbreathable.
This should be an alarm bell for us to stop and change the way we’re behaving because we’re all responsible, everyone reading this article, we have to push for change together. We need to act now.
What will be your biggest take away from this time?
To give myself time to just be alive, and not feel like I have to be doing stuff all the time.
What’s your mission?
My mission is to continue to highlight the life-changing effects of creatively educating everyone.
Use self-isolation to make something more creative than banana bread.
Portraits by Daniel Archer.