I met Brooke Roberts at a friend’s birthday on Vyner Street about a month ago. We got chatting and she told me she was a radiographer and a fashion designer. So intrigued by what are two completely different jobs, I asked to go to her studio to find out more.
Brooke now lives in Hackney, London, but she grew up in a small town in Australia. She pursued a career in radiography, as it was the best choice at the time and what was expected of her (her sister is a trained psychologist, but has worked for Burberry for the last two years). ‘Creativity wasn’t encouraged, there wasn’t even an arts centre at my school, so I studied science and radiography was the obvious route.’
So how did you make the transition from science to fashion?
‘I went to study in Sydney and I just ended up meeting a lot of fashion students. I had built up quite a big vintage collection and when I met a fashion photographer I began doing some styling for him.’
‘How did you build up such a big vintage collection?
‘My mum owned a boutique and her and my grandmother used to make their own clothes so I guess in a way I was brought up on fashion in a subconscious way.’
After she graduated she worked in a hospital for one year and realised it really wasn’t what she wanted to do – she wanted to work in fashion. So at 26 she came to London and enrolled at LCF to do a Foundation Degree in Fashion Design Tecnology (Womenswear), which she followed with a Post Graduate pattern-cutting course at St Martin’s with a view to becoming a tailor. Her tutor put her in contact with Louise Goldin, and Brooke began working as a pattern cutter and technical advisor for Louise during the evening and began pattern cutting for Giles during the day, all the while holding a part-time job as a radiographer. Three days a week she works at North Middlesex hospital, taking x-rays, saving lives and tweeting!
And even though the radiography is not her passion, you can see how it’s had a huge impact on her designs, and it’s what makes her clothes so unique, giving her that ‘strong handwriting’ that she so admires in other fashion designers. ‘I love the imaging process, I find it very inspirational. I love the anatomy and physiology of it.’ She is particularly interested in brain scans at the moment and is transferring repeated patterns, using digital and screen printing onto fabrics, and then taking elements of the scans to create different shapes and patterns.
Her designs are feminine but edgy – beautifully tailored structured dresses and jackets, teamed with looser fitting, chiffon blouses, and there’s a definite Star Wars look to them. I particularly love the bronze quilted dresses – princess leia eat your heart out, the jump suit which I had to try on and the reoccurring fin shaped edging to many of the garments that is taken from one of the spikes on a ‘electrocardiograph, or ECG’. Her pattern cutting training really set her in good stead for tailoring her dresses – every one she’s made herself, once the patterns are cut, each dress takes about 14 hours to sew together - I did desperately try to fit my bum into them, but alas I am not made of model proportions. I did however fit into the jersey jump-suit, love it!
‘I can see where you get your inspiration from, but which designers do you most admire?’
love Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Rifat Ozbek, Versace – I love tack,
decadence, anything that’s over–the-top – designers with strong handwriting; a
strong fashion statement. I think
so many designers are lacking that these days, and they get a bit samey like
Alexander Wang or Philip Lim. It’s
so important for a brand to have a strong sense of identity.’
And if you meet Brooke, you can see from her own style that she remains faithful to a sense of strong identity. She’ll tower above you – she’s tall anyway, but meeting her in her Miu Miu wedges I felt like a midget! She wears distinctive sixties style glasses, she got from Steenie, an optician on Wardour Street, colourful caftan dresses and her thick hair is swept into a beehive topknot on her head.
She launched her label last year and it’s taken her around 3-4 years, from concept to fruition. ‘I realised that while I was putting all my blood, sweat and tears into my work with Louise, that I could do this, and by that time I had began experimenting with my own designs. I am lucky as I have really supportive people around me and people that believe in what I’m doing.’
‘And what does Louise think? Are you still in contact with her?’
‘It’s such a shame, but I’m not really in touch with Louise any more, I think because I was such a big support to her that going out on my own must have been hard for her to deal with…’
Yes a shame, but I’m glad Brooke flew the nest, for her clothes have already received a lot of interest. Browns are very keen, Sedatex in Spain are providing sponsorship for printing and fabrics, WHERE fashion are collaborating shoes, and CanCan in Paris want to stock her collection. You can already buy items at The King and Queen of Bethnal Green and she’s had a great write-up from stylebubble.com