Portraits of the Artist - Adam Watson

  • Posted on 26th September 2017 by Benji Walters
  • Fine fragrance and fine fashion are rarely far apart. That’s why when it came to introducing a new uniform for our beloved team we wanted something elegant and cohesive, not prescriptive or mundane. How lucky we were to find 27 year old Central Saint Martins graduate and menswear maven Adam Watson, who turned out to be the perfect man for the job – and a rather affable chap to boot.
    Adam, how did you end up designing menswear?
    Initially I wanted to study fine art at the Slade, but didn’t get a place. I put in a last-minute application to do fashion at Central Saint Martins. To my surprise, I was accepted and I’ve never looked back since.  
    Glad to hear it! And how did you get involved with Penhaligon's? 
    I’ve always known Penhaligon’s, and they had been in touch with Central St Martins with the idea and it came about from that. The brand has a fantastic heritage and history. This project seemed like a unique opportunity to be a part of the brand and create uniforms that would enhance and contribute to their story and customer experience.  
    This was Penhaligon's first uniform, was it also your first foray into uniforms?
    I suppose menswear is in itself quite a uniform based approach to design and dressing. My approach to design is methodical and considered. My graduate collection was centred on school uniforms and workwear so it all came about quite naturally.  
    Talk to me about your design process for this project? 
    Penhaligon’s were quite clear about what they needed, so the challenge was to come up with new creative ideas that communicated the brand story within the parameters of the brief.  
    Of course they’re a story telling brand – each of their fragrances has a story behind it. So I approached the uniforms in the same way. If you create a strong story you often find all the design inspiration is in there.  
    Penhaligon’s is also British label with a history. So what does contemporary heritage mean to you?  
    For me, it’s about making the heritage relevant for today. I don’t wear suits, a lot of people my age find them formal and uncomfortable. By stripping out all the lining, padding and stiffness, and making lightweight unstructured suits you end up with something that feels contemporary and easy to wear but still retains the heritage.  
    The founder of Penhaligon’s was pioneering in his day, so it’s important to stay true to that and always be looking ahead and not stand still.  
    You ended up in Barcelona sourcing textiles, how did you go about choosing the right fabric? 
    As well as looking great aesthetically, the fabric needs to be comfortable, and feel good to wear. The heat in Barcelona was a good reminder of that! But it also needs to perform and work hard and still look great at the end of a long day on the shop floor. I weighed up all of these factors when choosing.
    Who or what was the biggest inspiration for this project? 
    I started out with the royal warrant, and looked into the British royal family and the aristocracy: people like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. We took twists from those 1920s silhouettes, and updated them in a modern way.   
    Now that the project is nearly finished, talk to me about the final pieces??- their cut and their little details. 
    It was really important that the staff could put their own individual stamp on the uniform so we created various options for layering with knitwear and accessories. There is the potential for each of the staff to have a different look, but still be recognisably on brand. Riffing on Penhaligon’s eccentric aristocratic heritage, the shirts are cut with pyjama collars because it was important to bring a playful element to the look. We also created scarves and pocket squares inspired by the distinctive tile design in the stores.   
    Which of the Penhaligon's scents is?your favourite? 
    That’s a difficult one! If I had to choose it would be between Douro or Blenheim Bouquet.  
    And what’s coming up next for you? 
    I’ve got a few freelance design projects on the go. Ideally, I’d like to find another full-time role in high-end menswear. Somewhere like Stella McCartney Men’s, or Paul Smith or Burberry would be ideal. I’m keen to roll up my sleeves up and get stuck in again.  
    What is it that motivates you to design/drives you to do what you do? 
    In other areas such as product or architecture, it is widely acknowledged that good design has the potential to enhance people’s daily lives. I don’t see why clothes should be any different. I always try to design garments that feel right for now but also have a functional, enduring quality to them.  
    As the part of fashion's next generation, what're your hopes for the future?
    These are tough times for creative young people at the moment, not just for fashion but across all areas of the arts. I really hope something is done to address the soaring costs in London that are sadly driving out young creatives from the city.  
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