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Fashion Power

WORDS Natalie Rigg

Claire Barrow


Imagination knows no bounds for 24-year-old Claire Barrow, who has painted her way onto the fashion scene with her cult, custom-illustrated collections. Hailing from Stockton- On-Tees in Northeast England, Barrow’s punk-fuelled, signature leather pieces - from biker jackets to clutch bags - have been hotly in demand since 2012, when she was tapped to join the Fashion East talent scheme while studying design at the University of Westminster, London. “Lulu [Kennedy] had seen some of the jackets I had designed in a magazine shoot styled by Fran Burns and asked me to join. I was shocked, it was so amazing,” she reveals. After showing under Fashion East for three seasons, Barrow graduated to Topshop sponsored NEWGEN to grow her label further. “This season I tried digital print for the first time and created more accessories too,” she says. Currently based in East London, Barrow takes time out of her busy schedule to chat inspiration, career highs and more...

Your earliest fashion memory?

“From a really young age I was drawing, scribbling and painting and I remember always being interested in fashion, but from an arty standpoint. At school I used to customise my uniform to make it more original by stencilling patterns and adding crystals to my skirt to make it stand out. My friends would ask me to do the same to their jeans, so it kind of caught on.”

Biggest influence?

“To be honest I think a lot of it stems from my own determination: I haven’t given up. My friends have been so supportive, too, and I’ve made sure to surround myself with a really inspirational group of people in London who are creative and fun. Plus I’ve been lucky enough to have the guidance of Lulu Kennedy [of Fashion East] and the NEWGEN team who have been amazing.”

Career highlights?

“It sounds a bit unusual, but it’s the little things that feel like big achievements to me – finishing a collection and being happy with it, making goals for the next season to make sure I keep pushing my creativity and don’t get complacent.”

Tell us about your new collection and the inspiration behind it...

“For AW14 I was fascinated by dead male icons like Elvis, Serge Gainsbourg and Bruce Lee and wanted to create ‘souvenir fashion.’ I liked to imagine this one-sided romance between the icon and the wearer, so, I painted portraits and then got them digitally printed on super-shiny satin shirts, trousers and ties as well. There were lots of glitzy metallics and fringing too, all the pieces were made for dancing in.”

Your ultimate power girl icons?

“My top pick would be [British] actress and activist Joanna Lumley, she is one of my all-time favourites. She’s so talented and beautiful and is very charitable too. I also love [US musician and author] Patti Smith, her lyrics are incredible – oh, and the drag queen and transgender rights activist Marsha P. Johnson.”

How do you want your clothes to make a girl feel?

“Individual and empowered. I hope that girls can identify with my pieces and feel really good when they’re wearing them, because fashion should be fun. I definitely dress as I feel every day, there are no set rules.”

Fashion aside, what else are you passionate about?

“Being in love, spending time with my close friends and watching every single one of Stanley Kubrick’s films, he’s my favourite film director.”

The fictional character you most identify with?

“Jill Tyrill from [dark comedy] Nighty Night equals me [laughs].”

What’s next?

“I’m working on my new collection and creating a film to accompany the clothes. I wanted to do something really different to last season’s presentation, so watch this space!”


For a clutch that doubles as a cuddly shark, a bold slogan tee or shiny sequin dress that pictures a cat on the prowl, look no further than Ashley Williams’ namesake line. At 25, this hot design talent has a knack for turning out cool, offbeat clothes that are as unique as they are Instagram-worthy. Born in Sharjah and raised in Dubai, Williams moved to London to study womenswear at The University of Westminster and hit the headlines after tapping It Girl pals Alice Dellal and Pixie Geldof to walk in her 2012 graduate show. After three buzzed about seasons under the Fashion East umbrella and a cult celebrity following that includes Harry Styles and Rita Ora, there’s no doubt she’s on a roll. Here, the golden girl lifts the lid on her career, new collection and, uh, SpongeBob SquarePants...

Your earliest fashion memory?

“I remember loving my primary school uniform because it had a top breast pocket that I could keep lots of top secret things in. It was a blue and white stripy cotton summer dress.”

When did you decide to become a fashion designer?

“There wasn’t really a eureka moment. I finished sixth form college and had to apply to university. It was between fashion design, history or marine biology. Had I lived in a hot country with a nice seaside it may have been the latter.”

When did you get your big break?

“When I first got my Fashion East sponsorship after graduating and just recently again when I got my NEWGEN Topshop sponsorship. It’s amazing and it still feels like it’s not real. I’m so thankful and excited.”

Career highlights?

“When I showed my Rockabilly-inspired collection at the Topshop Show Space in London last season with Fashion East. It was massive!”

Tell us about your AW14 line and the inspiration behind it...

“Just before starting the collection I had been on holiday to visit my family that live in Mississippi, America. I stayed with my aunt who lives on a farm that has been in our family for generations. She gave me a bonnet as a gift that belonged to my great grandmother who had worked and lived on the farm. The bonnet was my starting point.”

How do you want your clothes to make a girl feel?

“That’s easy: like herself, at her best.”

Your personal style mantra...

“If you like it, wear it. Also, in my experience, if your boyfriend thinks you look absolutely ridiculous, it probably means that you have a really good outfit on.”

Your ultimate girl power icon?

“I really love [US filmmaker] Sofia Coppola. Recently I’ve been watching a TV show that she made for MTV in the ’90s. It has these amazing colorful graphics and includes a lot of my favourite musicians and people from that time – it’s really special. Even though you have to embrace and love the time you’re in, it makes me wish I had been there.”

Which fictional character do you most identify with?

“Probably [the US cartoon] SpongeBob SquarePants because he’s emotionally open, caring, funny, passionate and positive. He’s an admirable little thing. I want to be just like him.”

Fashion aside, what else are you passionate about?

“Recently I’ve been really interested in finding out as much as I can about my family history, which has involved lots of researching and digging through old photos – it’s important to me.”

What’s next for Ashley Williams?

“NEWGEN SS15! Bring it on!”

Ashley Williams
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