Unsubtle, uncompromising, unlimited. That's how Phoebe Haynes, final year student at BA (Hons) Fashion Contour, describes her lingerie brand Jacky Unmentionables. With just a few months left before graduating, the underwear/outerwear designer has decided to turn her final project into a label that incorporates traditional tailoring techniques and that also cares about the origin of its textiles. We caught up with Phoebe a few days before the launch of Jacky Unmentionables to find out more about the brand, and to hear all about her journey at LCF as a Fashion Contour student.
Hi Phoebe! You're just about to graduate from BA Fashion Contour and you are already working on your own brand. Why did you decide to start this adventure?
One of the great things about the Contour course at LCF is that they drum into you an in-depth experience of industry from so many different aspects — business, design, production, etc. They prepare you with all the knowledge in case you were to start your own label, so you feel more confident doing so. I never initially intended to push Jacky as a brand, but the concept overtook everything and began a life of its own. I realised that this could really be something.
How has the experience of creating your own label been so far?
It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least... the most challenging part has been juggling the work and getting sleep (I don’t think any of the technicians have seen me wear makeup since project briefing). My life is my work and I love what I do; however, I’ve definitely learnt that you need to draw the line with yourself sometimes — do what your body is telling you, have that nap, eat those Pringles and get at least 6 hours of sleep per night.
Where did you get the inspiration for these designs?
Jacky Unmentionables started out catering to an expanding womenswear-underwear-hybrid shaped gap in the market. Often underwear is worn as outerwear, but how about underwear that is outerwear? Working with the concept of layering, I wanted to produce a range of easily styled and interchangeable shapes with contrasting, quirky, vintage inspired, structured pieces to complement each other.
This idea also derived from my Norfolk and London upbringing. I wanted to bring together pieces that demonstrate two very different qualities: Norfolk is beautiful, very simple but with very conservative values, in total juxtaposition to London’s loud, vibrant and liberal brilliance.
Very interesting name by the way. How did you come up with the idea?
So Jacky is actually my grandma (hi grandma!). The brand was named in homage to a brilliant, strong woman whom I have always looked up to and love dearly. She taught me to sew when I was 6 years old and I am so grateful for everything she’s done for me. The word 'Unmentionables' is a reference to Norfolk’s prudish yet quirky influence on the brand. I love pushing the boundaries and throwing a dollop of irony in.
How do you describe Jacky Unmentionables’ style? What makes it unique?
I would describe it as absolute chaos — misshapen chaos of well seeming forms. The structured pieces are very striking and unusual in shape, and the mesh pieces are all made to be interchanged amongst the looks and add an interactive aspect to the collection.
You say your brand is returning to traditional tailoring. Why did you decide to focus on this?
There is always a gap in the market for good tailoring. Lingerie is one of the most tailored garments in existence — a bra should fit like a suit, as if it was made for the wearer, otherwise it's not doing its job. One of the outlined business methods in my report is the manufacturing and sourcing based in East London.
So many brands outsource their manufacturing overseas for financial reasons. I feel that this makes a product so much less personal, and anyone that spends time on a garment can appreciate the effort and passion that has gone into it.
Let’s talk a little bit about your time at LCF. Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
100%! Although I never really knew about what aspect I wanted to do before coming to LCF. My dad used to photocopy those colouring pages with Disney princess dresses for me and I would spend hours designing different variations. I don’t think there was much choice for me, it was always going to be fashion.
Why did you decide to do the BA in Fashion Contour at LCF?
I can’t explain it, but it just felt so right. I had never been that interested in lingerie before, but it was so niched that something pulled me towards it. I like to push boundaries and I felt that so many more can be pushed working with lingerie! LCF is one of the leading fashion institutions in the world and there was no other choice for me — I was so happy that I deleted my other university offers when I received mine from LCF.
What did you enjoy the most about your course?
I think the best time would actually be final year... even now I can’t believe I’m saying this! It was such an intense time but also so rewarding. After my year in industry I didn’t realise just how much I had learnt until putting it into practice. The comradery between all of the final years in the contour room was so reassuring and I have met some great friends.
The thing I like most about the contour course is the sense of reward throughout. You can’t just make a bra, it takes years of practice and there are so many little things to consider that I would never have thought of.
There is absolute precision involved and I’m not going to lie, it’s so hard. But that’s the point! And there is no satisfaction like getting the tension of elastic right on the leg line of a knicker.
Now that you're just about to leave uni, what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to start their career in fashion?
I know everyone says it, but internships are key. Even if you feel like you aren’t learning anything, after six months the chances are that you have.
I am very lucky and did some wonderful placements and, although hard, loved every minute of them and met some fantastic people along the way. It’s really tough being an intern because of the lack of pay, and also knowing or being treated like you’re at the bottom of the pile, and the reality is, you are. It’s only temporary though, and the experience is worth it in the end.