A few weeks ago we held our GFW17 photo shoot, with influencers and models wearing pieces created by this year's graduating classes from across the UK. We spoke with Charley Van Purpz, an influencer and popular man on Instagram, to get his view on the fashion industry in the modern world, how relationships between creatives can get rocky and why he can't wait for the era of loud fashion to come calmly to a close.
Charley explains that accepting the options that are given to you, aren’t always the only possibilities- break out from restraints that are given to you by retailers or people in the industry and do your own thing! He champions the value of simplicity and highlights that shock value is just that, value taken from surprise, which isn’t always substantial.
GFW: Hiya Charley thanks for taking ten with us. So how’s your day going, have you had a good day?
Today’s been great, it’s been fun, it’s good to see a lot of familiar faces, like Karl [Karlmond Tang] and Martell, [Martell Campbell] that were there when I first started off, it’s been good!
That’s cool, I didn't realise that you knew people here! How do you know them?
Yeah lucky for me! Just from the industry, like when I first started off, one of the first people to just accept me when I was trying to get into it. They helped me a lot, they inspire me everyday.
You know London is a big place but it’s at the same time very small. If you meet the right people, people that are doing good things, in this industry, and there’s a very large group of people doing bad things, if you get lucky you to meet the people that are doing good things, every time you meet up, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Everybody's like cool, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, it’s a healthy form of competition, like I’ve seen them all grow and evolve their style, and watch me do the same thing. So that’s one thing I love about the fashion industry here in London.
What about collaborations? Do you like collaborating? Or do you find talking about your own style is better?
A couple of years ago, I tried to put, a bandit of people together to do like a group thing. Good intentions, but not everyone is ready for that. I helped a lot of people in the industry now and they’re grateful for that, and I love that, and there are a few people that I helped, that were not so grateful and I feel bad for kind of introducing them to people in this industry. I had to deal with that, and it takes a lot for me to get over things, so since that I’ve kind of separated myself from those people. And like, trying to do things in groups, because I open up really easily and I trust really easily and I felt really hurt, I felt like I got heartbroken by people that shouldn't have done that. But like these guys, like Martell, those who you respect, I’m happy to do things with them.
Because I don’t really class myself as a blogger, I haven’t really done anything and I’ve taken almost three years off. I’ve been behind the scenes.
Was that for any particular reason?
Yeah cos I got my heart broken. I just needed to collect myself and I missed styling. I’ve gotten back into it this summer, I’ve been designing more, and just brand managing, which is also kind of creative, but when you’re a creative, you wanna do more. I miss being behind the camera and coming up with a few ideas and having the backdrop and the model and putting a few images together. So hopefully summer, I’ll get right back at it.
So have you got anything exciting planned?
I’m trying to get myself my own studio!
Yeah yeah, so I can shoot as much as I want. So new ventures, brand manager for Tape London so because I do fashion, I’m trying to bring that into it, we’re doing tape power which is a clothing collab, which is entirely different from anything anyone else has done.
Nah I’m cool, I got lucky, Wale Adeyemi he owns East Side and New County, he’s been like mentor for me, lucky enough he’s bought me on board for all those brands, so I help to look after them. And I shoot for the brand which is really cool, it’s kept me buzzing, summer, I just want to get a studio, I have for the past three or four years have accumulated so many ideas of things I want to shoot but never got round to it because I stepped away. Not necessarily for magazines or anything, just for my own, yeah you know, yeah.
Yeah just for your own platform.
Yeah just for my sanity!
What attracts you most to graduate fashion?
It’s new, it’s fresh I guess, you go there looking to find the new, Alexander McQueen, the new Yohji Yamamoto, so it’s like, sometimes I prefer it to fashion week and men’s week itself, because you find new talent there and people are willing to open up more. But at the same time, it’s like a breeding ground for new talent and sometimes it’s good sometimes it’s bad, the younger generation, they look up to what’s been done before. If the people ahead of them are doing really bad things, everything that’s produced in that generation is going to be and because they think, this is what’s in, this is what’s in.
So I’ve noticed that a lot.
Do you think that’s an important thing then, not to get pulled into what’s considered ‘in’, what’s on trend?
It’s very important, to stick to your identity and not lose it. You know, you follow the trend, it’ll get you the attention you need, but in the end it’s still trash to me. I’m sure it’s trash to a lot of people.
There are a lot of new designers out there that I can’t stand or deal with- I call them attention seekers- because they don’t really do much but a lot of stand out pieces, which is great to showcase your talent as a designer, but people forget, that idea of fashion is to make wearable clothes. Wearable fashion, instead of making things that are so out there, they only look good in editorial. Or you just have to stand still, you can’t move in it. It’s not functional. I hate fashion like that, I like fashion that you can get up and just…
Move about in. So, if I were to ask what does fashion mean to you, it would be about functionality?
Yeah, I like wearable fashion, fashion that's simple and that’s easy, that you don’t have to think too much into it, I wanna be able to open my wardrobe and go cool jeans shirt, jacket, cool, I don’t wanna open it and go ok cool there’s so much going on, how am I going to put this together, I don’t know because there’s so many things. I call that loud fashion, a lot of stylists these days, that’s what they do, loud fashion, a lot of designers these days, that’s what they do. It’s loud. So you see it and everything around it is just trash.
It’s quite alienating as well, because if you actually wanna wear those clothes, and you can’t then you just don’t get involved.
You know what I’m saying, it’s terrible. But like, the people at the top aren’t saying much to stop it, so the people that are doing it are just doing it, because I guess there’s a little bit of money in it, so people are doing it, and people are accepting it, and the younger generation are like ok, this is cool. They have people walking around like they are homeless.
What advice would you give to somebody about getting involved in fashion?
I think, be yourself, and don’t give into peer pressure. Just, you don’t always have to follow the trends, you know. It’s always better when you have a personal spin on your design or your fashion because it’s you that you’re trying to portray to people. And it’s always good to think outside of the box but you need to understand, the basis of fashion is wearable fashion, you need to understand, making something that human beings can wear and function. People think so far outside of the box that they make things that you can’t do much in it but look like a manakin.
A lot of young designers forget that. I just can’t wait for that to end. And people to see.
Do you think it will end?
I hope it does, because I’m just tired and I’m seeing things, that like, shooting things, like most of my outfits you’ll see, I’ve picked the simplest things, because that’s fashion for me, you put the simple things together and make it look good and that’s great.
It’s subtle as well.
Exactly, you find something really loud, wear it, doesn’t mean it looks great.
People are looking at you but why.
Yeah exactly, it’s not like...it just stands out, and a lot of designers just need to go back and think, we just need to make things that, are great and stands out, but it’s fashion that you can wear. It’s not so farfetched that you feel like you’re in the future and the world has ended and you look like trash.
A dystopian future?
Yeah you know what I’m saying, it’s just trash.
Just be yourself, and don’t be trash.
We're going to call your piece, ‘just don’t be trash’.
I like that.
Charley wears garments by Max Wells Gray from Edinburgh College of Arts and by Daniel Rynne from the Arts University Bournemouth.
Photography by Georgia Devey Smith.
Interview by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins