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Camera Obscurity

Glasgow fashion duo Obscure Couture pride themselves on doing things differently and their new fashion film the Lithium Party proves they are a cut above the rest.

The Lithium Party is also the name of Lyndsay Pagan and Jennifer Coyle’s Obscure Couture autumn/winter collection and their new film, which is set over an emotional 24 hour period in one girl’s life, is illustrated through their punky, cutting edge fashion.

The collection is glamorous debauchery and glitzy hedonism - going on a journey through a range of tones - from soft pinks, to acid yellow through to black - and representing a set of seven different emotions.  

“It’s our first feature fashion film,” says Jenn. “We’ve done behind the scenes shoots before, but this one’s 13 minutes and for a fashion film that’s quite long.

“I think more people are going towards a film to showcase their collections. Doing shows can be so expensive and not many people get to see it. A film is kind of like the complete lookbook, and you get the whole theme. But even with our photo shoots we are never boring. We never want to be the norm!”

The girls, whose wild dress sense compliments their risqué, revealing collection of couture with its soft leathers, metallics, tartans and faux fur, want to push the boundaries of fashion. Their film is reflective of this, showing a night out that descends into chaos.

“The Lithium collection was created to show the life of a girl going off the rails, and through the progress of one night,” explains Jenn. “It’s a depraved emotional rollercoaster, and by the end of it she’s a shell.”

Doing the camerawork and production was Glasgow film-making team Aperturists. “I guess we were directing!” they laugh. “We wanted it to be quite us, our style, which is to the extreme – more is more.”

Cast as the girl of the film is River City and Lip Service actress Laura McMonagle, who is a long time friend of Lyndsay and Jenn. “We had never worked with Laura before, but she was so professional, she gave us the range of emotions that we were looking for.”

These emotions form the journey of the film, going from the clarity of getting home from work and getting ready to go out, to love, confusion, disorder and fear as the night turns into early morning. They used a variety of different locations in and around Glasgow, including the Beer Hall on Sauchiehall Street, a car park in Paisley filmed at 5am on a misty morning, and the streets around the Barras, where their workshop is based. 

The 27 year old best friends founded Obscure Couture only two years ago, but their friendship goes back ten years to their first day at Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles & Design in Galashiels.

“We didn’t even like each other first, I think we were trying to suss each other out, but within two days Lyndsay had dragged her mattress through and we were sharing a room in halls. We’ve been inseparable ever since,” says Jenn.

After graduation, Lyndsay helped out backstage at Julien MacDonald’s shows for London Fashion Week, while Jennifer worked as an intern at Mrs Jones, designing stage costumes for Alison Goldfrapp. “She wasn’t very nice to me, but I was just an intern and maybe she was having a bad day” says Jenn of the Goldfrapp singer. “My mum was disappointed because she really liked Goldfrapp!”

Lyndsay and Jenn pulled together a business plan to launch their own brand and gained valuable funding from Cultural Enterprise’s Starter for Six and the Prince’s Trust. They had almost instant success. At the 2011 and 2012 Scottish Fashion Awards, Obscure Couture was named a finalist in the Young Designer of the Year category.

In September they were part of a group of Scottish designers to visit Chicago under the Scotland Re:Designed banner to coincide with the Ryder Cup.

“When we were in Chicago, we were talking to people in the US  who said they get no help or funding for the arts, and we are so lucky to get so much help and support here. Without the funding and support we got, there’s no way we’d be here,” says Lyndsay. 

All their designs are created and hand-made from their small workshop in the Barras, and they say that it’s this urban surrounding that has had a big effect on the direction of their collections.

“I think the Barras has had a huge influence,” says Jenn. “Seeing the drugs and gangs, the effects it can have on the families and the decay of the area, there’s been a lot of influence from that. Our previous collection was called Us Vs Them, the idea was based on gangs, and using opposing tartans and fabrics.”

They try to keep it local with the use of Scottish fabrics and knits, by selecting materials from Glasgow store Mandors and by collaborating with fellow Glasgow artists including Bonnie Bling.

Their celebrity following is growing, with Dionne Bromfield wearing a gold playsuit during London Fashion Week and their knuckledusters in collaboration with Bonnie Bling being worn by a cross section of stars including Lana Del Ray, Olly Murs and Usain Bolt. Recently Marina and the Diamonds tweeted herself wearing a pink ‘Born to Kill’ minidress, which she described as ‘A million Mattel Barbie heads melted into one dress.’

“She looked so great in it, and she said something about Barbie head, which was the best quote ever!” says Lyndsay.

Obscure Couture are also in the process of sending out their designs to the style team at the X Factor, “but we never know if they are going to use us or not.” But they say it’s still exciting every time they see someone in one of their designs, and appearing on the pages of Vogue has been a dream come true.

Says Lyndsay: “It’s a labour of love for sure, but we get to do all this. We always have fun, always have a laugh. We are good support for each other, so one of us has to man up when the other one is stressed out!”

“It’s quite nerve-racking laying your soul down for a show, particularly because we like to be controversial, I think we are like marmite. But our parents so supportive, although they don’t always understand,” says Jenn. 

Lyndsay adds: “After seeing the film, my mum said, ‘I don’t understand what sick has to do with fashion’. I said, ‘I don’t know either!’”

The Lithium Party is premiering at the GFT on Friday 11 October, but you can view their film on You Tube from Saturday 12 October.

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