Spending time with Jenn Coyle and Lyndsay Pagan – aka Glasgow design duo Obscure Couture – feels a bit like being Alice in Wonderland and plunging down the rabbit hole. They inhabit a kaleidoscope-like world of surrealism and jaw-dropping whimsy, a mesmerising place where fairy tales and fetishism collide.
A teaser image for a past collection showed a model wearing a red foil pigskin bustier and yellow tartan trews taking a swig from a bottle of well-known tonic wine. Their 13-minute fashion short, Lithium Party, captured the descending chaos of a young woman on night out, depicting – in Coyle’s words – “a depraved emotional rollercoaster, by the end of it she’s a shell”.
It’s this leftfield imagination and thirst for pushing boundaries that has set Coyle and Pagan on track for a stellar 2013. After meeting a decade ago at Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles and Design in Galashiels, the pair, both 27, founded Obscure Couture in 2010 and now operate from a studio near the Barras in Glasgow.
Their latest film, Fake Believe, which centres around their spring/summer 2013 couture and ready-to-wear lines (“fairy-tale rock ’n’ roll dreamers with a glam edge,” say the pair), will be shown at the Glasgow Film Festival in February, with the collection available in March. Autumn is set to be epic too, as they take their spring/summer 2014 couture to London Fashion Week and release their autumn/winter 2013 collection, A Weekend In Hell, which according to Coyle and Pagan is “dominated by strong, confident women and a world of dark eroticism”.
Sum up Obscure Couture in five words.
“Original, fun, quirky, edgy and dramatic.”
Where do you draw inspiration from?
LP: “When we did our gang culture-inspired collection, Us-Vs-Them, we had recently moved into our studio in the Barras and I think perhaps were subconsciously inspired by our surroundings.”
It’s fair to say you like to shock.
JC: “We want to always be evolving and shock people. The fairy-tale theme of Fake Believe is a lot lighter than some of our collections, but we are about to get dark again.”
LP: “It’s about always being able to surprise. We don’t want to get pigeonholed. We’re not the kind of people who stick to the norm, but we want our work to keep that high-fashion edge without going too far down the ‘goth’ route.”
What do each of you bring to the table?
JC: “We have very different styles. Lyndsay is quite punk whereas I tend to be a bit more frilly.”
LP: “Our styles work well together. There will be times we will go and do our own thing, then come back with almost identical drawings of the same garment.”
JC: “It sometimes feels like we each have half of same brain.”
LP: “Friends joke we have morphed into one person. When you spend 16-18 hours a day together, as we have for the past decade, I guess that happens.”
Do you have any celebrity fans?
“Kimberly Wyatt from the Pussycat Dolls borrowed a dress for a photo shoot. Lana Del Rey has worn knuckle dusters we designed. Amy Winehouse’s goddaughter Dionne Bromfield has worn one of our dresses, as has Marina of Marina and the Diamonds.”
Who would you most like to see wearing your designs?
LP: “Rihanna, definitely.”
Who wouldn’t you want in your clothes?
LP: “Anyone from Made In Chelsea.”
Do you have a motto or a philosophy?
JC: “Keeping production in Scotland is important to us. We try to work with local seamstresses and use Scottish fabrics and knits. Collaborating with local artists too – we’ve been working with the insanely talented Snooki Mono on some T-shirt prints.”
LP: “We want to stay as true to ourselves and our roots as we can. We have recently been sponsored by Mandors fabric, which is very exciting. We used a lot of tartan in our spring/summer 2012 collection and keep all wool from Scotland with freelance Scottish hand knitters.”
What’s the ultimate ambition?
Words: Susan Swarbrick