Bobby Ab­ley, Dis­ney's Tat­tooed Prince

Hello Mr. talks to the London-based de­signer about find­ing fairy­tales in fash­ion

Hello Mr. Magazine - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Christo­pher Klimovski Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ken­neth Lam

Hello Mr.

From the time be­tween his child­hood in Scar­bor­ough, North York­shire to the mo­ment he landed in London at age 19 to work with famed de­signer Jeremy Scott, Bobby Ab­ley had a sin­gu­lar mo­ti­va­tion driv­ing him to­ward the “Magic King­dom” of the fast-paced world of fash­ion.

“Fan­tasy,” Bobby says. “I started to re­al­ize the fan­tasy you can cre­ate around a col­lec­tion.”

For many peo­ple out­side of the fash­ion world, the idea of de­sign­ing for the run­way has a cer­tain aspi­ra­tional qual­ity you can only equate with some­thing as unattain­able as pop star­dom or be­ing named Princess of Nova Sco­tia. It’s fash­ion’s high-pro­file clien­tele and aura of ex­trav­a­gance that give it this oth­er­worldly qual­ity, the “fan­tasy” that at once draws us to it and holds us at bay. For Bobby, this dis­tance never ex­isted. “I found my­self at a sewing ma­chine try­ing to make my own jeans when I was 14 or 15,” he says. The first gar­ment he cre­ated was a pair of twisted Levi’s jeans he desperately wanted but could not af­ford, so he took mat­ters into his own hands and made them from scratch. En­cour­aged by his par­ents, his cre­ativ­ity grew, and his tech­nique im­proved, and the teen seam­ster be­gan mov­ing to­ward a full-time ca­reer in fash­ion, never ques­tion­ing that it was where he be­longed. “It was a no-brainer,” he says.

It’s easy to get lost when you’re young and try­ing to turn your dreams into a full-time job. This is es­pe­cially true in the world of fash­ion. For Bobby, that as­pi­ra­tion be­came a pos­si­bil­ity when he earned the op­por­tu­nity to work with Jeremy Scott. He put his head down and didn’t stop work­ing un­til that fan­tasy be­came—well— more fan­tasy. De­spite ac­knowl­edg­ing that a lit­tle an­tag­o­nism in the de­sign world helps cre­ative flow, he humbly thinks of other de­sign­ers as peers rather than com­peti­tors. This placid mind­set and play­ful ap­proach to fash­ion per­me­ates not just his work, but his worldview.

“I feel like I al­ways re­lated to fic­tional char­ac­ters more than real peo­ple, es­pe­cially when I was younger,” he says. “When you’re young, your mind stays open to think­ing all th­ese things are or could be real. Maybe my mind just never closed on that.”

Bobby says he wants peo­ple to wear his fan­tasy, a con­cept that almost per­fectly rep­re­sents him as a de­signer, as well as his re­cent Fall 2015 col­lec­tion. Th­ese looks are in­spired by The Lit­tle

Mer­maid, at once car­toon­ish and dark, hu­mor­ous and macabre.

“I like to feel nos­tal­gic and re­visit that feel­ing of ad­ven­ture–that ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,” he says. “Dis­ney movies kind of gave that to me. So I like to keep it alive in my work.” Bobby’s in­spi­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly with The Lit­tle

Mer­maid, comes or­gan­i­cally. His clothes don’t play games. They present them­selves and their in­spi­ra­tion ex­actly as they are (e.g. a sweat­shirt printed with the en­tire face of Ur­sula the sea witch).

Ur­sula para­pher­na­lia is lit­tered across his Soho stu­dio and through­out his sketches. She has be­come one of Bobby’s muses. His at­ten­tion to the Dis­ney diva, as well as to Ariel, Se­bas­tian, et al, has cre­ated a lot of bus­tle in me­dia cov­er­age, pos­si­bly be­cause th­ese char­ac­ters are rec­og­niz­able and in­voke that deep sense of nostal­gia Bobby talks about. It also goes with­out say­ing that th­ese icons serve as in­spi­ra­tion to more than just Bobby; a large seg­ment of the gay pop­u­la­tion re­sound­ingly adores Dis­ney and its vil­lai­nesses, whether Ur­sula, Cruella, or most re­cently, Malef­i­cent, as played by An­gelina Jolie, with her “Born This Way” cheek­bones and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing Lana Del Rey an­them to boot. Ur­sula is, and Dis­ney vil­lai­nesses are, nat­u­ral and un­ques­tion­able gay icons.

Fa­vorite pas­time ac­tiv­i­ties?

Dis­ney­land and sleep.

Fa­vorite line from The Lit­tle Mer­maid? Oh good ques­tion. There are a few, but I’ll go with “The hu­man world is a mess. Life un­der the sea is bet­ter than any­thing they got up there.” Be­cause it’s very true and we should all be mer­maids.

Which Dis­ney prince would win your heart? Prince Eric for sure. He’s the most hand­some one and his palace is right on the beach.

What keeps you grounded? My dad is re­ally good at giv­ing me a re­al­ity check. Once in a while my head will be in the sky and he brings me back down to earth. What role does so­cial me­dia play in your life? Do you want to show a side to your life that is not af­forded through your work? I just post what I like. It’s a mix of things I love, both per­sonal and work. It al­lows peo­ple to un­der­stand my brand more and cre­ates a con­nec­tion to it. It re­minds them that they are not just clothes–there is a lit­tle per­son be­hind it. If you could have a cof­fee or a cig­a­rette with any­body, alive, dead, or fic­tional, who would it be? I do love a cof­fee and a cig­a­rette. Fic­tional I would say Ur­sula be­cause I think she’d be fab­u­lous. Dead, I would say Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, be­cause there is so much con­spir­acy around her tragic death. I would ask her what re­ally hap­pened and give her a hug.

But gay iconog­ra­phy has lit­tle to do with how Bobby gets in­spired. Th­ese are totems of his child­hood, and his per­son­al­ity plays into his de­signs more than the rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ters do. This spe­cific col­lec­tion is some­what cheeky, even mis­chievous. Bobby isn’t con­cerned with play­ing by the rules of gay cul­ture or fash­ion con­ven­tions.

“Skatewear” is of­ten used to de­scribe Bobby’s Fall 2015 col­lec­tion, which also com­prises slouchy shorts, cus­tom skate­boards, Vans, sweat­shirts, and prints made from copy­righted ma­te­rial. And might we say, we are not at all com­plain­ing about the oc­ca­sional male crop top. Bobby’s ob­ses­sions are ref­er­en­tial but nu­anced. Though Dis­ney is al­ready a house­hold name, the reap­pro­pri­a­tion of the char­ac­ters gives the col­lec­tion a voice of its own.

“When I’m de­sign­ing I don’t like to go out of my way to find in­spi­ra­tion,” says Bobby. “I get in­spired at ran­dom times by ran­dom things. If I like it I’ll ex­pand on it; if not, I ig­nore it, but I do like to ab­sorb as much as pos­si­ble.”

When he made the move to LA with jew­eler Alan Cro­cetti, then his boyfriend, now his fi­ancé, they sup­ported each other cre­atively and emotionally. Their mu­tual ded­i­ca­tion to their work helped steady Bobby in a daunt­ing new world as he pre­pared for his de­but on the run­way.

“[Alan] was the one per­son that made all the bull­shit tol­er­a­ble,” Bobby says. The young de­sign­ers found a common goal in fash­ion and pro­vided support and calm for one another. And though break­ing into fash­ion was a chal­lenge for both of them, Bobby and his soon-to-be hus­band avoid let­ting their work life in­ter­fere with their per­sonal life. Alan only in­spires Bobby to be more and more him­self in­stead of muck­ing through the pol­i­tics of de­sign:

“I’m quite a self­ish de­signer, so when I have the theme, I think, ‘Okay, what would I like to wear based on this?’” Much like the twisted pair of Levi’s he cre­ated as a teenager, Bobby’s clothes are pro­jec­tions of his own de­sires, and as view­ers we’re filled with awe and re­minded of our own youth­ful de­sires. They’re like see­ing The Lit­tle

Mer­maid again for the first time. Th­ese icons speak for them­selves and for the magic of things we knew as chil­dren.

“Some­one once told me, ‘an artist paints the same paint­ing their whole life,’” he says. “I think in some ways, I’m al­ways try­ing to tell the same story, but I’m get­ting it out in dif­fer­ent ways each sea­son.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.