As a young child growing up in Wales, Adam Jones took comfort in his grandmother’s wardrobe, fascinated by the colours and textures. After realising that fashion was his calling, he decided to use what he had learned as a kid as his base in his designs: making things from nothing. Taking inspiration from British pubs, the London-based designer collects all sorts of things for his creations, ranging from ribbons to laughing gas canisters. His signature, however, is using the infamous beer towel and making it into high-quality garments.
When was the moment you realised that you had started your fashion journey?
I’ve always been on a fashion journey of some sort from a very young age. I’ve been interested in the arts since I was a child, whether it be art, photography, style, film, from naively making things as a child with whatever I could find around the house.
Then came a holiday to Milan as a teenager when I got my first copy of Vogue at the airport, which is something you couldn’t get in Wales then. This other world fascinated me, which seemed so far away, I wanted to be a part of it and was constantly drawing women in clothes from then on. I can remember it so vividly, going into these designer stores and picking up the lookbooks and drawing them in the hotel, in the airport and on the plane home. This is something I’ve always been determined to do.
You grew up in Wales. How did this affect your creativity and your ability to express yourself and your work?
Wales was quite a difficult place to grow up. Being interested in fashion back then, say 10-15 years ago, it wasn’t a thing, you just wore clothes. It was almost a bit embarrassing to be interested in the way you looked, especially as a boy or that’s how I felt. The other kids were just running around the countryside, which is something I also did and loved, building treehouses, making go-karts because there was that element of creativity and imagination involved. But there was this other side of me, where I was just really interested in clothing – obsessed really.
I remember the non-school uniform day or the local disco was the best day ever, it was that one day where you could really express yourself, and I would save my pocket money to buy these outlandish items just for that day, that was the highlight of the year for me. I guess age 13 you start going to town with your friends on a weekend, hanging out with other kids, and you’ve maybe saved up Christmas money and you have that spending power to buy clothing, I mean there wasn’t that much on offer so you had to be creative. It was a thrill to buy something a bit out there, and get a look or a comment from a passer-by, it gave me a weird sick thrill, but it also made me feel ashamed it was very confusing.
I denied my heritage for a long time as I think the shame of my interest and passion made me feel weird or uncomfortable. I wanted to escape but as the years have gone by, I now really look back to my roots and embrace the aesthetic or non-aesthetic of the people I saw growing up, so it’s really fed into my work and I now even make use of the Welsh flag.
Tell us a little about your concept behind using found objects in your designs and how this contributes to your focus on sustainability.
It just comes naturally to me to do this and use these materials. As I say, I have always made things from nothing and whatever was lying around as a kid. Then, at university level, I was bored by the fabric shops and overwhelmed by the choice, I couldn't understand how people were making their fabric choices. So I looked elsewhere for things other people weren't looking at as a point of difference, and let those fabrics speak to me and tell me what to make out of them. Using found objects like tea and beer towels you can only make certain garments out of them, perhaps they don't have any stretch, they're only so wide etc., so I am excited by the lack of control. The fabric determines what I am going to make, so my choice of material makes me a sustainable brand but it’s not the focus, it's secondary.
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How does designing garments using only found pieces limit your process? What is the most challenging part of it?
My aesthetic and choice of materials just happen to be sustainable, and I don't claim to be entirely sustainable. People presume or project that onto you but it is almost impossible to be entirely sustainable today if you want to make a living. So I can't afford to only use found pieces, unfortunately. I need to make multiples of some styles quickly in order to afford to make those special limited editions or one-off pieces that excite me most.
As time goes by, it is becoming challenging as these materials are running out. My brand relies on other people having collected these things for many years, looked after them and then many years later listed them on eBay or sold them at a boot sale, which is such a thrill to think my brand relies on other people collecting. It is very limiting but it is a choice I have made and a challenge I enjoy. Stores just have to wait or there are delays or I can't give them exactly what they want, it’s about working closely together, understanding the way I work. I don't want to see myself back behind the bar, so there are sacrifices I have to make in order to do this full-time. Some pieces are made from ribbons which are 100% polyester, but these pieces are laboured over, and if the customer is willing to spend money, look after the garment and pass it down, then that in itself is another kind of sustainability. It is about making something people want that will last.
How do you approach the designs for your collections? Do you just use what you have available at the moment or do you purposely seek out specific items with specific patterns/colours?
There is a huge undertaking of research involved, I am constantly out shopping for materials. I don't just use anything, I am looking for materials from certain decades, styles, colours and patterns. As I continue collecting over a period of, say, 6 months, the collection just develops naturally, usually something will jump out at me at a junk shop or antiques fair, and I will then hunt down more of those online.
Beer towels have become almost part of your signature design. What made you decide to use them in the first place? Was this intentional? Do they limit/enhance your creativity in any way?
They have definitely become a signature, it's what people are drawn to, it's what they want to buy and stylists want to shoot, so now people know me for them. It was the age of logomania about 5 years ago. I wanted to bring graphics and texts into my work but I struggle with computers, I’m very old school, so I needed to take graphics from somewhere else. I had to borrow from the past so I stole them and made them my own.
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Which is your favourite pub to go unwind after a long day? And what about your preferred beer?
I can't wait to get back to my local, the Dog and Bell in Deptford and have an Amstel, please.
How do you make your pieces look so high-end when using unwanted items such as beer towels in your designs?
It is very important to me when using second-hand materials that you really take care of how you put them together. I have to ensure I make the garment really well, that the design is not fussy. It has to be a clean make and that's what makes it look high-end. I want them to look like new garments. I don't want them to be visibly obviously recycled, so that means the make has to be spot on.
I know that you recently started creating jewellery using laughing gas canisters which were left behind by people. What on Earth made you come up with the idea to use them?
I actually made those in 2016. I’m really inspired by the streets of London and moving here from the Welsh countryside, I just kept noticing them all over the street. They seemed alien. You would especially see them on a Sunday morning after people had been on a night out. I was like a magpie, they glisten in the sun and they were just always catching my eye. I just saw the potential in them and kept picking them up like a crazy person.
I was living in north London, where I guess the kids must be more mindful because they would put all the empty ones back in the box and leave them on the street, so I ended up with boxes and boxes of them, and just had to make use of them.
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In an interview, you said that you call your aesthetic “a British take on Wabi-sabi.” How is the Japanese aesthetic seen in your designs? Does it have a deeper meaning?
I did say that, a long time ago. It is my take on the Japanese aesthetic. Wabi-sabi is about embracing imperfections, seeing beauty in the ugly or unwanted and holding those sacred. I take those sensibilities of embracing distressed old forgotten found objects such a crushed beer can in the street or the laughing gas canisters in the road, and seeing the beauty in that, whether it be the inspiration or using the actual material. 
Sustainability has increasingly become a huge factor in the production of fashion. Do you think upcycling could become the norm in buying clothing in the future?
I don’t think it's become a huge factor yet, as I say these old materials are running out. People weren't as thoughtful years ago, they weren't aware of climate change so they were throwing things away all the time. So, unless people stop throwing things away, especially my generation, which I think they are doing less and less, then there will be no materials to be upcycled in the future.
I am really relying on people keeping things for a long time and looking after them to provide me with material to use in my collections in the future. It’s exciting to think maybe something my neighbour bought 10 years ago will end up in my collection in a few years time. For big brands this is not really a viable model, they can go down a different route using sustainable fibres and tech, they do it in a different way.
You mentioned somewhere that you don’t want to become a big brand. So, what’s on the cards for the future?
My brand is slowly getting bigger and bigger, which is very exciting, but it means I am very busy and sometimes overwhelmed by the work. It is about striking a balance between creativity and commerce. I want to build the brand but I want full creative control – I enjoy making the pieces myself, I find it really satisfying so I don’t want to let go of that element. I like working solitarily in my studio a bit like an artist, but the way it's going I may have to start outsourcing some garments to others in order to build the brand, slightly but slowly. I just want to continue making, I want to put one collection out a year, no more, and for people to buy it and enjoy it. I want to continue doing special drops and collaborations throughout the year, making what I can when I can.
I’d like to make more jewellery, I'd like to move into homeware, I'd love to some dome art installation. I want to create this whole world but by myself, on my own terms and slowly. I don't do this for profit, because there isn't much, I do it for the love of designing and making.
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