Transforming the macabre and decay into something curious and devastatingly beautiful, Klements is out with a new fashion video, Cult of nature. We chat to designer Charlotte Allen about isolation, nightmares, death and her magnificent world of creatures.
Hi Charlotte. As designer for Klements, can you tell us about your fashion world?
I started Klements with the idea of creating a devastatingly beautiful label. I wanted an outlet for all my fantastical textiles visions, on beautiful garments that I love. The Klements universe is the beauty of the natural world, tempered by the dark, the trippy and decay. And of course, it is filled with creatures and resplendent colours.
And what are the creatures that most inspire you?
My favourite creatures are the intelligent ones – crows, pigs, dogs, rats and apes. I also am fascinated by whales, I often dream about them. My favourite dream was being stranded in the ocean surrounded by whales at night, knowing I was going to die in the cold sea but being incredibly happy and peaceful in that moment, in the moon light with gigantic whales swimming beneath me.
You grew up in the countryside and spent a lot of time on your uncle’s farm in Lincolnshire. What are the advantages of growing up creatively in the countryside?
I think that a certain degree of isolation in childhood can help lead to a rich escapist place to go back to later in life. As a child I spent a lot of time on my own, also on my uncle’s rural farm, playing, exploring and developing important relationships with animals. This magic, curiosity and wonder is a place I go to when creating a collection or a narrative for a print. I think a little isolation helps you to become different, you have less opportunity to check yourself against others and ‘correct’ yourself. There is a lot of magic in the English countryside, or maybe just the bleak Lincolnshire countryside where I was. You make your own. 
Your label always has the feeling of the macabre. Where does this stem from?
I have always been drawn to the macabre. As a child I was obsessed with death, also the dreams I had and the games I played. Later on my tastes in music were always pretty dark. Even now, some of the dreams I have are horrendous, I’m not sure where this comes from. I had a very happy childhood and life so far!
What kind of horrendous dreams have you had?
Oh god, some have been pretty dark. One of the worst was where I set fire to my husband (I dreamt this the night before our wedding!) and watched him burn, but did nothing. That guilt hung over me a while, that my brain created that. But a lot of the dreams I have feel very dark, it’s often the ominous, fearful mood, or a very dark sky that sets the background to an otherwise normal dream.
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You can see how these dreams feed your prints. What kind of stories do your prints tell? 
The collection Cult of nature was inspired by the natural wonders of the world, and the works of romantic poets such as Keats, who captured both our world’s darkness and light. Each print has a different story, from simple photographs of peace crane origami in Japan, to more dreamy trippy narratives, often nodding to the beauty of the life and death cycle, and all the light and dark that runs between. The SS17 collection is particularly inspired by a line from Ode to a Nightingale: “a drowsy numbness pains / My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk”. It inspired the drowsy float nature of many of the prints. Colours became what you would see floating away under shallow waters, creatures became confused and mixed up – a blue kangaroo, a trout vomiting a rainbow.
What is the fashion story behind this particular SS17 shoot?
We wanted to capture a wild, run down kind of beauty. The very talented photographer Claire Huish found these derelict old green houses just outside of London, and they were perfect for the mood of the shoot. When it comes to casting models, we always attempt to find a strange, unsettling kind of beauty. It’s a mix of surreal, supernatural, grunge and elements of the gothic. In terms of posing we have our Klements look for the photoshoot, but for the film we took inspiration from the collaboration with the British Museum, considering the statues we used in the print - Aphrodite, Venus. Strong, feminine, fluid.
Now, you’re collaborating with the likes of the British Museum. What's next for Klements?
Back down the rabbit hole for next season.
Since then you’ve designed for Paul Smith, Bolongaro Trevor (the label set up by the guys who launched All Saints) Matthew Williamson, Vishenko all before launching Klements. What are the most important lessons you’d learnt in your journey until then? 
Learning the ropes at various fashion labels was invaluable before launching my own label, you learn where to take risks and where to tread carefully along with all the much needed technical skills and contacts. You must stay true to your creative view, be led by your tastes, instinct and imagination. These are the things that have been with you your entire life and need to be your creative compass, so you don’t end up designing or wearing what everyone else is.
Can you tell me more about your creative vision and the mixed media you use?
I don’t want Klements to become a predictable label, where all the prints look the same. Also this is not how I work, I love to play around with photography and macro lenses and then create a world on the computer mixing in different elements. Or sometimes I just want to sit for a week and draw with pencils. For SS17 I went back to oil painting which was satisfying – sliding the thick oils around the canvas, it feels very wholesome. Basically it is instinctive, whatever I am feeling is fresh and right at the time, goes.
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