After working for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein, Ed Curtis set himself apart from other high end labels by digging deep into his own childlike imagination and manifesting it into evocative clothing under his eponymous label. His journey from sleeping on sofas in a medical residency to collaborating with world-renowned fashion designer Stella McCartney is a truly inspiring one. A playground, an arts and crafts class, a funhouse - there isn’t a childhood anamnesis that his latest collection Art Sale won’t awaken from the crevices of your memory, assuring you that, even in the most unprecedented of times, you are never too old to be young again.
Multidisciplinary, innovative, beyond compare – these are just a few words to describe the artist we speak to today, Ed Curtis. How are you today, Ed?
Hello! I’m very well, feeling festive despite all my plans being cancelled, trying to keep the festive mood going.
Tell us a bit about yourself; where did you grow up and what did you spend most of your childhood doing?
I grew up in a small village in Herefordshire, very close to the Welsh border. I spent most of my time playing on my trampoline, playing in fields with other kids from the village, nothing that noteworthy. It was a nice childhood, it was only in teenage years that I became restless and wanting new experiences beyond what I already knew. I worked a lot as a teenager, every weekend and holidays, my parents knew I had acquired a taste for nice things so made me get a job, I’m glad they did that.
You studied womenswear at the renowned London College of Fashion. What intrigued you about womenswear the most?
At that time I wasn’t really interested in women’s clothes, but from watching some fashion shows it seemed like there was endless ways to express yourself through fashion. At school and college I loved being the only boy in a classroom of girls, I felt comfortable in that space and presumed studying womenswear would be the same, which it was. I also had mad main character syndrome so being the only anything was great for me. I’ve always been more into art, it comes naturally for me, I just channel it through fashion. I was very ambitious at art college and realised I was doing well at it so it was clear to me that I had to go to one of the best fashion schools there was.
During your studies at LCF you were given the opportunity to go to New York for 3 months to work as an intern for Marc Jacobs. This must have been an overwhelming experience at just 19 years of age. How did it come about and what did you take away from that experience and your studies at LCF in general?
Going to Marc seemed very unattainable for someone with no money or prior experience, which made me want to do it even more. I was honestly surprised that they took me on, I wrote to Bulmers cider in Herefordshire asking for money, as that’s where they produce it and they gave me £300! This made so much sense for me at that point. I managed to live in a medical residency, I lived with a surgeon I had never met or spoken to before and slept on her sofa, I couldn’t believe how welcoming she was. I took away the realisation of how incredibly hard everyone works in fashion and that most of the time its no joke, just hard work and long hours, but also that it’s way more than a job and more of a all consuming lived experience.
But you didn’t stop there. You also went on to work for Calvin Klein. When did you realise that your dream was to work as an individual, fabricating your own vision, rather than that of other companies?
I always knew I would end up working for myself again, It was important for me to work in fashion after graduating, I worked with so many inspiring people and learnt so much but the desire to express myself truly was so strong so it was only a matter of time before I started my own thing.
How and when did you begin establishing your own brand: Ed Curtis? Given you had a substantial amount of experience working for distinguished designers, did you experience any challenges during the beginning of your independent journey as an artist and designer?
It started when I was still working for other brands, I would paint and make artworks in the evening and on weekends, the feeling I got from doing it was incredible. I’m a strong believer in art therapy and have kind of turned my career into one big art therapy session. The challenge I always find is monetising my creativity in a way that feels authentic, turning an art project into a brand but still feeling like it is an art project.
Let’s talk about your latest collection, Art Sale – shot by photographer Raphael Bliss and styled by Matthew Josephs. The entire collection bears a resemblance to an arts and crafts class, immersing us into the heart of a child’s imagination. How long was Art Sale in the making before you felt ready to unleash it onto the world?
After 5 months of working on the collection I felt like the balance was right, most pieces in the collection are a direct reaction to the piece that came before it, I didn’t want the collection to look designed, or for there to be one overpowering piece, everything had to be balanced out. Costume pieces and easy to wear pieces.
Your clothes – including those available on your website – are one-off pieces, made to order, making them that much more idiosyncratic to the person embodying them. Dune star, Timothée Chalamet, was recently seen wearing a unique Ed Curtis jumper! It seems important to you to avoid volume production and waste in this way - has sustainability always been a concern of yours? Do you feel that it limits or expands your brand’s capabilities?
I think it’s easy for a brand to get completely bogged down with producing clothes, It takes so much time! I like to have the space and freedom to work on new ideas.
Art Sale exemplifies your multidiscipline through your use of hand-painting, screen and digital artworks which you use on your clothes to create swirls, smiley faces and funhouse patterns. A personal favourite of mine is the Lizzie Knitted Jumper – which seems to have disappeared from stock! What are some of your inspirations when designing, and what drives you to create more of these playground nostalgia themed clothes?
This collection was very joyous, probably the most obviously joyous work I had made, it probably had something to do with the time I started working on it which was Jan 2020 - bleek - before this collection I was always trying to express this energetic energy through my work, this time I wanted to build on that by inserting pieces or symbols that were recognisably fun, so thats when smiley faces, jester outfits and child like interiors started to emerge. It’s only looking back that I can see why this happened, at the time it just naturally happened.
Your artistry is becoming more widespread, not just in clothes but in paintings and installations too – your evocative paper-work paintings are sold on Selected Works, and one of your recent installations was an eighteen-foot Christmas tree for London Edition which you designed along with Lydia Chan. Are you planning on having any exhibitions in the future for all your creations?
Yes I only want to show my work in a physical space from now on. In 2022 I’m going to have my first exhibition showcasing my fashion and art. I’ve realised that physical spaces are so important to understanding my work. I’d love a shop too.