London Fashion Week: Electronic Sheep
Irish born Electronic Sheep designers Breda Aherne and Helen Delany established the label in 1999 and now have bases in Dublin and London. With a thorough knowledge of knitwear technology as well as experience working in New York’s Glamour magazine they moved seamlessly into their design roles and have built up a strong label that is unconventional but commercial.
Specialising in detailed graphic knitwear with strong visuals and inventive use of colour they’re already favoured by Vogue and Grazia among others. Showing for the first time at London Fashion Week, I caught up with them to see how it’s all going.
This is your first time at London Fashion Week, how have you found the experience so far?
So far it has been really enjoyable. The most exciting bit is actually the foyer where the most fun and ridiculous outfits hang out. Playing card hats, tea cake shoes, top hats and foot long shoulder extensions with studs. The catwalk shows also have a great energy and are stuffed to the doors. The exhibition area in London Fashion Week where we are showing also has a fantastic atmosphere. Our stand has drawn a lot of attention with an apt set design for our new collection 'Pyramids and Pipes' which includes our taxidermy sheep’s head modelling some of our AW10 scarves. The collection also has been really well received so far-overall a pretty good experience we think...
Where did the name ‘Electronic Sheep' come from?
The name came from a conversation between us about the knitwear machinery Brenda was working on - Shima Seiki. Hence the Electronic and then well of course the reference to wool - sheep. There was a few variations on this at first but the added reference to 'Do androids dream of Electric Sheep' sealed the deal.
Your diverse backgrounds make for an interesting combination. How did it all start?
Our first real collaboration was our degree project at the National College of Art and Design. Brenda in Fashion, Helen in Graphic Design. The result was a neon lit photo shoot in a 1920s Butcher shop window. After that we went our separate ways, working for design companies in different countries. During this spell Brenda won a design award judged by Red or Dead founder Wayne Hemmingway and the prize cash funded the inception of Electronic Sheep. Helen flew back to Ireland to help spend it! In reality though the hard 'grind' of our real jobs stood to us and prepared us for not only the different design skills required (knitwear and graphics) but also the tough business side.
Tell me a little about the inspiration behind your AW10 collection?
Our AW10 collection takes its inspiration from the travels of Sir Francis Drake and other sailors/explorers but as always the Electronic Sheep journey takes a few detours resulting in knitted surreal collages. The graphic knitwear features motifs ranging from ships and sea life to motels and tobacco pipes. We ended up designing the collection in Barcelona and I think that combination of city, port and sea also had an underlying influence.
What type of girl is the 'Electronic Sheep' girl?
The 'Electronic Sheep' girl would be some one like Alison Mosshart from The Kills (and Jack White's Dead Weather project). I guess a rock chic - not overly influenced by other people or trends but has their own style. But also a real mix and matcher, abandoning the grunge for the glamour and dressing up in a proper frock.
What celebrity would you love to see wearing you pieces?
Probably Liv Tyler or Drew Barrymore. They look happy in their clothes, have a bit of a thrown together but cool look and then of course can do red carpet glamour. They could wear their Electronic Sheep with their leather jacket or their fur!
Do you have any celeb fans?
Princess Eugene was spotted in an Electronic Sheep hat skiing, Liam Gallaher, Noel Fielding and lately MTV/BBC music Presenter Reggie Yates.
What's your fashion week survival tip?
Plenty of water, lip balm and wooden heel shoes.
When the going gets tough and LFW mania kicks in what's your vice?
How do you think the death of Alexander McQueen has affected the mood this season?
It's very difficult to say. At the opening of LFW there was a minutes silence and it was very sad. There is a lot of respect and admiration for such a great talent. The ‘Fashion World’ does seem to just go on however. I think when the frnezy is over the real sense of loss will set in. It is a terrible tragedy.
What's next for Electronic Sheep?
We have new agents in Spain and Germany who are representing the label and some new stockists in Italy for AW10 - so are preparing everything for Electronic Sheep expanding more into Europe. We are also adding some oversized knitted cardigans/jackets to the AW10 collection so these will be developed. We have a couple of collaborations in the pipeline (one music and one environmentally related). We have been invited to become part of a sheep/environmental project so looks like we will be busy saving sheep!
High street/designer collaborations are continuing to be big news. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
At the moment we prefer to collaborate with other designers, artists, writers or musicians. However, there are great opportunities to be had in high street/designer collaborations so we never rule things out.
And finally, who's the boss?
A while back we split our duties down the middle so whoever is in charge of a particular 'department' is the boss. At the end of the day Helen gets authoritive about graphic related things while Brenda gets obsessed with stitch details... overall it depends on who is in a more bossy mood!