Community Conversations In the Studio Lifestyle

Giles Deacon's Inspirations

By Drake's

Sep 16, 2022

Giles Deacon's Inspirations

Giles Deacon was a multi-hyphenate long before the term became part of the creative zeitgeist. He’s a designer, couturier, painter and illustrator. He’s shown on the world’s biggest runways. His clothes are on display in the permanent collections of the V&A and the Met. His illustrations have appeared in Vogue and The New York Times and, as a costume designer, he’s worked with the New York City Ballet and on billion-dollar Marvel productions. 

A lot of this polymath magic happens in a big, bright studio in East London, looking out onto a community allotment and a squat and scattered Dalston skyline. There are rare and unusual books, lots of art, vintage furniture, couture dresses of his own making and abundant natural light. Wearing his favoured uniform of classic tailoring with colourful details, we recently visited Giles in Dalston, to have a look around and take some photos. Later on, we conducted an interview over email. Us in London and Giles in New York, where he was busy preparing costumes for an NYC Ballet production this autumn. A conversation about flannel suits, studios, finding inspiration, living a creative life, and being a regular. 

Drake’s: Hi Giles, how would you describe your work uniform? What do you wear to the studio?

Giles Deacon: I was inspired years ago by the wonderful  book 'Private View' with photographs by Snowdon, a portrayal of the lively british art scene in 1960s london. I was drawn to the idea of artists wearing shirts and ties, formal shoes etc to wear in a studio while working, and have evolved a personal mutation of that ever since, adding a sense of playfulness with colour and pattern. Ensuring the look is not uptight is my general view to my studio uniform.

Drake's: Why did you choose to be based in Dalston? What do you like about the area and working there?

GD: I have had studios in various North and East London locations since 1995. An old bank in Old Street; a classroom and gym hall in Rochelle school, Arnold Circus; a modernist block with a window filter off Brick Lane, and now on the roof of a warehouse with a garden in Dalston.

The locations have come around mainly as I have lived within a two-mile radius of all of these areas. I like buildings with character that I can easily walk or cycle to everyday. Studio hours are unorthodox, and the freedom of simple navigation appeals enormously. It's quite interesting how certain spaces have produced certain bodies of work. What to plan next! 

What do you listen to while you work?

I have music on constantly in the studio and never the radio. On rotation at the moment are

Elaine Howley on David Holmes's brilliant label Touch Sensitive

The 4AD compilation 'The 13 year Itch'

'Lost in a Sea Full of Sighs' by Sad Lovers & Giants

Octopus by Sunfear

'Lost and Latest' by Absent Music 

Drake's: What’s the secret to a productive life? Do you ever suffer from creative block?

GD: I think to be born with an inquisitive, active, objective brain and outlook certainly helps productivity, but the basic desire to make, to mark, to do is vital, and to very quickly establish that you are doing it for yourself is number one. If people appreciate it, that is a fantastic bonus. Of course, the flow is happier sometimes more than others, but you learn that it's all part of the process, and you learn to enjoy that just as much.

What’s the most treasured object in your studio?

GD: I have a number of things that I adore in the studio that I would be sad not to have around.

A selection of books collected from exhibitions, car boots and gifted from friends. I find physical research more rewarding than a quick Google search. Useful that it is.

An Oliver Messel collection of programmes he designed for the English National Opera and Glyndebourne from the 1950s and 1960s beautifully illustrated and designed with some original costumes

All materials that I use on a regular basis

Watercolour paints

A collection of inks

Good brushes

A selection of cold pressed heavy watercolour paper

An endless supply of blacking and Kaweco sport pencils

An iPad pro for drawing purposes

Drake's: What makes for a great flannel suit? Why do you like the material for tailoring?

GD: I like flannel for its soft formality. It yields rather wonderfully to your body shape and has the most glamorous slouch to it, which I adore, particularly with a part structured piece.
Look wise I always go for a stripe or bold colour sock, contrast tie or neckerchief and shirt with a fine woven pattern or print, rarely a plain shirt. Makes me nervous for some reason!

Drake's: Where are you a regular? 

GD: I am a regular at most of the St. JOHN establishments and the Rochelle Canteen, Royal China Club, the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. I love to chat to my dear friend, the landlady Sandra Esquilant, in the side bar at the Golden Heart.

Drake's: How do you like to style your tailoring? Tie? No tie? 

GD: I love wearing ties and neckerchiefs (which I wear more frequently). A childhood watching Alan Whicker never seems to have sartorially left me.

Drake's: What are you inspired by?

GD: Art and photography are constant inspirations, generally more of an essence than literally. I love how people can create worlds and show perspectives of idiosyncratic ways of seeing.

Recently I have been enjoying... 

Francois Halards pictures of Saul Leiters apartment
The painters Benjamin Spiers and Julie Curtis
Zhong Lin’s photography in the Perfect Magazine

On a design practice perspective, the daily practice of drawing fascinates media usually have two or three drawing-ideas books on the go at home providing an ongoing resource to return to for aesthetic decisions based upon research from areas such as the natural world,16th century garden designs, ceramics, and museum visits to the likes of the Fitzwilliam, Sir John Soanes, and the V&A.

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