Monday, 28 May 2012

Introducing... T. Lipop

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Tom Lipop is a creative force who specialises in progressive, technical cutting techniques, luxurious fabrics and technology that combine ti bring minimalism to the fore all with a considered, yet veiled, complexity for his label, T. Lipop. Having shown previously at Vauxhall Fashion Scout, the AW12 season welcomed the designer as part of the Fashion East installations. Housed in one of the grande wings of Somerset House, T. Lipop presented a reimagined wardrobe of military staples fit for exploration of the Great British winter. Despite the models frosted tousled hair and eyebrows suggesting otherwise, it was quite simply one of the hottest collections of the season. As the eyebrows thawed, I thought it high time to pay Lipop a visit at his East London based studio to learn more about the label and the latest collection.

Following graduation, Lipop held senior design positions at House of Holland, Griffin and Nathan Jenden, all after appearing on Sky One's Project Catwalk. "I graduated from Bournemouth in June and the following month I was involved in the process of Project Catwalk. It was great for contacts and an interesting experience but if you compare it to Project Runway, the budget just isn't there and whereas a number of the contestants on that version are rich and famous, many of us are struggling in East London. However, subsequently I worked at House of Holland for a year, freelanced with Griffin and learnt a great deal before moving to Nathan Jenden where I stayed for three seasons as senior tailor and cutter." Building on this experience, Lipop along with his business partner Esser felt the time was right to go it alone. "We just wanted to do something that we thought was a bit different from anything out there, trying to reinvent the cutting side."

Now, we've often remarked on the demands and difficulties facing emerging designers who launch their own line. Beyond the stresses of design, the strains of the business often take their toll on the enthusiasm and sanity of the talents. With Esser's commercial head, Tom can share the load and in fellow Project Catwalk contestant and close friend Ross Hancock, he found someone to bounce off ideas and collaborate with when it came to pattern cutting and finishing each collection. On this platform the label could thrive.

"We met whilst I was studying at Bournemouth. Esser had just moved to England to learn English and his tutor pushed him my way because I needed a tenant. We eventually became friends and when he finished his Masters, he wanted to invest in something, not necessarily fashion, but it was just the right time for us. We've been together for four years now and it feels like a proper relationship. We both live here at the studio so we live and breathe the label. He handles the business side whereas as I'm the creative one and it means I can concentrate on that side of the label - it's just too much otherwise because we do everything in house." Tom on Esser.

"Basically Ross has worked with me for the last three seasons. Once I have designed the collection Ross comes in, consults and helps with the pattern cutting. We work completely together on this bouncing ideas off one another about how best to cut in the style we have developed, not one of us being technically more creative than the other. We have developed the idea of this style of cut together and it has since become a real signature of the label." Tom on Ross.

Three seasons in and the teamwork is obviously paying dividends. As a label, T. Lipop now knows what it wants and how it wants to evolve. The label has learnt on the job but have taken advantage of the 'book of knowledge' that is the Centre for Fashion Enterprise.  "The CFE have been so helpful. Their mentoring meetings have helped us so muchEven as recently as two seasons ago, we weren't one hundred per cent certain on the direction we were taking,  it was a time for us to  explore but now we know precisely where we want to take it and what we want to do. For us, it is all about the cutting and finish to help make garments that are lasting. However, we are also concerned with keeping the price down to help us break in to the market because it is so difficult otherwise. The price point is a real prohibitive factor for emerging British designers. The price to manufacture in London and even the rest of the UK is outrageous. Our cheapest part is actually our tailoring because we've found a great company in Norwich who have bought a factory in Mauritius and its actually been cheaper to move their staff and ship everything out there and then bring it back - it's still English at heart."

Given the timing of my visit to the studio in late April, samples of the AW12 collection were scattered throughout the studio but Lipop's mind had moved on to SS13. I used this opportunity to question the design talent on his creative process. "It's almost a backwards process compared to most. I don't start the season with a clear theme and start designing. I always design before I reference. I just sit down and start sketching what I want and what looks I want to see, once I have this clearly in my mind I begin back referencing finishes and detailing. For example, last season had quite a military and once I had realised that I had reworked quite classic staples, like the duffle coat, parka and flight jacket, I then referenced it back to it whilst bringing it forward. From the cutting side for AW12, we tried to remove unnecessary seams, our suits don't have darting but they've still kept their shape. The Arctic parka for example, is cut in two pieces, there is a lot of technical structure and a great deal of thought and research in what we try and do. It's always rooted in wearable clothing rather than being too conceptual or trend led." The result is a considered collection that breathes fresh life into traditional shapes and familiar silhouettes through the craftsmanship of the designer and his team...

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Look book shots (supplied by T. Lipop) alongside our own detail and studio shots.

With a trio of accomplished and well crafted opening collections, I'm going to be keeping a keen eye on the development of T. Lipop. The future looks promising and Lipop himself is optimistic... "We have five stockists and we are hoping to secure a couple more before the books close. The main thing for us this season was keeping our existing stockists which we've done because the market is extremely tough. I'm hoping that London Collections Men opens a few more eyes and doors. For me, the London crew are so different from what other designers are doing but the recognition just isn't there at the moment. It is so much more diverse than other fashion capitals. We used to be the epicentre and I hope it returns to that." Here's to London Collections Men shining the spotlight on the capital's menswear design talent.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love t.lipop to, But i must say i have followed T.lipop for three seasons and even had the chance to meet the team back stage, but I can't beleive there is no mention of Ross Hancock who actually is the real guy behind T.lipop.
Ross is the genius who creates all the cuts,(also runner up on project catwalk and head tailor for Nathen Jenden for 7 seasons) gives the ideas and direction and actully is t>lipops right hand man. He has consulted for Tom almost since the beginning and with out his input, tom would not be where he is now. I think someone should do a big shout out to Ross as he really deserves it. Hurry up and bring your own collection out!

Charlie (Paris) said...

WHAT? A friend just sent me this link.
No mention of Ross is an outrage.
With out Ross, i doubt Tom would of made it this far.

Anonymous said...

Um, right OK. So, I've been to two t.lipop shows and loved both. I met Tom once and also his 'team'. I respect that each brand/label needs a face but shouldn't articles like this be more about who is actually the force behind the beauty. In this case, like the people above have said, it's Ross. This isn't about singling people out, but this article is incorrect in many ways and to not even mention him is disgraceful.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Charlie, Anonymous 1 and 2: I was with Tom and Esser at their studio for an hour talking about the label and Ross' contribution did not come up at all. Now, this could just be an honest mistake and I'll speak with Tom about Ross' involvement in T. Lipop.

Charlyinc said...

Hi Steve,

Please do.

I've known Ross for a long time, both personally and professionally and often heard how excited he has been to be involved, creating revolutionary new techniques and sourcing new suppliers when the team have been let down.

Besides being an extremely talented individual it's also worrying to see such behaviour, apparently happening amongst fledgling houses. Peers should be helping each other. It's tough enough in this business.

Fiona said...

I find it disgusting that Ross Hancock has not been mentioned- not even a nod to the real genius behind the label. Bad research and bad journalism I'm afraid.

Amanda said...

I think people need to take their heads out of Ross Hancocks Deririere! Has anyone here actually worked with either Tom or Ross? Or is this just Ross's friends trying to push Ross's name. This is very sad to see and dispicable that Tom is not being given the credit he deserves. Everyone is talking about how great and what a genius Ross is but does anyone actually know how technically gifted Tom is! I was one of Toms lecturers at University and then worked alongside Tom on Jermyn Street and he cuts an immaculate suit by eye! He is one of only a few I have come accross that can break the most intricate of garments down in to pattern pieces just by looking at them. Does anyone know if Ross actually designs for the brand or what it takes to run a label, does he actually get involved with any of that side.I I find it worrying that so many people on here have such an opinion and none of whom even know Tom or what he is capable of or at least work with them seeing what goes on behind closed doors. Isn't Ross a womenswear designer by the way! Surely he would have won Project Catwalk had he been the genius everyone is talking about. Sure he may HELP with the cutting and take some of the workload off Tom's back (there must be a huge amount starting a brand) but by god, most of the designers out there don't even cut their own collections. Please tell me, does anybody know who cuts for Givenchy, Herm├ęs, Prada, even Katranzou etc! I did not think so. At 27 years of age, Tom has a lot to learn but it is not T.Hancock or R.Lipop. The name above the door is T.Lipop, so give this Young British Designer a chance.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Everyone: Wow, in (almost) five years of blogging we've never seen a rection quite like this. Now, labels can be a complicated business but we always endeavour to find out as much as we can but something slipped by in this instance. The post has now been amended having followed up with Tom to discuss Ross' involvement in T. Lipop. Ultimately, they have worked closely together in the final weeks of each collection and he's a close friend of Tom's but he's never been a full time employee of the label.

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