Leather ruffle kitten heels adorned with silk pussy bows and finished with rubber golden dog bone heels? Yes, they do exist and are part of Ella Douglas’s curated design world; the emerging fashion designer who had also envisioned a lampshade top, eyelet lace tights, and those dildo shoes. Currently enrolled in the BA Fashion Design & Marketing course at Central Saint Martin’s and based in London and Oxford, her avant-garde sculptural-like designs tell unique stories that disrupt gender boundaries; stories of queerness fused with social commentary.
A lover of performance art, Douglas’s work sits at the intersection of art and fashion, creatively merging images of childhood innocence, dreams, and adult eroticism. She created resin cast dildo heels as part of her white show look ‘Divine Eroticism’, a shirt made from a sleeping bag that turns into a bag -using stroke rehabilitation accessories as inspiration- and, most recently, a hand-printed ruffled apron with over 10,000 beads as part of her Apron/Shirt project. No wonder we are so excited to see what’s next-and hear it from the designer herself.
Who did you first start being interested in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion, it sounds cliché to say since birth but it’s true. As a young kid, I would tell everyone I wanted to be a fashion designer; I would draw my dream shop and plan how I wanted to brand myself. I have always been super interested in branding and marketing; understanding how I can reach my audience in a conceptual way. I am studying a degree in Fashion Design and Marketing at Central Saint Martin’s therefore I feel so connected to my education, I feel like I am on the right path to creatively direct my brand.
Your designs feel very much fashion-meets- art. What are the artists that have influenced you the most?
I aim to blur the lines between fashion and art. I want to make my audience question whether my garments are actually a piece of artwork. How we chose to dress is an artistic expression of our identity therefore it is essential to design garments as art. I would not say there is one particular artist who inspired me, I find creativity through looking back on history in particular artworks from the Middle Ages and age of enlightenment. That said Hieronymus Bosch is a huge inspiration to me. I am in awe of every artwork he creates, they tell stories and challenge my mind to comprehend that they were produced in the 15th century. In my eyes, they look modern. His conceptual paintings juxtapose the classic paintings of the time. When I first saw the painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” I felt such intense emotion, so inspired and truly mesmerized by the intensity of such painting.
Can fashion be political and in what context?
I believe fashion is a good way to present yourself which can then lead to the exploration of political stances. How we choose to dress is a personal choice, we dress to express ourselves whether that be intentionally or coincidental. How we dress represents our values, likes, dislikes, and opinions; I like to think it is a physical representation of one’s aura and mind.
How would you define the person that wears your designs?
I create sculptural showpieces that allow my audience to be anyone. My clothes accept and welcome everyone. Once more the person that wears my designs doesn’t care about societal boundaries; they push them and wear whatever they want! They want to challenge and provoke society. In my opinion, how someone reacts to my garment is more important than who I choose to model.
If your clothes tell a story, what story this would be?
My clothes present another side of fashion. They showcase a performance that merges art and fashion. I always want my garments to reflect my journey of self-expression. I want them to shock and wow my audience. In my opinion, any reaction to my clothes is a good reaction; I am provoking a response and starting a conversation.