Talk of under-the-radar labels or cult fashion brands most commonly equates to newness. Designer duo Antoni & Alison however – like many of their creations – defy the standard set of fashion rules, and for the past 25 years, without a papparazzi’d celebrity following, without fanfare, major self-promotion, PR stunts or endless mass market collaborations, they’ve truly held onto their cult status. And that’s just the way they like it.
Antoni & Alison's Ye Old Worlde Super Modern Tea Room and shop!
So they may not be the world's shoutiest fashion brand, but that doesn't mean global commercial success and industry recognition hasn’t happened – or continues to happen into their twenty fifth year. In fact, shoppers travel all the way from Japan to visit their quirky store-meets-tea-room on London’s Rosebery Avenue. Many of their stockists have to repeat buy items each season and the V&A museum have deemed the MBE-awarded duo’s back catalogue significant enough to meticulously archive the lot – from random sketches through to final garments.
Antoni and Alison
They were part of Designers at Debenhams for a decade and a Uniqlo t-shirt collaboration in 2011 became an instant shopfloor hotcake; tills rung and reprints were produced to satisfy the great demand. It's hard to believe that this all started with just £200 over two decades ago, but five minutes in the presence of A&A and you'll easily notice how their energy and enthusiasm explains why a mega fashion conglomerate never needed to scoop them up.
A/W'13 was presented below the store near Exmouth Market
For S/S'13 Antoni & Alison (who met at Central St Martins and soon became soul mates) opened the Fashion Week schedule in London, but to present next season's collection they've taken a one-to-one approach, inviting a selection of fashion publications to the tea shop/actual shop in order to personally talk through the collection. GraziaDaily jumped at the chance to experience the inner sanctum of Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts and this is what we learned:
1. Their design methods are very unique:
In a quest for newness the pair put themselves though a rigorous and challenging four-day studio lock-down, where they listened to new music on repeat, ate new food, drank new drinks and did all manner of things they hadn’t experienced before. They didn’t want to look back from their diamond milestone, but forward.
Antoni & Alison's ingenious digital print trickery for Autumn/Winter 2013
2. They kicked off digi-printing:
While London’s designer circle may now be well known for their print skills, it was Antoni & Alison who first blazed the digital printing trail. Now their trompe-l'œil results are so very realistic, you can be easily fooled from a distance into think that draped and bow-wrapped dress was genuinely draped and bow-wrapped.
Croissants and kitchen roll fashion models at Antoni & Alison's shop
3. Kitchen rolls are their new obsession:
Antoni & Alison have a new and unorthodox way of formulating the print proportions of their garments – with, um, kitchen rolls! The length works so well when the designers place their fabric swatches and bits’n’bobs to create new print mash-ups. This new technique is so good that the kooky pair have exhibited the originals in glass tubes. Now they receive bucket-loads of cardboard rolls them from friends!
Antoni brings the bling onto these Autumn Winter 2013 maxi dresses
4. They each contribute a very different aesthetic:
Alison supplies the simplicity and the chic, Antoni brings the bling! So where you’ll have an austere hessian-weave print maxi, the scanned-in brooch blown-out to gigantic proportions and artfully plonked on the neckline comes from Mr Burakowski. This collection in particular is about reinventing the mundane, from a yellow garden glove used as a base print to a plastic cable laid ontop as a jolt of neon.
It's all in the detail: close-up on photographic hand-stiching and the new cheeky monkey jumper
5. Next season has separates, too:
The couple may not been keen on trousers, but next autumn you’ll find more separates arriving at Antoni & Alison. Their signature doodled knitwear has moved into roll-neck territory – our personal favourite is this cheeky little monkey – and it’s simple skirt shapes a-go-go in the same eye-catching digi-prints you’ll find on their silk and wool dresses.