Introducing E.Macbean, the emerging art-based, punk-inspired brand run by power couple Elanor and Andrew that utilises swimwear as an off-set for fashion ideas. And this isn't your typical, mainstream swimwear - oh no - E.Macbean is progressive, empowering, sustainable and always has femininity at the forefront! And as soon as F Word heard about the exciting pop-up exhibition, alongside showcasing work from their artist collaborators, and with spoken word performances from 6 amazing female poets, AND (yes there's more!) an after party taking place in the heart of London Fashion Week, we jumped at the opportunity to be media partners with such an eye-catching brand.
We also got the chance to catch up with these two to discuss the highlights and struggles of owning a brand, their thoughts on body image and championing the different aspects of female beauty, along with what you can expect from this Sunday's Fo(u)r Women LFW event - it's not one to miss!
E. MACBEAN is available to purchase from www.emacbeanswim.com
Maisie Daniels: We are proud and excited to be partnering up with you for your upcoming LFW event this Sunday! How did this all come about and what can people expect from it?
Elanor: We held our first show at LFW in 2020… February 2020 to be precise, just as COVID was starting to affect the UK. The show was really well received, but the pandemic halted our initial plans, and made us rethink our strategy. In a way, it slowed us down, and made us really think about what we wanted to achieve through E. Macbean.
M.D: Can you tell us about the 4 female poets that will be performing and why you chose them?
Elanor: We had a brilliantly overwhelming response to our call for spoken word artists, and found it really hard to limit it to just 4 women. So we now have 6! They are all unique and different from each other, but all share amazing talent, charisma, and a voice that demands to be heard.
M.D: You collaborate with a lot of female creatives - we love that!
Elanor: We are a feminist brand, absolutely, and we know a lot of talented women! From the women that featured in our first show, (non of whom were professional models), makeup artists and stylists, to photographers and djs, we are passionate about involving women in our process, although we do work with nice men too!
Rachel Edwards: What made you want to create your own swimwear brand?
Elanor: We felt that swimwear had been traditionally managed by and created with the male gaze in mind, so we wanted to firmly reclaim women’s swimwear as something created, and inspired by and for women. The relationship women have with their bodies, and with swimwear in particular, is complex, and we wanted to create something hugely positive and empowering.
R.E: Did either of you work in fashion before this?
Andrew: I was graduate of the year in 1996, before moving to New York to work as a trend-forecaster. I returned to the UK to work at Joe Casely-Hayford, before setting up my own line, and working in numerous luxury design positions. In 2007 I opened the cult fashion destination, The Convenience Store, and have lectured world-wide in fashion and design (I was recently appointed as an Associate Professor at Middlesex University).
Eleanor: I was involved in the club culture of Manchester in the 90’s/00’s, and have always been a photographer, writer and cultural documenter. Being a Mancunian provides us with an innate interest in style and culture – my brothers were dj’s, and musicians.
R.E: It’s easy to have an idea but what gave you the courage to take the plunge? Did it take a long time between the initial idea and execution?
Elanor: Andrew’s history of running creative studios and business meant that we had the confidence to try out our idea. We are still executing these ideas, but the continual development of the brand is exciting. We are starting to see our brand as more of an ongoing project – it’s malleable and flexible in its execution. For example, nobody needed swimsuits in 2020, so we started developing studio (non-swimwear) pieces. We are very aware of the changing face of fashion and retail, and see opportunities in collaboration, curation and art pieces, as well as products. The impact of social media cannot be ignored, and has made us think about fashion, not just from a product/retail perspective. We are particularly interested in E.Macbean, as not purely a supplier of fashion, but as an art collective, and political commentator, which opens up opportunities for collaborations with other brands.
R.E: What feedback have you had since launching?
Elanor: All our feedback has been really positive – I think women connect deeply with our ethos, and the time has definitely come to continue dialogues regarding women/bodies/politics. People are also actively seeking out smaller brands with sustainable and responsible values.
R.E: What is body confidence to you?
Elanor: Body confidence is exactly that – confidence in your own body. Not worrying about how other’s see you. Being happy that your body is an amazing vessel carrying you through life, and all the wonderful things it can do. Positivity!
R.E: Growing up, what were your relationships with your body like?
Eleanor: I was very active and sporty as a child, and never thought about my body in any depth until my teenage years. Then I became aware that my body didn’t just belong to me, it belonged to society, and that made me feel very self-conscious at the time. I definitely struggled with my self-image for a long time.
Andrew: As a young boy, it’s not something I considered. I ate what I liked. I was very interested in sport, and in bulking up and having muscles – I wanted to be an action figure! Bruce Lee was my hero. It was an aspirational bonus, rather a worry or concern. I can see that the landscape for boys and men is very different now; there is a level of self-analysis that didn’t exist in the 80s/90s.
R.E: The shapes of the swimwear are beautiful! Does anything in particular inspire you in the design process?
Elanor: The design process is actually very complicated, as we generally are looking in places that wouldn’t necessarily visually translate to design. For example, our first collection was inspired by the women protagonists of books written by women, so the process of translating characters and their personalities, into visual reference points, was our starting point. We were trying to capture the essence of these characters, and their authors, developing strong, original art-based references. There is a wealth of art, music, literature and film by women that has been largely hidden within history – we are keen to tap into this amazing resource. In conjunction with that, we are developing a style which is more complex in its gender construct. For instance, we are currently developing designs that are not overtly binary, in addition to our core styles.
R.E: What’s one thing you didn’t expect when starting out?
Elanor: A worldwide pandemic. Literally impossible to predict that! In terms of the business, quite how traditional the swimwear market was/is.
R.E: What’s it like living together and working together?
Elanor: Sometimes, in the run up to an event, or completing a collection, it gets quite stressful! But we are grateful that we can keep the business stress separate from our relationship, which is strong and grounded in love and mutual respect. And we like hanging out with each other, which helps enormously!
R.E: What’s your top tip for people starting their own business?
Elanor: We don’t feel like we’ve actually got very far to be perfectly honest! But, when we reflect, we’ve navigated a pandemic, we’re still standing, still producing work and still having exciting ideas! I suppose it translates to – love what you do, be excited to work on your project, don’t forget why you’re doing it, be creative, be resilient, be flexible and collaborate with others. But the best tip is definitely, expect the bloody unexpected – in fact, expect the unimaginable!
R.E: Give us one celebrity you’d love to see modelling your swimwear!
Elanor: Lizzo. Always. Obsessed!
R.E: What do you think of ‘filter’ culture on social media? Should slimming filters be banned?
Elanor: I think we all know that ‘filter’ culture can be damaging to young people. It’s unrealistic, and sanitised, and odd! Even though we mostly all realise that now, the constant bombardment of a certain type of face/body, makes everyone feel bad! It gives us hope in the future though, that different types of beauty, and different body types are now being represented more on social media and in fashion. Rather than banning filters, it would be more useful to educate through representation.
R.E: Best place to swim in London?
Eleanor: I’m a northerner, so no idea! The Bridgewater canal is bracing though….
Andrew: I don’t like getting my hair wet! But, I’d have to shout out my original local, Brockwell Lido. It’s a bit different now!
M.D: And finally… what’s your favourite F Word?
Eleanor: We have a few, but FEMINIST is right up there.
Andrew: since Eleanor has rightly claimed Feminist – I’m going with Fearless.
M.D: Thank you, we can’t wait for Sunday!
Both: Us too!