We customize our lives and the environment that surrounds us every day — from things as big as shaping our own boards to the smallest ones, like adding that little bit of extra milk to our coffee.
In our Custom Spotlight series, we’re exploring the process of some of our favorite artists, musicians, and creatives to learn how they see their world and to find out what drives them to get their hands dirty and bring their ideas to life. We also give them free reign to create their own custom, one-of-a-kind Birdwell gear, and to bring their unique vision of our California tradition into the world.
Designer, photographer, and all-round creative Scott Fraser Simpson’s eponymous clothing line owes just as much to America’s golden age of surf as it does to his upbringing in his home base of London. Timeless but modern, his small batch, ready-to-wear creations have the kind of detail and high quality craftsmanship that really gets our juices flowing. We’re stoked to have him on board to bring his unique style of polish to a few custom Birdwell pieces.
1) How did you get started?
I started SFC back in the summer of 2013/14, it was simply birthed out of the need to find a new bag. At this time, I'm living in London, where I'm still based today. I approached a small leather workshop which I knew made some jackets already and one day after another worked with them to make a duffle bag. I grew up in Hong Kong and as a kid would follow my dad (who was heavily into his clothes) around from backstreet tailors tirelessly over the weekends. It was fun, watching him select cloth, sketch ideas and I took on the idea that if you want something and you can't get it - just go and get it made. Since the launch of the bag I've grown the label into something much larger, with a collection spanning knitwear that's made in Milan, to suiting, shirts and trousers made still in the heart of bustling London where it all started for me.
2) Tell us about your artistic process.
I feel I'm lucky that what I do is genuinely my passion. I don't ever stop looking at clothes. I've got a real deep interest in vintage clothing and this has always helped me cultivate the SFC label, designing under a concept of Retrospective Modernism - The notion of keeping one eye on the past, but the other firmly set to the future. The process of making a piece of clothing or designing for me really is normally a knee-jerk response to something I've seen, a conversation I've had or a feeling about clothes that I get. Luckily producing predominantly all of the collection in the city that I live in gives me the chance to be responsive and act on my gut. The journey to the finished piece will generally change depending on what piece I'm designing, but I'll always spend quite a lot of time with the manufacturers to make sure I understand what can and cannot be done technically, in order for me to understand the garment/piece fully. I think this is a really important part of the design process.
3) Is your work a collaborative or solo process?
Generally, I work on designs solo, however, I have a large group of very talented and creative people around me that I'm lucky enough to call my friends and family and there is never a piece that I create without discussing it with some or all of those people first. My wife, who works in retail design is probably the person I discuss most things with though, without her I'm pretty sure half of SFC wouldn't be there!
4) Describe your workplace/studio.
I work from home. In my south London apartment/studio. However, as I'm working out of various different factories and ateliers I find I don't normally have a fixed space to work. It's always on the go.
5) Describe your ideal workplace/studio.
I'm really happy where I'm at right now to be honest. BUT I'd love to be able to have my own manufacturing space with desks along side the machines, bringing both the elements together would be great. Some sort of lofty warehouse space (who wouldn't!?), over looking the sea with a sweet garage below it for when I need to get out on my bike and try and work out the nitty gritty.
6) What does a working day look like for you?
A day could start early heading to the outer edges of London to collect some patterns from the pattern cutter, then I would run them back into the factories to start orders. 90% of everything with SFC is made to order so there's quite a lot of running around. I try to use local fabric mills where I can, because if I'm doing this, I kind of want it to be easy to get at and be involved in, otherwise I can imagine there's the danger you loose sight of what you're doing. I do most things, pack the orders, post them, run the gram, answer emails, there's not much time to stop - but I wouldn't have it any other way! If I'm heading back to my studio in the afternoon/evening, I'll try and sneak a little time in my garage working on my bikes as a way to unwind and chill.
7) Artists/Musicians/Designers that inspire you ______.
It sound a little cliche, but I find inspiration in a lot of things. I get pretty obsessive by things and use those times to focus my energies into what I am doing with it. There's always labels that I look towards and respect for what they're doing. I think Levis Vintage is one of those great sub-labels of a big brand that just does so well. They get the story telling right and generally hit the mark every collection. A couple of seasons back they did the surf collection, which I melted over!
8) What does Southern California mean to you?
So-Cal means a lot to me. It's where I actually got engaged to my wife. We road tripped around the state in Feb/March time. Took about 3 weeks and travelled about 2000 miles throughout various points. I don't think there's a week that goes by that we don't talk about it or make reference to something on that trip.
9) How important is the outdoors/surf/beach to your work?
For me, I think it's important to be outdoors. Sometimes, in London, unless you've got a raincoat it's not that possible. However during the summer this place comes alive. I try to travel as much as I can and at least once a year I try to get away somewhere that involves being outside. I surf wherever possible and have just come back from 3 weeks in India and Sri-Lanka surfing pipe 24/7. It does magic for your mind.
10) Favorite beach/vacation spot and what it means to your art.
I think anywhere hot. Generally somewhere you can dress up in the evenings at, stick on a pair of high waisted trousers, a simple polo of some sort and see the evening out with friends. Time away from work is important, as much as it is hard to do sometimes.
11) How important is a connection to the past/classics to your work?
As I touch on before, I think that the past has a lot to do with what I do. For me it's about respecting what's come before and reinterpreting it for today ready clothing. It's not about playing dress up, but about capturing an elegance or refinement which I think breathes out from times gone by.
12) Can you tell us one rule that governs yourself/your art?
Just do shit. Don't talk about it. Follow your gut and trust your eye. Make things happen because nobody else will do it for you.
For more of Scott Fraser Simpson go HERE.