Ed Curtis, the Artist and Designer Making Fashion (and Life) Fun Again

Pin It
Art Sale by Ed Curtis
Art Sale by Ed CurtisPhotography by Raphael Bliss, Styling by Matthew Josephs, Courtesy of Ed Curtis

The Peckham-based designer talks through his new collection, Art Sale – a nostalgic celebration of joy, art and childhood

Ed Curtis is nervous. The designer and artist is speaking to me from his home in south London, where he is still reeling from the launch of his first-ever full ready-to-wear collection. The energy is hectic: over the line, his washing machine is blasting, and he pauses the call briefly to scramble some notes together. “Every time I’m about to put something big out I get this feeling that people aren’t going to like it,” Curtis says. “Almost like I’m trying to put myself down, and ready for rejection ... But it’s actually been really, really positive so far. People seem to be loving it.”

The collection, called Art Salecontains many of the motifs Curtis is becoming known for. There are vibrant bursts of colour, kaleidoscopic swirls, and play-school-style scribbles of stars, sunshine, and smiley faces. This time around, though, the artist is ambitious in his accessibility – rather than focusing on loud sartorial art installations, Art Sale is wearable, boasting rainbow knitwear, statement dresses and paint-splotched bodysuits.

The overall transmission is one of joy, which – post-pandemic – feels desperately needed. For so many, the last 18 months have been lacking in levity, which Curtis was partially aware of while designing. In the collection, and in its accompanying lookbook, we are transported to a nostalgic adventure playground: a paint-splattered art studio filled with clowns, Jacobean jesters, 16-bit video game characters, and unashamedly cheesy (and authentic) grins. Here, Curtis tells us how it all came to be.

“I took six months to work on this collection. I wanted to make something quite big, rather than just a few looks. I wanted to step it up, and fully flex my fashion and art capabilities. It felt like it needed to be like a huge explosion of colour and print and ideas.

“There were no direct references, but there were a lot of memories that felt quite present; experiences that I’d gone through as a teenager that made a lasting impression. I was also thinking about the things that I enjoyed the most growing up, and questioning why I enjoyed them. I wanted to recreate the sense of excitement, joy and colour that I got from being at theme parks, or going on holiday. I worked in a jungle gym for four years too, and I’m pretty sure that indented my brain. There are a lot of childlike references in the collection, and definitely [an underlying] clowny, jester-y aesthetic. 

“I wasn’t really thinking about how the designs could bring joy to people, though it is nice if they look at them and feel happy. It was more for myself. I need this. I need to create stuff that is impactful, vibrant and joyful. It makes me feel good. It’s almost like constant art therapy for myself. I remember working on a print that was made up of smiley faces, paint splotches and galaxies, and when the fabric came I honestly felt like a little kid.

“I work in quite a chaotic, free-flowing way. I can’t prototype or trial anything in boring substitute fabrics – everything has to be done in almost the real thing because otherwise I just can’t visualise it … The girl I was working with thought I was crazy: we would be working with all these really expensive fabrics to make these dresses, and I would just be cutting the fabric, blind, working it out as we went along.

“When I first got into fashion, I remember I wasn’t really satisfied by what I was seeing, and that I never really had been. There’s never anything out there that really resonates with me. Everything just seems kind of boring. I felt like I could say something different. And I do want to be noticed, but I think when you are working in a different way, some people are not really interested unless you’re doing it the way they know it. But I think eventually people will come around to it ... Dressing up in fun clothes makes everyone feel better, and I think we all need that.”  

You can find the full Art Sale collection online at ed-curtis.com.