The designer – who made his debut last season – delves into his latest collection, which draws on the sense of clarity and heightened sensitivity he’s experienced since spending time in rehab
Elliot Long’s multidisciplinary fashion project Parabola Works has always been “invigorated by performance,” elaborating a world that spans film, photography, live performance, and food – and in which the ideas that animate his designs can come to life. Since the label’s debut in October 2022, provocation, emotion, disruption continue to be the driving forces. “Storytelling and looking at our shared experiences, that’s been such a driver and shaper for how I’ve moved throughout my life,” he explains.
After the visceral dramatics of his debut collection Imp of the Perverse, the story continues with his latest work Central. A lot has changed since the debut collection: Long is notably in recovery after spending time in rehab where he “began making the clothes for this latest collection.” If Imp of the Perverse was charged by large, dark, furious emotions, Central draws on Long’s newfound sense of clarity and heightened sensitivity to look at the nuances, the in-between moments of the human experience. Through pared-down, “humanised” silhouettes, which are designed to allow the wearer to live their life through and weave memory into the garment, Long draws our attention to “what’s right there in front of our eyes but maybe overlooked.”
There is still the same poetic intensity that pulsated through Imp of the Perverse but now Long looks to the drama of the everyday to encourage us to see the raw emotion in seemingly unimportant moments. He has collaborated with filmmaker Jackson Forsythe on a short film and photographer Aidan Zamiri on the campaign lookbook to bring the abstract ideas behind Central into a tangible world. “There’s a lot of poetry in the moments that feel in-between, a feeling that a lot of people can relate to” explains Zamiri of the campaign shoot. “That’s what we tried to capture in the images. It’s a little bit haunted yet hopeful.” This multidimensional approach was made possible by Keebo “and marks the company’s first project extending credit to emerging creators so they can make their ideas a reality”.
The clothes continue to be made in east London, where Long is from, at his friend Zack Sartor’s zero waste circular facility which is conveniently located within the same building as the Parabola Work’s studio. “It’s amazing because it gives us a sense of control,” says Long of the facility’s proximity. “I feel like the only way that we can transfer all the emotion behind our work into the garments is to be hands-on with the garments.”
Here, in his own words, Long tells the story of how his latest collection Central came to be:
“Since I spoke to AnOther last, I’ve been to rehab and I’m in recovery now. With [Parabola’s last collection] Imp of the Perverse, I was writing to and from these characters who I felt were directing my choices at the time. It’s a very emotional collection. Sometimes I’ll see people in the clothes, and I speak to them and it’s like, ‘Yo, it made me feel like this happened.’ It’s mad.
“Our latest collection is called Central because it’s really looking at ‘what are these things that are so essential or so core to our perception of garment and design?’ What can we pull from that’s overlooked or taken for granted? I want it to be enjoyed by people, I want people to live with these clothes. The key thing is that same intensity of emotion, that same desire to create a product that is top-level – it’s still running through Central. Just because we are experimenting with forms that are maybe more approachable, doesn’t mean that the intensity stops there.
“There are treatments in the clothes that will age and that will patinate as the user goes about their day-to-day life. We’ve got some dying techniques and some waxing and treatments on top of our boiled, light wools. The result will be dependent on the environment that the user is in – they’re very sensitive clothes. Really, it’s about trying to put as many human qualities into the clothes as possible.
“The ‘invigorated by performance’ aspect brings all these abstract ideas behind Central into a real world. Whether that’s to shock or to inspire or to make someone feel safe. And to be honest, these are things that have been super prevalent to me throughout the journey I’ve taken in the last eight months. When I was first sober, it really felt like everything I was doing was – a performance is a very much the wrong word – but everything was so intense. Every single thing, I became so hyper-aware of.
“Ultimately with the performance, it’s about creating a holistic experience. I get inspired, for example, by Aidan Zamiri, who did the campaign shoot. Jackson Forsythe, who did the film. It was an amazing experience working with these people – luminaries, right? These amazing creatives who I’m inspired by, which has been a real constant theme for my life, and for which I’m really thankful for and honoured by.
“I also really love my team. Because we’re all so open with each other, our conversations become a massive part of a design language. Conversations and words are really our biggest driver, rather than shapes and forms. And what I take pride in is that we really are just a group of people who love each other and love what we do.”