The Rodnik Band: Who says fashion can’t be fun?

With his designs selling worldwide and a brand that extends to music and fashion, Phillip Colbert of The Rodnik Band is redefining the way fashion is received.

In combining the mediums of a fashion brand and a band, Phillip Colbert, the designer of the Rodnik Band clothing and its accompanying brand is a multi-faceted talent. His adaptations of such British anthems as “London Calling” (London Clothing) make his shows an exciting cross between a gig and a traditional fashion show, and invest a sense of fun into his garments, which aim to put some tongue in cheek humour back into fashion. FAULT spoke to him about his new 50’s inspired collection (to be shown at London Fashion Week) and the inspirations behind his innovative label…

FAULT: What made you decide to combine the idea of a brand and a band?

Phillip Colbert: the idea came about because I was selling in quite a lot of places as an unknown brand so I thought I’d adopt the vehicle that bands have of going on tour – it becomes a lifestyle, with a tour bus and the antics that go with a rock tour, and I was excited by this idea and since the whole idea seemed more infectious than just a fashion label I thought I’d use that method that bands have making the fun real and creating a genuine story and narrative. Fashion is quite stiff so I thought it might be fun to take the idea of “a band” in fashion and tour around with it. Originally I wanted to do a sort of spoof “Spinal Tap” type tour of the shops I was selling in in America and I just really liked the idea of breaking the convention designers have of always presenting themselves in a linear fashion: at fashion week on a catwalk. Modern artists have really broken up the conventional approaches of how art should be presented and I didn’t see why designers shouldn’t do the same.  For me, changing how I presented my designs meant that I could in a sense change what they meant, both to my customers and me.

What was the first “performance” of this new approach to fashion like?

The first show was actually in Sefridges, as part of the Surrealism exhibition, and at that stage I hadn’t written any songs, so I just got an LP of the Doors, played it on an old record player, had the collection set up on the rail in Selfirdges, and played along with kids instruments to the Doors LP. It was very DIY, very childish, but still quite funny, with big Rodnik Band slogans everywhere. It was quite random but at the same time ended up attracting a fairly big crowd, so I thought to myself, why don’t I look into writing actual songs, and make Rodnik tracks.

Would you say that you see yourself more as a designer or a musician?

For sure a designer, the music for me in a fun accent to the brand, although when it comes together I do think it’s quite a powerful combination. I did a catwalk show in Ukraine in the Museum of Modern Art, and it was this amazing space, with a big catwalk and maybe three or four hundred people in attendance, with the band performing as the catwalk show was going on, and it really felt as though we were a breath of fresh air. People were up dancing by the end and I do think the spirit of the brand, which tries to make fashion a bit more fun and tongue-in-cheek, really came across.

Would you ever want to become a professional musician?

No, I just think it would be a terrible career.


Which artists inspired your most recent collection?

The collection I’m about to show at London Fashion Week for S/S 2013 is inspired by this idea of the “Pop-art 50s Housewife”.  I like using artistic references that are fun but also quite bold, and because pop art was born in the 50s I wanted to do a play on that, and the consumerist ideals that surrounded that era, with the idea of the perfect housewife, and perfect home, and perfect products, so I looked at playful ideas within that ridiculously candy-kitsch world of the wife at home and the way that marketing people at the time literally created a dream and packaged women up into the products they bought, despite the fact that the whole idea is so un-empowering for a woman. The collection is inspired by everything from the more Warholian images of household products, to Lichtenstein type prints of cheese.

Would you say that fashion is an art form?

I think so in the sense that art has been so heavily and ridiculously hashed out and broken down into so many different forms, of course fashion can be an art form, although most designers don’t work in the kind of literal narrative that relates to art, so fashion doesn’t necessarily have a strict meaning. Even so people would still regard McQueen as an artist in the way that he’s creating a beauty and an illusion of sorts, even though he presents it in the scheme of traditional fashion. There are designers, those who manage to achieve a grand vision, who are artists, but I wouldn’t consider all designers artists. I think also the mass production of fashion can take away from its being perceived and valued as art.

Would you say that your philosophy degree has in any way influenced your work?

Slightly. I guess it probably has in the sense that I find the thoughts and ideas behind clothing very important.

And how did you move from philosophy to fashion?

Basically I started importing scarves as a business, sort of crochet, knitted things that I thought were the new pashmina. So I did that for a couple of years and when it took off I just started developing clothes to sell as well. It took a while to get designers on board, but it was quite an organic thing really, and the more I got involved in the designing the more I started taking charge of the brand and what we were making, so the clothes became closer to what my designs are like now.

How would you describe the kind of woman who wears your designs?

Someone who’s bold, with a sense of fun and a sense of irony, someone who acknowledges that fashion is ridiculous but embraces that, someone who likes to make thoughtful statements.

Do you think that combining mediums (in your case fashion and music) is the future of the fashion industry?

I think people are always trying to combine music, fashion and art: everything from collaborations with designers to showcasing fashion in a museum or gallery: it’s good for branding. Also music has such an important impact on people it’s natural that labels would want to collaborate with the hottest new bands. But because often the motivation behind these moves are business related I think they can often feel quite forced, and I prefer when crossovers come from a more artistic spirit, where artists themselves decide to collaborate for an artistic idea, to try and create a new standpoint between two fields. For me creativity evolves by creating new stepping points between different ideas.

What is your FAULT?

As you can see from everything in the studio, I am incredibly messy!


Text by Maya Hambro