If you follow fashion, then you will probably have heard of Rottingdean Bazaar. Vivienne Westwood recently issued an apology to the young fashion label after confessing to using one of their graphics without permission. 

James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks are the pair behind the surreal menswear label, named after the small East Sussex seaside village where the pair live and work and find much of their inspiration, they are one of biggest names to watch in fashion.

(Rottingdean Bazaar’sWizard of Oz-themed series for ES Magazine. Photo: Lucy Alex Mac for ES Magazine)

Brooks, who is 31, grew up in Hertfordshire. Buck, 28, grew up in Rottingdean and Brighton. They met while studying at Central Saint Martins, but opted out of London in 2015, not as a rejection of the city, they love London, but it was more a reaction against the rising costs and certain models of rapid and debt-laden growth for emerging creative talents in London. “We’re trying to learn from what we’ve seen happen to other designers,” Luke said in a recent Vice interview, explaining the unsustainable pressure to finance expensive studios, and hire interns and eventually staff, on top of crazy London rents. They represent a growing movement of artists and designers who thanks to the internet, do not buy into the myth that creatives must work in London or in a city to succeed. They find it easier to concentrate in Rottingdean; working from a small domestic setting on the seafront, they enjoy midday strolls along the beach, “We hardly ever go to Brighton,” Luke says, “Only to get balloons”.

Their work is one joyous slice of middle-England charm accompanied by a large dose of irony; they’ve just sent models down the catwalk at London Fashion Week in actual fancy dress outfits. One of the highlights from their A/W18 show was a woman wearing two dart boards as a hat and necklace, a rug that could have come straight off a pub floor as a skirt, finished with a trail of bunting.

(Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA)

Creatives drawing upon their place of residence for inspiration is nothing new. Since the days of Rudyard Kipling (a previous Rottingdean resident), and Viginia Woolf, a profusion of local artists and writers continue to be captivated by East Sussex, but the way in which James and Luke approach the process is something refreshingly different.

Situated about 10 miles east of Brighton, the village of Rottingdean in East Sussex provides direct inspiration for the pair’s tongue-in-cheek collections. The press release for A/W18 show had a copy of the monthly circular Rottingdean Village News stapled inside, and they shot a fashion film with the local zumba class.

They also drew on the talent of the local kid’s art club to make masks and paper clothes for another one of their shows. It was all shot in places in Rottingdean, from the village hall to the allotment and community centre. For James, PARC charity shop on the high street is one of his biggest inspirations.

Worn In: Rottingdean Bazaar from Tom Ivin on Vimeo.

If they could change one thing about their world it would be ‘having a pizza place that will deliver to Rottingdean.’

They clearly have a brilliant future ahead of them…

Cover image: Rottingdean Bazaar’s Wizard of Oz-themed series for ES Magazine featuring Giles Deacon and Charles Jeffrey


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