An up-and-coming Birmingham talent who is creating a stir in the fashion industry is showcasing his incredible designs in Selfridges - made out of redesigned coffee pods.
Rhys Ellis has created an inspiring, and unique, fashion collection which is on display in the iconic Birmingham store for the next three months.
The 25-year-old, who is originally from Kings Norton and now lives in Shoreditch, came up with the idea after moving to Milan to study at Politecnico di Milano design school alongside a world renowned tailor. It had been part of his three year BA in Fashion Design at Birmingham City University (BCU) but he decided to stay to continue his training.
He said: “That year in Italy was a great experience for me. Not only was I being trained by one of the world’s most distinguished and experienced bespoke tailors who, at the age of 74-years-old, teaches some of the most up-and-coming talent from brands such as Armani and Versace, but there is a coffee culture that I hadn’t seen before.
“It was while I was in one of the markets that I saw a lady making very simple jewellery from these coffee pods, and something just clicked and I knew that I could create dresses this way. I also liked the idea of using material that would otherwise be thrown away, and it was refashioned,” he said.
“I came away from this experience in Milan not only knowing so much about the industry, but also with an idea which I knew would translate into my fashion career and push it forward,” he said.
Each dress, which he creates and twists together by hand, is made with 6,000 repurposed coffee pods. The Spring/Summer 17 collection, on display in Selfridges, is based on the theme of underwater, evolution and the effect the environment surrounding us can have on progress, and his dresses will be changed every few weeks.
His standout work forms part of Selfridges’ Material World project which looks at how materials are made and how to make them more sustainable.
“To see my work on display in Selfridges is just incredible. I used to work in one of the concessions in this store when I was studying, and now to see my work on display in my city, makes me so proud,” he added.
Selfridges began this year with a bright new look at sustainable innovation, through materiality, and the fascinating provenance of the fabrics of fashion. Rhys’s work is part of personal product stories on display in all four of their stores as part of the Material World scheme which encourages the use of sustainable fashion, innovation and ethical practice.
Despite his incredible eye for design and female fashion, Rhys’ first passion was football, and he hadn’t considered being a designer.
“When I was growing up I really wanted to be a footballer and that is all I wanted to do. But it was while I was in my second year of A Levels studying at Bishop Challoner I injured my back and that was my dream gone. I then started a foundation course with BCU in sculpture and textiles which made me decide this was the direction I wanted to go. My art teacher was incredible there. I didn’t have a clue about fashion but I was keen to learn. I knew how to draw, but not how to illustrate. And pieces I was creating were out of objects such as smashed mirrors, hoola hoops and card. Since then I haven’t looked back,” he added.
Rhys Ellis’ multi-disciplinarian approach to fashion is reflected in his varied experience, which includes working alongside ready-to-wear and couture designers like Iris van Herpen; photographers Juergen Teller or Bart Oomes, as well as contributing garments and designers for international exhibitions including the ‘Transforming Fashion’ exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and Le Bord des Mondes Exhibition in Paris.
Rhys is currently working on his next collection and is creating designs using other sustainable materials. He will have a number of his dresses displayed in the store for the next six weeks, and he can make bespoke dresses to order.
Beth White, Birmingham City University Lecturer in Fashion Business and Promotion said: “The spring/summer 2017 collection from Rhys Ellis demonstrates his commitment to sustainability and textile innovation. In line with the Selfridges Material World concept his collection addresses some of the fundamental environmental issues that are facing the fashion sector today.”
Sam Watts, general manager at Selfridges Birmingham, said: “The dresses have only been on display for just a few days and already many of our customers are stopping and noticing them. For us to be able to proudly display, and support the work of an upcoming and talented Birmingham Fashion Designer in his home store is an honour. His work fits in well with our the Material World scheme and We know that Rhys is going to be moving onto incredible things in his future, and we will be proud to have been able to help in our own way. "
PR By Clive Reeves PR Birmingham