Patrick McDowell is the queer designer who is remodelling the fashion industry one project at a time.
Implementing and advocating sustainable practices, McDowell is making moves. From recently being appointed by Italian brand Pinko as its Sustainable Design Director, to now being appointed as Ambassador for Sustainability at the JCA | London Fashion Academy, it’s clear the Central Saint Martins graduate has come a long way from the humble streets of Liverpool.
We sat down with the designer to chat about his latest collection, his sustainable mission and his exciting venture and upcoming work with the Jimmy Choo Academy (JCA).
Congratulations on your appointment as Ambassador for Sustainability at the JCA. How did this collaboration and appointment come about?
Thank you. I’ve always been so passionate about the importance of creative education and I’m so excited to be working with JCA across their courses to talk sustainability. I was contacted by JCA directly to come on board at the start of this incredible new adventure.
What are some of the lessons and advice you’re excited to share with the students at the JCA?
For me it’s about the whole picture, not just about one element or the fabrics. It’s important to experiment and find the right way of working for you. I think you have to start first with your own life and think, ‘Is this sustaining me? Do I sleep and eat properly? Do I give myself what I need to thrive?’ Then it’s as much about redesigning business models as it is creating a great product. The main issue in fashion for me is the overproduction of product.
What makes the JCA’s approach to creative and sustainable education so appealing to you?
I love the holistic approach they are taking and that they are giving young designers the ability to develop their own businesses in a new and modern way. Doing this inside the walls of JCA allows you to have much more freedom and experiment further. Trying things perhaps you wouldn’t have thought of if you were going it alone.
Do you think the JCA education model is the future of fashion?
I think the future of fashion is about thinking differently and creating environments where that thinking is accepted and pushed further. I think it’s about recognising that we live in a world powered by technology with an education system designed in the 1800’s and thinking, ‘How can we change this?’
You were appointed the Sustainable Design Director at PINKO, why is it important to keep sustainability at the heart of all your projects?
For me, it’s super important that I’m working in design and creating clothing I believe in, but also asking the right questions and thinking how we can make the impact of these projects less. Experimenting with different ways of working and asking, ‘How can we implement change at PINKO in a long-lasting sustainable way?’ Often sustainability teams are separate from the design team, and I think it’s really important to combine the two.
What are some of the challenges you still face when practicing or educating others on sustainable practices?
I think we have to remember that we are all at different levels of understanding. Sometimes the concept of reimagining can be difficult to understand if your whole concept of fashion is based on A-B-C. I come in and ask to go from Z-Y-A. I think it’s really important when you’re working with other brands like I do, to understand the brand and where it is, and to then propose change and take action; remembering that businesses are made up of people who are each individual and complex beings.
What motivates and inspires your creativity?
For me, it’s personal. My own stories, my own path. For my last collection Catholic Fairytales, it was a queer reflection on my experience of growing up in the church. For Reimagine Katharine Hamnett it was all about how Brexit has impacted us as designers. It’s important to tell your stories. It’s therapeutic.
Your vision and work is always representative. Why is it important for you to centre queer excellence in your projects?
It’s who I am. Being a queer person has allowed me to look at and experience the world in a way that doesn’t conform to heteronormativity. While it can be challenging when the institutions of daily life are set up for that, it also gives me the opportunity to rethink and open up those ridged boxes that make up the hetero world. I am so in love with my queer life. It’s made me who I am today. It’s not something I’ve always been comfortable with and I have struggled at different parts of my life, but today I’m so happy being a queer person taking steps forward in fashion. It was when I started to really embrace who I really am that things started to click into place.
With Pride Month here, I want to ask: what does Pride mean to you?
Pride means celebration, a moment to smile and take stock of the huge milestones we as a community have achieved over the past decades; remembering that the freedom and comfort I enjoy today is because of the struggle of those that came before me. Pride is about remembering all of the steps we still need to take and the importance of being seen and heard. Pride is about being proud of who you are, all of you. Pride is about togetherness and remembering that together we are stronger.
Learn more about the JCA here.