KNOWN for co-founding the west London vintage emporium, Rellik, in 1999, Steven Philip is a master of vintage fashion with a network of contacts that most sellers yearn for. In 2018, Philip sold his share of the Rellik company, noting his desire to return to his true passion – collecting, archiving, and “telling stories”.
And what stories he tells. Whether it’s through the many editorials in which his collection has featured, through the customers who he has dressed, or through his wealth of incredibly rare finds, each with their own backstory, Philip understands the emotional value in things.
Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano are his two greatest fashion loves, and over the past 30 years, Philip has meticulously pieced together their designs, storing them in his personal, permanent archive in Brighton, Sussex. Ranging from a rare Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren World’s End 1983 Witches Collection mac to a piece from John Galliano’s inaugural collection, Philip’s treasures are paramount.
Steven Philip, owner of the Mr Steven Philip Studio.
How did you begin your collection? What inspired you to start it?
I started collecting seriously in the ‘90s, I was always inspired by the amazing movements of glam rock, punk, new romantics and ‘80s streetwear.
Vivienne Westwood Erotic Zone, SS95. This Westwood ensemble is an iconic look, the bottom half of which was worn by a half-nude Kate Moss eating a Magnum as she paraded down the runway.
Vivienne Westwood On Liberty knitted metallic dress, AW94. “Vivienne’s favourite dress of all time”
I understand you were a co-founder of Rellik, which opened in 1999. As someone who has watched the world of vintage fashion grow, what do you see for the future of contemporary-vintage fashion?
For myself as a collector, watching the world of vintage fashion grow has been incredibly interesting. When I first began collecting there was a more diverse pool of aesthetics to choose from – that’s not to say that there aren’t collectable pieces now! Although my most prized possessions are from times gone by.
What drove your choice to sell your share in the Rellik business and open the Mr Steven Philip Studio?
For the last few years at Rellik, I began to lose interest in the retail side of the business. It was important for me to go back to my true passion, to collect pieces, build ensembles, and tell stories.
Can you tell me more about the purpose behind your studio?
To share my archive with likeminded people and exhibit the pieces I have collected over the past 30 years.
Why have you chosen to collect Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano in particular?
Vivienne was one of my first loves. Watching her style develop from the pioneer of punk to the finest of couture gowns was just a dream!
For me, collecting Westwood was a must, I don’t think anyone would have foreseen that she would become one of the greatest British designers that has ever lived. Galliano’s pure creative energy is irresistible to collect.
Like Westwood, his resourcefulness when creating his graduate collection from fabric swatches to the absolute grandeur of his time at Dior is just perfection. Two British designers that made a lot out of a little!
Vivienne Westwood Super Elevated lace front boots, ‘90s. These are one of my most popular pieces. I’ve never seen another pair with the same centre-front stitching, which fuses the codes of the Westwood brand – fetish, punk and historical detail.
John Richmond printed leather jacket. People are drawn to the punk in my collection but I like this that leather jacket is rock rather than punk.
How do you source your archive pieces? What is your process?
Over my years of collecting, I have built relationships with many auction houses and private clients that I source from. I also source a large amount of my collection from travelling where I find bits and bobs at markets around the world.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I have collected pieces from countless designers and numerous eras, all with incredibly varied design approaches, therefore making my aesthetic an eclectic one.
Which items tend to become your most treasured and why?
Very, very early pieces that are produced in small batches with limited numbers, making them all that more desirable.
Alexander McQueen kimono, 1997. The kimono was used for Bjork’s 1997 Homogenic album.
John Galliano SS91 oversized cuff sleeved shirt. The pointed L-cut of the sleeves is a staple of Galliano’s history.
What opportunities has your collecting afforded you?
Collecting has afforded me the luxury to be in a setting where myself and others can enjoy the beautiful pieces I have collected.
In your opinion, what does our love affair with archival fashion pieces mean for the fashion industry at large?
Each garment holds a story that can transport us to a different era. I think we all love to immerse ourselves in the past.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their archival fashion collection?
Start collecting one designer that you really love, look for pieces that aren’t mass-produced and know everything about that designer from the day they started designing to the present day.
Maison Margiela jacket, SS98. Garments that appear two-dimensional when not worn on the body were presented on hangers as if at an auction during this presentation. This jacket is another of my rarest archival pieces.
John Galliano two penny button waistcoat from Galliano’s graduate collection, Les Incroyables, 1984. It’s special to own something from the start of a fashion icon’s story.
What have been the high points of your collecting?
The highest points are always when I find the final piece of the puzzle that completes a full ensemble, the most difficult part is finding those elusive pieces.
by Lily Rimmer