Meet Phil John Perry - a multidisciplinary artist who transcends traditional definition. His work is - simply - beautiful. Working predominantly with flowers, the milliner and florist has had his work featured in a bevvy of editorials and covers and has even designed creations for the likes of Beyoncé and Kendall Jenner. I decided to pick his brain on the relationship between flowers and fashion:
Who is Phil John Perry?
Nature has been something I’ve yearned to be around for as long as I can remember. It has always made me calm and inspired all my creative work. So, of course, I decided to move to a big city! London. London was the best place for all my passions. I’m also an actor and writer so London offered me the most opportunities in all my fields.
I’m originally from the north of England. I grew up in Greater Manchester. So my city was a playground when I grew up. Manchester has always been the most anarchic city in Britain I feel, and this definitely has affected my art and my personal fashion.
Growing up I always focussed on creating and had little interest in much else (and I still don’t). It was making things and being in the fields or woods that occupied my time between dragging myself to school. I went to a Catholic school which had very limited resources when it came to the arts. So I found my own way, always making work for myself rather than my school. I’m dyslexic so school was a place that made me feel stupid so I did not feel fulfilled there.
What do you think the relationship of flowers in fashion is?
Flowers being used in fabric prints has been happening for, well I don’t know, but I think forever is the correct word to use. So designers have always used the natural world to embellish the human form. Now the relationship between the two art forms has morphed into much more. Real flowers are going down the runway now too. I’m in love with the juxtaposed elements that collide when fresh flowers meet clothes on the same body. The garment is forever and will be worn again and again, in whatever form. Whether that be after a show when the garment is sent to be photographed by different publications or what it inspires on the high street. Flowers don’t have that, they will have no after life, they exist with the garment at that time and then their job is done. That’s is why I love floral wear. I make it for a look and that photograph and that look will be a one off.
You can’t make the same thing twice with florals. The flowers die. Having that mix of forever and for hours is exciting for imagery. That is the future of flowers in fashion. A one off marriage between garment and floral art piece, between floral artist and designer.
Were you always interested in flowers? And fashion?
I have always been in love with nature and fashion. My personal fashion aesthetic is part of my work. I have always had a sense of what style I like and searched in the oddest places for my clothes. I think this comes from my need for my ideas to become tangible and representative of me. I would love to design garments in the future also. It is part of my plan.
My love of nature has always been there, my love for “floristry” has not. It was very much a way of making money, initially. I worked in flower shops/studios whilst I tried to further my other passions. My love for what I do now comes from floristry becoming part of my art. It all goes hand in hand. I started to make my own floral work with leftover flowers. This was just something I began doing in my little attic room to play with different techniques and it thrilled me to see what you can do when you break the rules. I had a eureka moment
“This is ART!!”
Now floral art is a deep passion and love of mine. My flowers inspire my fashion and my fashion inspires my flowers. This match often comes out in my self-portraits on my Instagram. I come up with a concept and floral style and style the shot as a whole. One goes with the other.
What inspires your designs? What’s the process?
I wish there was one answer to this question as my head would be a less busy place, but there isn’t.
I’m inspired by everything! An idea can come from the shape of a leaf, an argument, the way my partner walks, a city’s vibe, my dad's personality, a song and the list goes on! Sometimes it will just come from what seems like nowhere, it just pops into my head, more often than not in the middle of the night. I’m also very inspired by women and their strength. I love delving into what makes women so epic and powerful. I’ve tried to convey it through a lot of my work. My Wonder Woman headdress being my favourite.
Recently I was inspired by the concept of honesty and researched the word and found an ancient goddess of honesty. Her imagery was stunning so I mixed it with my thoughts and a weeping willow headdress became real.
This particular flower crown was made by Perry while employed by Rebel Rebel Flowers
When did you realise that this is something you wanted to pursue professionally?
Simply put, I initially pursued florals professionally because I needed to make money. This sounds cold but it is the truth. I had learned the skills from being 18 for the same reasons. London had a floral boom when I moved there and I was technically ahead of the game so I jumped on the band wagon.
Florals as a profession for me now is different though. I saw incredible jobs coming in at companies I worked for, and a new scope of what I saw florals to be entered my world. This was when I saw my future in this industry. It was quick from that point, I knew I had to work for myself and get these jobs as an artist rather than just a florist. I knew I could offer these clients something new.
What does the future hold for you?
I have wishes and dreams for the future but it’s totally open. This time a year ago I had no idea I would be where I am now both personally and professionally.
I want to work closely with a designer for a runway show. That is my next goal. I want to create floral-wear in conjunction with a designer's range and showcase it in an incredible show.
I also want to broaden what I offer as an artist. Create overall concepts and visuals for performance, film and fashion.
My most important goal is to teach people who need a trade. The industry is rather saturated with hobbyists and this means it’s now hard to get into if you are from a less fortunate background. I was lucky to find the company that taught me. I want my company to develop talent and nurture talented people who need a break in the industry.