Meet the local designer who’s changing the street style game
Meet local Kemptown-based clothes designer, Alistair Back. Alistair has been a party host and DJ in Brighton since moving here in 2001, and has now taken up a new passion project as a clothing designer. He’s approaching 50 and has described his venture into clothing design as a completely accidental one. His brand, Loft55, incorporates a positive social message and repurposed street style threads. Brighton Journal spoke to Alistair about his personal story, his journey to pursuing design, and Loft55 as a whole.
Featured image: Alistair Back
How would you describe your personal style?
Street Style fused with a military theme. Nothing formal yet comfortable. Loose fitting and easy to dance in. I love dancing especially with my wife to disco, house music and old rare groove and funk records.
What is the idea behind LOFT55?
The idea stems from a few circumstances that I’ve experienced approaching my 50th year. Without a doubt the most significant being able to positively promote creativity for mental wellbeing. I’m a mental health advocate and sign poster as part of my 9 to 5. Doing an activity one enjoys is a huge part of mental wellbeing so Loft55 is a platform for this view I hold. Additionally, I promote the positivity surrounding “physical community” which I feel is much more important as we venture into a divisive world through the “online” experience more and more.
What sparked this sudden change in your career? Why now?
I still remain in full time employment. However, I wanted to try something without having to focus on goals or outcomes. Loft55 happened completely by accident. I don’t come from a design background but over the last few years I’ve become interested in “dressing for oneself” to feel good. This needed to have a positive message behind it. If just one person is inspired to give something a go then I’m doing something good for others. I chose clothing.
Where does your inspiration come from?
LOFT: David Mancuso had an early disco thing where he encouraged people to meet in his loft. All were welcome regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. 55: Year the Vietnam War started. My Wife and I visited the country not long after Brexit became a thing. The way the people of Vietnam have overcome their divided recent past is inspirational. I hope we can do the same or similar. The cities of New York and Brighton also inspire me with their music, culture and close-communities.
Do you feel as though the local area has influenced your creative journey?
Yes. Ive been a party host and DJ since moving to Brighton in 2001. This in itself is a creative endeavour. Building an environment for people to socialise in takes creativity. Dance music and people have always been where my creative streak stems from I guess.
Your designs often incorporate repurposed items of clothing. Is sustainability inherent to your cause?
Using repurposed pieces is obviously hugely advantageous and helps in some small way. If I get to the stage where I’m designing things from scratch then a keen eye on ethics will be front and centre. Using repurposed pieces creates a longer life of the pieces I use, whilst hopefully creating some mystery for the wearer regarding its prior use. This may get people thinking about their shopping decisions, leading to more sustainable buying as an outcome.
What advice would you give to budding Brighton creatives?
Easy. Don’t focus on goals or outcomes. Do it for the experience and enjoy the journey. Don’t turn the dynamic from creativity towards profit. Keep a day job if you can. Always tell your story and don’t just focus on selling what you create. You’ll miss out on noticing all the small things that are amazing when you pay attention to people you come into contact with.
What is your favourite part of being a clothing designer?
My favourite part other than people saying good things about my designs is the connection this brings between people. This goes right back to people I know through primary school to people I’ve connected with through social media for the first time. Physically handing over a finished piece and having a chat really is one of the best bits alongside connecting again with old friends too.
Do you have a dream project for LOFT55’s future?
I try not to think too far into the future. If I had to choose it would be a physical space where community comes together. I always think back to my to younger years when people would congregate in clothes shops. “Soul To Soul” in London being a prime example. I really miss that approach of combining community, clothing and music. So yes, a physical space would be great that combines food, drink, art, clothing, style, hair dressing. The list is endless.