The entertainer discusses collaborating with Fendi on their latest menswear collection and choosing optimism over despair.
“Creativity, fun & craftsmanship” reads Fendi’s Instagram bio, snappily relaying the values that have made the Italian house one of fashion’s leading lights. For their AW21 menswear collection, they decided to tap a special someone who directly resonates with this spirit. Namely, comedian, artist, presenter and author Noel Fielding, someone whose talent is only matched by his insatiable appetite for mischief.
With his colourful, expressive drawings and paintings, Noel’s Instagram has become a much-needed source of joy during lockdown — and this collab with Fendi has given his artistic work a sartorial translation. For the collection, Noel abstracted the Fendi logo and emphasised the season’s cosmic spirit with his stream-of-conscious creations across covetable outerwear, knitwear and accessories.
To celebrate, we called Noel up to talk about the collaboration, the importance of escapism amid national lockdown and the digital world.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first start making art?
The thing about it was, I did go to art school. So I was always, in my mind, [thinking], “One day, I’ll paint again, I’ll go back to painting”. I loved it but I got into comedy and performing. At that time, I still keep a little bit of the art going with the costumes, makeup and animation [in The Mighty Boosh]. With Bake Off, I’ve had more time to do painting and I really got obsessed with it. I think for four, maybe five years now, I’ve been painting solid.
Your work is really quirky and surreal, which is what people really need right now.
I think [with my artistic work] people kind of know what they’re getting, which is nice. It’s going to be whimsical, surreal and colourful and it’s going to be otherworldly and magical. That’s kind of what I’ve been selling for 20 years in different ways. I’ve always thought of trying to take people on a journey somewhere else, rather than talk about what’s going on. I like to give people an escape from the mundane. It’s also quite hard to do that, I find it easier to be cynical.
Definitely, putting on a positive face for other people can be draining, for sure. So, how did you end up working with Fendi on their Autumn/Winter menswear collection?
Fendi approached me, which is always flattering. Like if a gallery says, “Oh, we love your work”. You’re immediately flattered. [Silvia Venturini Fendi] is a brilliant designer, and Fendi are a brilliant label. I was flattered, but I was also shocked.
It’s not every day that Fendi calls you up, that’s for sure. What was it like collaborating with them?
Fendi were very cool about it, they were really respectful. [The team] were very easy and loose and free. They would say, “Oh, do you want to try and mess around with the logo or the name,” and I would do some drawings. We chatted about what colours they were using, what they were trying to do and what they were trying to achieve. It wasn’t like one of those collaborations where you’re both struggling to reach a point. WE worked really quickly. I think it was in December that we started doing it and the show was on 16 January. That was literally like three or four weeks. That was it and there was Christmas in the middle of that — there wasn’t any time to mess out.
And what did you think of the show?
The runway show was brilliant. I was like, “Oh, wow, this is fantastic”. I thought the whole shape of the runway show was really clever. [At the beginning,] stuff that was more accessible and functional and then it went a bit crazy, this explosion of colour. There’s something amazing about these runway shows, they’re so condensed into such a short amount of time.
There was a sense of whimsy which I really admired.
I think what they did was pitch it in a nice, optimistic, sort of playful way that did give you hope, actually. That’s what we need at the moment, we don’t need a lot of weird stuff. I think we’re all a little bit on the edge, we’re all struggling a little bit, so you don’t need more things to freak you out. I thought that [the show] made you feel like it would be okay. That’s what we needed, definitely.
Outside of fashion, what else can give that sense of optimism?
Music and film can do that. It’s harder in comedy. We do need some comedy at the moment but we can’t do live gigs. Comedy would be the thing that would really help people a lot and just give them a little bit of an escape. I think comedy is best live, I feel like stand-up should be live. There are a lot of online gigs, which is the next best thing, but for me, there’s something about going in front of an audience, they’re so intrinsic to the process.
What do you think of internet comedians like Mo Gilligan for example?
I’m quite fascinated by what Mo does, because I watch these characters he plays and how he’s using the technology, how he films himself. The editing as well, it’s all a totally different skill, it’s not one that I have at all. It’s a different way of working, it has to be short and punchy and grab your attention.
Are you ever worried about how quickly things are going online now?
The internet’s a bit frightening to me. I remember that David Bowie interview where he talked about how we haven’t seen how big or how powerful the internet can be, how it was just the tip of the iceberg. Technology is going to change everything. I think we’re struggling to keep up. The new generation is very different to the last generation because the way they receive information is always different from the last generation. It’s like we’re always evolving, evolving really fast. It’s a weird time to be alive.
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1 March 2021