Working out of an old pram factory in South London, artist Jackie Parsons crafts her collection of clothing, combining functionality with a touch of romanticism. Her work is pared back, with garments created from traditional materials in natural colours that have been sourced from surplus or sustainable mills.
The handling and making of textiles runs in the family, with the name Scobel inherited from Jackie’s great grandmother who had a draper’s shop in South Devon. “Making clothes is something that I grew up with, I think like a lot of people of my generation it was something that was always present.” Described by a friend as something of a 'clothing alchemist', Jackie acknowledges clothes in their broader context – what they do emotionally to us, what they trigger and represent, and how they can affect us.
“There are a lot of references to feelings that are deep inside our subconscious which I am trying to access, whilst also thinking about shapes from the past and what clothes need to do now.”
After a brief stint at fashion school, Jackie began an apprenticeship at a costumière in North London where she studied historic clothing and how it was made. During this time, she bought a lot of army surplus fabrics, as well as 1950s ladies’ outfits from jumble sales, which she paired together to create a juxtaposition between glamour and utility. This balance of practicality and aesthetic has shaped her practice today. Functionality is key. "I cycle, I have an allotment. I am a busy person so although I like a romantic style, the clothing cannot inhibit anything I need to do. It needs to be adaptable – to fit into any situation."
Asked how she goes about designing an item – whether she sketches – Jackie replies that her house is littered with bits of paper, a lot of drawings of clothes that relate to each other and could go into a collection."My drawings are usually tiny sketches, lots of rough sketches trying to hone what the idea actually is," she says. "The final details don’t emerge until I am actually handling the fabric, and each piece is slightly different as I like to edit a lot".
“The Mountain Coat was an idea that I had been thinking about for several years. It is an ‘outer coat’, almost like a house… The details are functional, underplayed and not extraneous, so that you can put it on whatever you are wearing. It encases you; it is between you and the elements.”
Such a design-through-making approach has led to several one-off pieces, and Jackie emphasizes the value in repeated use. When asked whether she feels attached to her work, or feels pride that people wear them, she responds, "I remember seeing someone in the supermarket in a beautifully worn pair of jeans, admiring them and then recognizing them as mine. The fact that they had worn them almost daily since they got them gives me enormous satisfaction. Also, in our shared studios, it is mainly fine artists, and there is a particular dress that is ‘the most edited version of overalls’, and a couple of artists have two or three that they wear day in and day out, covered in glue and paint. I don’t want to make clothes that are precious, they need to be comfortable to live in. To live in, sleep in and make a mess in. Then I feel I have achieved something."