The artist, comedian, and Great British Bake Off host discusses working with the Italian house and why fashion is the perfect escape in these bleak times
When he’s not accidentally working in a vintage shop, reading Dazed on The Mighty Boosh, or serving looks on The Great British Bake Off, Noel Fielding likes to draw. You’d already know this if you follow his Instagram, a haven of colourful, scribbly “streams-of-consciousness” – as he calls them – or, more recently, if you happen to be a fan of the Italian fashion house, Fendi, with whom the artist and comedian has just collaborated.
Fielding’s distinct, child-like sketches adorn knitted sweaters, quilted coats, bags, and boxy shirts, all of which make up Fendi’s AW21 menswear collection – a line which celebrates colour, light, and a message of solidarity and connection. “It’s optimistic and positive,” Fielding says of the collection, speaking over the phone from his home in north London. “Colours on their own can really help.”
The playful brightness of Fielding’s designs is particularly needed as the UK endures its third national lockdown – something Fielding is surviving by making art and hanging out with his kids. “Maybe it will make us more streamlined,” he reflects. “Get zen. I hope so.”
As he basks in the glory of Fendi’s dazzling virtual runway show – “It’s like a gig; there’s a lot of build up and everyone’s buzzing,” he exclaims – Fielding chats to Dazed about the collection, creating art in lockdown, and why fashion is the perfect escape during these bleak times.
How have you been finding the third lockdown?
Noel Fielding: It feels a bit bleak, but you’ve just got to keep positive. I’ve got two little kids who are really funny, and you can’t get down when you’ve got kids. I paint and draw, and that helps a little bit. And I meditate; that helps if I’m feeling a bit crazy. You have to go back to basic things: having fun playing games, cooking. And that’s really good; everyone’s had to slow down. Now my day is taking my two-year-old into the garden – that’s the highlight of my day – or I’ll watch The Clangers with my kids. I mean, big stuff. (Laughs).
That’s why this Fendi collaboration has been great, because they got in touch in December and they needed it quite quickly, and I like working fast. It was a bit of a godsend.
Yes, it’s great to have a creative outlet at this time, and your pieces for the collection are very true to your artistic style.
Noel Fielding: Well, what happened was, Silvia (Venturini Fendi) was interested in using my stuff. I didn’t know how they were going to use it, but they said, ‘We like this and this, have you got any more stuff like this?’ So I sent them like 100 pieces that were similar, and they picked some things they liked, and then we narrowed it down to like 25 things. Then I did some other stuff like playing around with their logo, and more stream-of-consciousness stuff. Silvia was trying to keep her eye on the bigger picture, so it was really down to her – her clothes are beautiful, and to come up with all these different designs is such an insanely brilliant skill. But she obviously saw something in my drawings that she thought would work well, which is amazing to me. I just did what I do, and then she managed to incorporate that somehow into her whole vision, and it looked pretty good!
“I like Fendi, so that was good. It was a good fit because I really like how quirky they are; colourful and psychedelic” – Noel Fielding
So – aside from the unique pieces – you were giving Fendi your work rather than working to a specific brief?
Noel Fielding: I did do some bits to a brief; they asked me to do certain things… Oh, hang on a second, my two-year-old is trying to get in. Hey Dali, what’s happening? I’m just doing a little interview! Dali, when dada did some drawings on clothes, did you like them?
Dali: Yes, says Dali.
Noel Fielding: (Laughs). Dali liked them! She’s speaking in the third person: ‘Yes, Dali approves!’ But yes, so it was quite collaborative. Also, I like Fendi, so that was good. It was a good fit because I really like how quirky they are; colourful and psychedelic. I’ve always found Fendi quite playful, and that appeals to me. (The collection) is quite optimistic and positive, which everyone needs right now. It’s so easy to spiral into some sort of dark box set on Netflix, but that doesn’t help in the grand scheme of things. Colours on their own can really help, you know, especially as it’s cold, and dark, and wet, and there’s a pandemic. It gets dark at 4pm.
I know! No matter how many decades you’ve lived, you’re always like, ‘Wow, it gets so dark so early in the winter’. Like, ‘Yeah, I know, it happens every year’.
Noel Fielding: Why can we never get used to it?! It’s amazing. I think everyone’s gone a bit nuts now as well because we have to stay inside. What’s great though is the technology. It’s a shame we couldn’t go to Milan to see the collection on the catwalk live, and hang out, have some champagne, and have a party, but it’s amazing that you can do it online. So, the Fendi thing was a breath of fresh air – it made me feel hopeful and that things are OK.
There’s something nice in the press release that mentions the stream-of-consciousness element of your art, but also talks about you creating psychedelic cosmic creatures within the motifs. Could you talk me through any specific characters mixed into the designs?
Noel Fielding: The stuff in my comedy is specific with making up characters with voices, styles, music, costumes, and make-up, but when you start making art, it’s almost like, if you narrow things down too much, it becomes an illustration. So you have to try and make it a little more ambiguous. But I can’t go completely abstract, so I go ‘secretive abstract’ – there’s always some characters, creatures, faces, or recognisable forms of animals or humans, because they always seem more interesting. I was really pleased that Fendi used the seahorse design. I was doing a lot of seahorses and I think it was because I was having a baby at that time; I like the idea that the male seahorse gives birth. So I did this weird seahorse with an upside down baby in its belly and the bubbles coming out of its mouth, then spraying the words ‘Fendi’ in the bubbles. And Fendi really liked that, and I was chuffed because out of all of this crazy bleakness and lockdown, we had a baby, so that was the beacon of light for us.
Bizarrely, they’ve always been my favourite animal. When I was a kid, our bathroom was completely decorated with seahorse motifs.
Noel Fielding: They are so weird, aren’t they? I get a lot of inspiration from animals for my comedy and for art. I really enjoy colouring now, and I started working with oil, crayons, and pastels, and stuff on black. I always just get black paper for my drawings, and that was what Fendi was attracted to. They’re not cartoony, but there’s something surreal about what they do.
“Fashion is one of the things that takes you into another place – a more magical place. Especially when the world’s going wrong, you need those places” – Noel Fielding
Have you got pieces from the collection at home with you now?
Noel Fielding: I’ve got a jumper and some shirts, but yeah I did ask. (Laughs). There’s a couple of coats that I absolutely love.
Which piece are you most likely to sport on the Great British Bake Off?
Noel Fielding: I love the coat that’s got ‘Fendi’ written all over it, and the weird sort of dressing gown that’s padded – that’s amazing. I was really pleased with the coat with little abstract faces on it, because I always draw these crowd scenes, and I think I do it because it’s almost like an audience to me when I’m doing stand-up, like a wall of faces. They used that really well. But there’s loads! The bags are nice; any of it, really!
I thought the whole collection was brilliant, and the way they did it on the runway was really clever. It’s very intense – there’s so much energy put into it, then you just go, ‘Wow, that’s all over in four minutes’. But it’s brilliant, especially when you’re at one live. Comedy can be two hours long, but this thing (the Fendi runway show) is condensed like a missile. You’re like, ‘Boom!’, then your head comes off like, ‘Wow, wow, wow’. It’s really fantastical. The thing about fashion, as well, is that it’s really escapist. There’s ways of making art – you either talk about what’s going on and you deal with it, or you try to give people some kind of escape from it all, take them through a doorway to another world. Fashion is one of the things that takes you into another place – a more magical place. Especially when the world’s going wrong, you need those places.
Revisit the show in the gallery above.