It may have only been a few months ago that we last spoke with British fashion designer Elliot Joseph Rentz, but that doesn’t mean he’s been idle. For someone whose passion burns so fiercely, it’d be silly to expect anything less than a trail of dark beauty left in the wake of his creative blaze.
The season has changed, and so did the nature of the interview. Gone were the cries of the gulls, carried into Rentz’s apartment/studio/workshop along with a Brighton breeze and southern English sun. Instead, he was was all duvets and darkness, with the additional warmth of his cat, Oscar, who sat stretched across his lap. But the creeping of winter, with the incumbent lengthening of night, hasn’t diminished Rentz’s productivity. If anything, it provides a more perfect environment for his aesthetic.
“A modern-day witch; I created the pieces around that,” Rentz says of his second Elliot Joseph Rentz womenswear collection. “I never do sketches of my designs, but I always sit down and I’ll draw a character.” While he describes the inspiration behind his first collection as an “albino-like, unearthly woman,” this time around he was far more in tune with the natural. Messy hair and dirty skin provide the perfect backdrop against which his more delicate pieces can pop.
Photo by David Sessions | Model Ruby Brown
Seven images, one for each look, were released over the space of a November week in what Rentz describes as his own personal fashion week. Modeled by the striking Ruby Brown (who also modeled his first collection, albeit while wearing ornate masks), the garments are both severe and gentle. “I think they’re quite romantic,” Rentz says, “and they felt very organic for me. And some of these pieces can be tweaked and transferred into wearable garments. And that’s what I’m focusing on, pieces that people can buy into.”
While quick to admit that the knife bodice may not be the best thing to put a woman in before sending her on a night out, Rentz says that he wants to make clothing that make women feel amazing. “I want them to feel badass. If I can create something where they feel empowered and amazing, then I’ll do that.”
It’s this drive to allow people to get their hands on his creations, and to give fans the chance to buy into his brand, that led Rentz and his publicity team at HPR London to develop the Rentz clothing line. Launched less than a year ago, high-end designer T-shirts are available for purchase through his website. And the most exciting bit? They’re unisex.
“I really wanted to create key pieces for somebody’s wardrobe, that nice T-shirt for going out,” he says of the line. While the first two batches of Rentz tees were holographic prints, those most recently released bring the overall feel into much closer alignment with the Elliot Joseph Rentz line.
After coming across the work of painter Giuseppe Velardo, Rentz decided to reach out and suggest a collaboration. “My first ever because I’ve not really been that interested in doing them. But I just thought, what a great way of working with another artist, someone whose work I really believe in, and one that fits my aesthetic.”
The result is a series of four T-shirts with “gruesome” painted images of the first Elliot Joseph Rentz womenswear collection printed on front. Above, Rentz models the most iconic image, the red mask that inspired Lady Gaga’s comparison of the 21-year-old designer to Alexander McQueen. While, so far, the Rentz line has only been the T-shirts, there are plans to expand. From jewelry to dresses, garments and even high heels, this self-trained designer seems loath to dismiss any potential direction outright. And with roughly half of sales coming from men, he even seems to be shifting his opinion on menswear.
“I always said I’d never do menswear, but it’s gone down so well. So I think I’d be a bit ignorant to say no completely. Like it would be amazing to do printed suits and all that stuff, but for now, it's nice to have unisex. It also means that I can wear stuff.”
Speaking with Rentz, his surety and candor engenders a strong sense of trust in his work and brand. And when coupled with such raw talent, it makes sense that he’s linked to names like David LaChapelle, Ivy Levan and Edward Enninful. Yet despite being hyper-conscious of his professional trajectory, he’s also still very young. “I am a 21-year-old. I make mistakes, I have my moody times, I rant to nobody on the internet when I need to. And it’s not what my brand’s about, it’s what I’m about.”
Of course, there can be a bit of interplay. Speaking of his online presence, which has veered towards the NSFW lately, he reiterates the simple business acumen — underscored by the faintest of smirks — that “sex sells.”
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Photo: David Sessions | Model Ruby Brown