Fashion designer Katie Eary has been asked the same question too many times: "Why menswear?" Thankfully, it's a question she no longer needs to answer. Her works are now lapped up by some of the biggest names in music, including 2 Chainz and Kanye West, who visited Eary's flat when she was fresh out of university for a cup of tea and a chat about art.
For all the stateside success, her work has a very British inspiration at its core. As an A-level student, Eary adored the Young British Artists (YBA), and her attitude towards the fashion world was motivated by those artists' ability to evoke extreme reactions.
"I was obsessed with the YBA," she says. "I wanted to be a part of it so much, but I hadn't even finished my A-levels – I had to think about how I was going to make my own mark. These guys had done something incredible; either you loved their work or you hated it, but you definitely had an emotion towards it. That became my goal."
Katie's Arowana shorts, available here on her Depop shop
Katie's eventual commitment to fashion was driven by several factors, the first being a lack of options. "I failed my A-levels because I just didn't bother," she says. "When I went to art college for foundation I had to pick between fashion, photography or art. And I was like, 'Hmm… fashion.' I'm such a fluky bastard."
Her mum was just leaving university when Katie started. "She was a single parent and me and my three brothers had run her ragged, basically. I thought, 'If I'm going to do this, I should do it now,'" she says.
Leaving university without a safety net gave her an important focus. "You go to uni and meet loads of privileged people, and I quickly realised that I had nothing to fall back on. Mum doesn't have a house, and I can't afford an internship. Basically, there's no backup plan and you have to succeed – or else what are you going to do?"
2 Chainz wearing Katie Eary in his video for "Crack"
As art worlds go, fashion is notoriously bogged down with a fair amount of bullshit. When asked how she would advise up-and-coming designers, Katie says, "I think you've just got to be a hard bitch for a couple of years. I used to take everything to heart. But fuck it, it's just business. You've got to have a bit of a backbone."
Aside from artistic integrity, she also recognises the importance of diverse connections and teamwork. Forging friendships with musicians has been good for her on many levels. "Music completely opened my eyes," she says. "I don’t know if you saw the Lana Del Rey video with ASAP Rocky? But I love when it says 'Team Lana Del Rey' in the credits, because with each individual artist – whether it's Miley or Rihanna or whatever – it's not just them; it's team Miley, team this, team that."
Kanye West in particular has influenced the way Katie conducts her business. "Kanye thinks of himself as a brand, and that’s something I learned from him. Over the last couple of years, I've tried to make sure that everything looks as sharp as it can, and I think you can tell," she says, smiling.
Despite her professionalism, Katie still has to deal with lousy proposals. "Like massive brands that ask to collaborate with me and say there's no budget – what a fucking joke," she says. "You've got no budget – are you winding me up?"
Katie's "Spaceship Lobster" jeans, available here on her Depop shop
Being asked to work for free is one of the frustrations that she shares with many of her contemporaries and her generation at large. "I'm really into the fact that everyone's pissed off with the Tories at moment. I fucking hate them," she says. "You can feel this anger bubbling away, whether it's Russell Brand creating his messiah complex or my friend who tweets First Capital Connect every single day to wind them up. There's loads of rebellion in music and art at the moment, and that will come out in what I make. It all links back in a big circle of art."
Alongside her forthcoming AW14 collection, current projects include collaborating on an interactive magazine, making a film and launching a new website. Katie has built her operations from the ground up and still has a hand in the less glamorous graft. "I have square eyes from uploading stuff to the new website all weekend," she says.
When it comes to selling items online, social network Depop has made things a bit less hectic. "Setting up an e-store is a real pain in the backside, but with Depop it's so easy," she says. "I've already sold loads of stuff on it. It's like the dream eBay that they should have sorted out ages ago."
Katie's neoprene biker jacket, available here on her Depop store
Buyers and sellers on Depop have profiles that allow them to comment on items. "Some of the guys on Depop have been buying from my e-store for a couple of years now. There's a guy I've noticed who buys a lot of the belter pieces, and it's nice to finally see who these people are. You've got little pictures, their name, what they do," she says.
Unlike the structured layout of her website, the app makes it easy for Katie to sell one-offs, archive items and fabric. "[I can post] loads of things that people might like that I'm not going to put on the website because it all has to be clean and formatted," she says. "I treat Depop like eBay – you can put anything on there. Especially archive stuff, because I'm fed up of seeing it and it's nice to see it out of my hands."