Whoever was going to design Lady Gaga’s headpiece for the ‘Telephone’ video was going to be famous.
Fred Butler, the stylish designer, did that but she has gone beyond those fame borders. Her whole life was
full of surreal fashion moments; from contributions to Selfridges & Co. and collaborations with famous
stylists Nicola Formichetti and Patti Wilson, Fred has won every single one of us.
How would you describe the concept of your accessories?
I like to think of my designs as a little sculpture to adorn your outfit and
transform a look. I like the way that interesting accessories open up
communication between strangers via compliments and questioning. Wearing
a bizarre addition is an instant focus and talking point. Bringing people together
is a great way to instigate openness and understanding.
What aspect of your accessory work makes it unique?
My USP is reinterpreting craft techniques with unusual materials and
unexpected applications to create something new. I like to layer up these
textures and surface patterns with intricate detail. Most of my work is labour
intensive and requires patience to achieve this magic. My focus is always to
experiment and discover something I’ve never seen before.
What inspires you creatively? Who would you say have been your
I cannot decipher anything in particular but colour and fun is a constant! I don’t
think it’s easy to work with whimsical sources and be taken seriously so I like
tackling that contraction. I have been inspired by a couple of designers that I
have assisted in the past ThreeAsFour and Alistair Carr. They are both avantgarde
geniuses dedicated to their art.
Is there any period of history that you relate your ideas to?
I have a distinct aesthetic in my mind that comes out each time I make
something new. Its unwavering. As time goes by and the more I produce I think
it’s evident that I’m a lost child of the 70s. Essentially that decade was a rehash
of the 20s which is the other decade that I feel a great affinity with. I grew up
with picture books left over from my brother and sister’s childhood in the 70s
so I’m guessing it comes from that. But I love everything from Disco to Punk,
Ska, Studio 54, Bowie, Klaus Nomi, Kansai Yamamoto and Thierry Mugler to
Designers create new trends every season. Do you feel that you do
That’s a funny thing. I think we follow instinct and then intuitively there is a
common theme. Designers lock themselves away to create a new collection
each season and then surface for the shows and it turns out that there is a
unison. That is just one of those unfathomable things that fascinate me about
Which woman most impressed you?
Elsa Schiaparelli, Josephine Baker, Diana Vreeland, Grace Jones, Zandra
Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant, Jean Muir and Barbara Hulanicki.
What’s been your most surreal fashion moment?
My whole life!
What was it like seeing Lady Gaga wearing your hat? What was the
inspiration behind your piece and how would you describe it?
Now that was and still is surreal! I had absolutely no idea that video would
become such a phenomenon. Although meeting the deadline was stressful,
I had a lot of fun making it so I’m so pleased that it looks like Lady Gaga had
fun wearing it! I was asked to make a “telephone hat” and that’s exactly what I
did… est voila!
Αny advice for those up-and-coming designers?
I could go on forever so instead here is a quote from Ralph Marston: ‘Your
greatest accomplishments come from who you are. Let yourself be yourself.
And you’ll be as rich as anyone can ever be.’
Interview: Matthew Zorpas / Photography (for top photo): Elisha Smith Leverock