Interview With An Independent Clothing Line: Downfall

  • Claire Louise

Independent clothing lines pop up all the time, but there are some which catch our eye more than others. Whilst it’s difficult to stand the test of time in an often saturated market, every line has to start somewhere. Downfall Clothing was created incredibly recently; in fact, the ball only really started rolling less than two months ago. However, the ideas behind the line have been brewing for years – sometimes all it takes is just a spark to get something fully off the ground.

Model: Alex Morgan // Photographer: Rachel at Panda Face Photography 

James ‘Thurlbs’ Thurlby and Alex Morgan are based in Yorkshire, England. The two friends had been eager to set up a line for a while, with Morgan being particularly inspired by the artwork that James and his creativity had come up with. Armed with a design degree and passion spanning years, he was itching to put his work out to the world. And so, the two shared a vision, and were keen to turn his drawings into living, breathing – and most importantly, wearable – incarnations.

It’s not necessarily all about the clothing when it comes to the keys to success, though, and as a modelling site, we were particularly intrigued about the direction the pair have taken their photoshoots, and how they plan to market the line going forward. We caught up with James to find out a little more about his creations and the work that he and Alex are doing to put them out to the public.

Model: James Thurlby // Photographer: Rachel at Panda Face Photography 

Hi, James! We’re intrigued by Downfall Clothing. You come up with the designs, so what inspires them?

Well, several designs have started out as something Alex wants to see, be it a look/ style, or an idea. I myself have had many ideas over the years of designs I would like to see personally. I come up with designs and give them to Alex to critique and give me feedback. Typically, I take a lot of inspiration from artists such as Jordan Buckley and Raymond Pettibon, as well as Jakob Pritzlau and Milan Chagoury, all of whom use dark imagery and death in a lot of their pieces.

Who are your target market?

To be honest our market isn’t really geared to one set market. If we had to guess, it would be focused on people on the ‘alternative’ spectrum who are maybe into the imagery we use.

Model: Andy Spillane // Photographer: Morgan Tedd

With that market in mind, how do you intend to market to them? 

We have both in our time have had our experiences with marketing things via social media. We’ll be ensuring we work together to market this online, and reach as many people as possible. That being said we are also aware of its limitations and how certain networks will limit how many people see anything you post so it depends on the platform. We have been talking to several independent traders about putting our stuff into stores as well as looking into setting up stalls at events to establish a face-to-face marketing technique.

When you do photoshoots, how do you select the models (other than yourself)? Talk us through what you expect from their look, and what you want your models to do? 

To me, it’s all about team work between the photographer and the model. If the model has worked well with the photographer before, chances are the shoot will run smoother and will give the best outcome. The important thing is that as long as the model is comfortable with the photographer, it will make the product look good. Our male model, Andy, was our male photographer Morgan’s choice as he’d worked with him before. Pau is a close friend who I know is comfortable in front of the camera. There were a few other girls we could have asked, but it was important we chose someone who would be able to do it and not hold anything up.

Do you provide compensation to models? For example, financial/free products/free images for their portfolio/promotion of their social media?

It would all depend on what the model needs. Alex and myself are both dedicated to ensuring we are fair with how we work, we’ve given free T-shirts to our models, and we are always happy to compensate if the model has had to travel. Of course the important thing is to credit them as well as they are providing a service as well.

For shoots, who are your photographers? Have they worked on any projects we might have heard of?

So far both photographers we have worked with have been close friends whose work we know is amazing. Morgan Tedd did our most recent shoot. He has a very diverse background in photography shooting for companies such as Dark Circle , P&Co and Feral. I’ve been close friends with Rachel Bramall of Panda Face Photography for several years now, and try to support her business. She has shot for a lot of Suicide Girl sets and product photography for Lush Wigs.

Model: Pau Ember // Photographer: Morgan Tedd

What inspires the concepts of the shoots?

As far as concepts go for the shoots, it is very much up to the photographer and how they work, and their style more than anything. So far we’ve varied it and done both an urban and a rural shoot, but the key is that we want to make sure that the product is displayed in the best possible way. It’s important to ensure nothing distracts too much from that as it needs to be the focal point.

How many shoots do you intend to have? Will you do some more photos every time you release new clothing? Will new models be used each time?

Well, we have only just got the first drop released but the next one is all ready to go. We have sent off to have accessories made as well, not just T-shirts. We think that currently people are accessorising more, especially among the alternative community. The next T-shirt drop is good to go as well and we have shoots planned for it. I myself have been cooking up a few ideas with photographers as well for how we can market these and can’t wait to share them with people as I’ve spent hours developing the designs.

Model: Pau Ember // Photographer: Morgan Tedd

In future, do you think that if your clothing line expanded, you would consider a model search? For example, looking at portfolios of models you’ve never heard of before or using an agency? And how important do you think diversity is when selecting models? This question is particularly of interest to me if you’re currently using friends/existing contacts as models.

I think for me it would depend on the limitations of the photographer and us. We are always happy to work with new people as long as they are just as open to ideas and are just as eager to show the designs off as much as we are, if that makes sense. Working with an agency is always an option, as the models themselves have chosen for it to be their profession, but I’d be curious to talk to them first to show them first-hand the products we have on offer – as I want them to be as fired up as we are.

Diversity is always key and for me it isn’t about the person having a set look as I know that can limit your demographic. Though our target has been focused on a more alternative audience, Alex and I want to push our future lines into everyday street wear which will require appealing people of all sorts of backgrounds shapes, sizes, builds and style.

Thank you to James for taking the time to speak to us. Good luck with your line!

Model: James Thurlby // Photographer: Rachel at Panda Face Photography

So, What Can Models Learn From Downfall Clothing?

From talking to James, we can see that with independent clothing lines, it often helps to network and make contacts. A lot of the initial work these guys are doing seems to be using contacts they already have. Catching the eye of creative friends with shots for your portfolio is obviously going to help. James mentioned having confidence in people who’ve chosen to model as their profession, so you need confidence in yourself.

Secondly, another common theme seems to be that you have to believe in the clothing you’re shooting for. For smaller jobs, such as when you’re working with independent clothing lines, you don’t need to be part of an agency, you just need to be on the same creative wavelength as their designers. This will really help you to get a passion for fashion, which could come in really handy as you build up your career.

Working with independent clothing lines is the perfect choice for models who are just starting out. There seems to be a certain level of respect – full credits are given for your work, and compensation is given to the best of their ability. Take time when working with other creatives to understand all parts of the industry; working together will help all of your careers collaboratively.

You can add to your portfolio, get your face out there, and build up your experience.

***Some responses have been edited for clarity, and full permission has been given for the use of images.


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Posted by Claire Louise

I'm a creative writing obsessive who likes to affectionately think of herself as a hurricane. Among the organised chaos, I can be found thinking about fashion, food, feminism, music, travel or my kidnapped kitten.