By Cameron Rubner
Ellier English does a little bit of everything. They design for their own brand Anxy, styled at New York Fashion Week, models, makes music, art, visual art, and basically does anything creative under the sun.
They grew up in Mesa and described their surroundings as “traditional and conservative,” as well as surrounded by cornfields and dairy farms. After seeing most of their high school classmates go into mundane occupations such as dentistry and getting married right away, Ellier knew that the simple life just wasn’t cut out for them. Through their work, you can see that the most important aspects of it is intimacy.
They like to keep their process hands-on, literally. Whether it’s hand painting garments or deconstructing them and reconfiguring them into a brand new creation. Ellier is close with their work and to the observer, it’s obvious to tell that nothing but passion and love is poured into whatever art they produce.
Back in August, Anxy launched a capsule with Hellcat Studios that gathered quite a bit of buzz. I talked with Ellier over zoom about their recent collaboration with Hellcat Studios, their experience at New York Fashion Week, and what they have in store for their fans next.
Cameron Rubner (CR:) What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you do for our readers that haven’t seen your work yet?
Ellier English (EE:) My name is Ellier English and I’m from Mesa, Arizona. I just moved to the Queen Creek area and I, to put it simply am a creative, artist/creative.
CR: I wanna talk about Anxy, how would you describe it in your own words?
EE: So Anxy, is the idea or belief that reconstruction starts from destruction, it’s the breaking down of old ideas. Things that don’t work, parts of yourself that don’t work, and creating them and pushing them into new ideas and creations, or anything that’s better.
CR: A couple of months ago you did a collaboration with Hellcat Studios, with a whole photo shoot and ad campaign, what was that experience like and how did it come together?
EE: So first off I love, I love Sam [Scudder] , Sam is the owner of Hellcat, I adore him. He’s one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met and he definitely taught me a lot. I had been following hellcat and I really looked at Hellcat as an example of how to make my own brand even more handmade. Everything is made in house with love and the intent to be a feel-good product, but he essentially knew I was making clothes.
He hit me up out of the blue and he was like Ellier, I need you to help me out on this project, there’s no one else I’d rather do it with so we got together a few times and he told me about his brand and what it stood for and everything that goes into it. We kept bouncing off different ideas and he told me that Hellcat was actually a plane that they flew during– I don’t know which war I’m not good at history.
But Hellcat is the English translation for the plane that’s the HERUY KYATTO so he told me the whole history of that and essentially I did my own digging and stuff and we would send pictures back and forth to each other until we got the perfect image.
And from there we made screens and ordered shirts and he showed me how to do the screen printing, all in the backyard and everything, it was crazy it was so much fun, it took so much planning, a little bit of stressing because we tried to make sure everything was up to health code, mask on when you weren’t in front of the camera and y’know we had food for everyone. It was such a crazy experience just us two and then bringing in all kinds of people like photographers and models, just making sure everyone could be included.
CR: How long was that process from the first DM to the time the collection and photoshoot was out?
EE: To be honest it happened very fast. I think we got it done in maybe less than 30 days. Every single day it was like okay we’ve done this what can I do next… What can I do next…What can I do next? We were just busting stuff out.
CR: How’d you guys select your models?
EE: Each of us has ties to different communities within Arizona. I know plenty of models, musicians, dancers, skaters, and things like that and so does he. We thought it was important to pick out at least one or two people from each community as well as making a diverse group of people.
We tried to pick people from every ethnicity, boy, girl and we actually had a discussion because we had a hard time getting in contact with black women who were available for that time period and he looked at me and said ‘We can’t do this shoot unless we have every single diverse person in this group, it’s not going to be inclusive and we can’t do it then.” So we worked super hard to make sure it was available for everyone.
CR: It seems from an outsider’s perspective that you have to have a crazy work ethic, are you constantly, always doing something? Because it kind of feels like that.
EE: Yeah, sometimes it gets a little overbearing because I’ll have 16 projects in a notebook and then I’ll work on three or four of them throughout the week and it’s a step-by-step process. And yeah it’s crazy. I’m all over the place, I was just in New York a couple of weeks ago and then before I was in Portland and then I was in Los Angeles earlier this year. I always have something going on. I feel like I’m crazy when I don’t have something going on.
CR: Do you prefer having a more hands-on intimate process when you’re creating garments as opposed to just wiping down a screen?
EE: I do, personally. My artistic background– I’ve been a painter, I deal with acrylics, oils, watercolors, ever since I was maybe six years old and especially growing up with such a conservative background art was the number one thing for me that felt like ‘Here’s something I made that I can make you feel a certain way without telling you how I feel.
Because it’s not like I wasn’t allowed to be outspoken, but it was kind of like if I had anything to say other than what they wanted me to say it was kind of like ‘leave it alone, don’t talk about it,’ so especially when I started painting clothes it was kind of an epiphany.
Oh my god I can create these amazing images or these little poems and put them onto clothing and people can admire them, be close to them and feel close to the piece or they can look at it as a an art piece as a whole and it doesn’t mean anything to them but it looks good on them and that’s why they want to wear it.
So that’s why I enjoy hand painting and hand making clothing so much.
CR: Anxy had a runway show around this time last year, have you been gathering any ideas for a post-covid runway show?
EE: I have, so I am a little nervous with planning and everything because it’s crazy and I want to make sure people are safe. So the last few pants that I posted, all of that money is going into buying canvas fabric because I’m working on making 100% hand-sewn, hand-painted, hand-printed, everything 100% handmade clothing line. And that’s going to include pants, tote bags, maybe shirts if I can figure out how to work with canvas.
I’m working hard on it, it’s all locked away in my notebook right now especially because I am in the process of moving right now so everything is packed away but hopefully before February of next year it’ll be ready to go.
CR: You had a really incredible opportunity to style at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) last year, how did that come about?
EE: It’s always essentially, the right person, the right place for me. I was working with a lot of other creatives from Phoenix and I had done a runway show in February or January before Covid set in and it was just presented to me. All of the models who had run in that runway show were in a group chat and were essentially like hey here’s this opportunity, you can apply for it, can’t guarantee it but if you get it you should do it.
CR: What’s it like styling for your own show such as an Anxy show vs styling for someone else’s show like at NYFW.
EE: It’s very different. At least, for my show, I have a very clear cut picture of what I want and it’s easy because I don’t have to tell anybody what I want, I can just have the model and style them. It’s definitely harder to do it for somebody else because everybody has their own vision and not everybody is good at communicating.
It was hard because we would be standing there waiting for the models to be dressed and were essentially just waiting to be told what to do and then somebody would come by and say ‘hey you have to be doing something” and we’re like “oh we’re about to do this and he’s not ready for us.” I’d go to put something on a model and they’re like “no not yet, I still need to put this on them,” It’s very weird, like can I work now? Can I not work now? And everything is very high strung because it’s New York and it’s fashion week and whoever sees you is super important.
CR: In that podcast with Puzzled you said it was your first time being on the east coast. What was it like to be someone from Arizona and all of a sudden you’re thrown onto the big stage, New York fashion week right away without seeing the city or anything?
EE: It is absolutely crazy. To give more perspective, my house was surrounded by cornfields and dairy farms and all of a sudden I’m in New York and I’m working at New York Fashion Week and it’s these buildings, concrete everywhere, all these people, it’s insane. Totally insane. I loved it. Personally, I thrive in chaos so that fast-paced manner of it all was so much fun. But I know for a few of the other people that were there it did stress them out so it’s different for everyone.
CR: Everyone talks about networking and getting connections in the industry, when you’re at a major event like NYFW, with so many people there, what’s your strategy for making connections is it more of a subconscious thing or is it planned out? How does it typically happen?
EE: I feel it is a little bit planned out and a little bit subconscious. I am good at picking “show-stopping” clothes. Personally, I love to stand out so I love to wear things that catch people’s attention. The outfit I wore in New York Fashion week were these hand-painted butterfly pants that I made with a corset top.
All white with these bright butterflies and I grabbed the attention of a model who is the face of Gucci and he ran over to me to ask for a picture and that was crazy. So definitely a show-stopping outfit, something that grabs the attention of important people.
That as well as– I wasn’t so quick to be like ‘Oh what’s your Instagram? What’s your Twitter? When networking, you want to approach it more like, what kind of person are you? So I asked them ‘What do you do? What do you enjoy?’ I always feel if the conversation starts with networking questions it’ll end pretty quickly, but if you can engage with the person on a more personal level like ‘Why do you do what you do? Oh, you have a clothing brand, why do you make clothes?’ The more you get into it the more they enjoy talking to you.
I wouldn’t say a friendship but a friendship aspect to the networking conversation because people want to work with others who are like-minded. I want to work with people who know how to paint, I want to work with people who know how to model, I want to work with people who know how to make clothing. If I’m super business-oriented and goal-focused I’m not going to want to talk to anybody that is outside that realm because it’s not going to benefit me.
So that’s the kind of attitude you have to take towards it and for me, that’s been way more successful than just saying I have a brand, you have a brand, we should work together. Because I feel like I hear that a lot, and it’s also harder to work with people if they don’t have a solid plan, so that’s kind of the play that I make.
CR: I read in another interview that you’re non-binary, do you think that plays any role or has any influence on your work at all?
EE: Maybe it does because a lot of the clothes I make are gender-neutral. There’s not a lot of gender bias to it, you wear what you want to wear and that’s it. I personally don’t think it plays any role. I think it’s just a part of me.
CR: You do styling, modeling, designing, out of all those is there anyone that you prefer?
EE: Probably designing, because that’s where I have the most control over everything. I love modeling because I love to be just a piece in the puzzle. And the styling is adding a little sprinkle, a little extra on top. But designing is where I can create a whole piece that’s mine and that is what I’m most attached to.
CR: How important is makeup in your work?
EE: Oh so important! I’m so glad you asked this question, I love makeup so much. I think it can completely change or enhance a look. I can take a pretty general look and make it look super camp or avant-garde or gory or business or anything I want because of the makeup. It can completely change a picture.
CR: I saw you incorporated it into your runway show and it came out really well, were you doing any of that stuff at Fashion Week?
EE: No, I could do it on myself but I couldn’t do it on anybody else because makeup and hair had their own section and it was definitely a lot of a more tight grasp so I didn’t get to try it out there. Maybe at the next one, I’m hoping they give me a little more leeway but we’ll see.
CR: Are you expecting to make a return next year?
EE: So the last one I went to, at least the section that I was under was run pretty poorly by the people in New York, and I was pretty shocked by that. If I do get the opportunity to go back, I definitely would go under a different section, under different people. I feel like my first experience was kind of– It just left a lot to question. The experience would have been better if I wasn’t under those people so hopefully, if I do go back it would be under a different group or a different employer.
CR: IS there anything you’ve been working on/ anything you want to promote?
EE: Well I will be having totes, released pretty early, probably by December so they’ll be great Christmas gifts for everybody. But I’m working on these handmade totes with a very special screen-print. This is the first time I’ve released something like a tote and it’s going to have multiple pocket inserts so I’m excited for that too. That’s the first step at becoming 100% hand made.
Make sure to go follow Ellier on Instagram and Twitter as well as @anxy.jpeg for Anxy, to check out their work. Also if you want to check out the collaboration between Anxy and Hellcat some more, follow them on IG @hellcatstudios