PRINCIPLES AND PROCESS
Pam was breaking the mould before the mould had set. Her designs are the antithesis of high fashion, provocatively punkish, outlandishly original, brimming with humour and audacity. Her fabrics of choice are drawn from the symbols of counterculture: PVC, stretch jersey with leather, gold lurex, sheer mesh and metallics, fabrics she has been recycling for over 20 years. She wears her heart on her sleeve and her principles on her wrists, tattoos in black capitals declaring ‘honour’ on the left, ‘justice’ on the right. Today’s young British designers revere Pam for the ethics she designs and lives by: her belief in the glory and strength of women; her passionate advocacy for gay rights and the rights of all those oppressed; the imperative of individualism in the face of pressure to conform. In her own words, “everyone can live in harmony if they accept that it’s the differences between us that makes for a rich and full society”. Her ethics are sown into every stitch, and always by her own hand. Pam rejects much about the fashion industry in its present form, and is a leading voice in the cries for support for young talent and struggling studios at a time when big labels dominate the scene. Her message to buyers: “If you’re just giving people what you think they want, it’s stagnant. Surprise them, give them what they don’t know they want.” Pam’s creative process is holistic in the extreme. “I don’t even see myself as a fashion designer, I’m a creator. The underlying belly of it is passion, the discovery of a gem born from the collision of all of my loves. I capture these fragments that float around my brain, tiny touches of things that eventually fall into place like a jigsaw.” Those that meet her describe her unanimously as hilariously funny, a wonderful raconteur, a bold and fierce romantic, a paradoxical blend of fragility and strength. Today Pam lives in Hackney, her black and pink front room hung with NME covers from the ’70s and ’80s, shelves crammed with post-punk books and records, with a silver bathroom, red kitchen and entirely gold-painted bedroom echoing her first love in art, The Renaissance.
PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
Pam’s career was forged in the fires of London’s mid-80s post-punk scene. She credits her father for “inspiring me to use every inch of my imagination”, altering her clothes aged six and self-tailoring trousers by fifteen. An award-winning graduate from Glasgow hitting London at a time when fashion embraced the bold, she won over the notoriously un-impressable doorman Steve Strange at his infamous Blitz Club, the legendary New Romantic haunt. There she danced with David Bowie, turned heads with outfits she created, and within weeks had grabbed clubland by the scruff of its neck with her mini collections requested by world-renowned stores. Pam’s early collections were stocked at Harrods and Harvey Nichols and further afield in Bloomingdales, Paris, Italy and Tokyo, while her store in the infamous Kensington Hyper Hyper boutique secured her first catwalk show in 1985. Over the next five years Pam launched her own boutique in the heart of Soho, seconds from Carnaby Street, while designing and producing a further six catwalk shows, cementing her status as a star of the London scene. In 1990 she was invited to appear live on the Wogan show. Wearing black PVC leggings which he remarked looked uncomfortable, she replied “are they?”, and sat on his lap.
Pam cites music as her biggest influence and the place that she’s formed her deepest friendships. Her first band, Rubbish, supported the Pogues on a weekly basis. The ‘90s saw Pam forming and fronting two groups, Doll and Hoggdoll, the first of which opened for Blondie in ’93 and The Raincoats in ’94. Her singing career took centre stage, but the restless drive to create also saw her writing scripts and songs, culminating in her directing debut. Her first fashion film “Accelerator” starring Anita Pallenberg united her music and clothes, modeled by a star-studded cast of friends including Siouxsie Sioux and Alison Mosshart. The video hit the mainstream, propelling her fashion career back to the fore. London boutique Browns gave Pam free rein to dress its five famous windows with the collection they had purchased, and in 2007 Pam designed Kylie’s infamous black mesh metal-studded catsuit for the video Two Hearts. Her much-anticipated 2009 catwalk return collection “The Time Machine”, modeled by Alice Dellal, Daisy Lowe, Jaime Winstone, and Liberty Ross, was met with a standing ovation, showered with praise from the highest echelons of the fashion world. Her triumphant return was cemented by a slew of prizes including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scottish Fashion Council and the Great Scott Award. Vivienne Westwood even made a surprise appearance at Pam’s Paris Debut collection 2012.
In 2015 Pam joined the elite list of British icons asked to design the Brit Awards Winner’s Trophy 2016, alongside the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hearst and Tracey Emin. She broke from convention and designed 13 individual statuettes for each of the winners that night. Her ongoing London Fashion Week shows are a fixture of the season’s calendar, revered for their obstinate pursuit of imagination and integrity always expressed with her trademark pageantry. Pam single-handedly creates, directs, produces and styles these collections, performed to front-row regulars including Nick Cave, Siouxsie Sioux, Bobby Gillespie, Ray and Jaime Winstone, Stephen Jones, Nick Rhodes, and many more. In 2016 Pam delivered a TED talk for TEDxGlasgow titled Divine Disorder, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University and the Glasgow School of Art.
POLITICS AND PUSSY RIOT
Never shying away from the political, a pivotal moment of her career came in February 2014 when Amnesty International approached three weeks before London Fashion Week, asking her to give a nod to the plight of Pussy Riot. The show coincided with the Russian Winter Olympics that year and was a request Pam couldn’t refuse. She immediately visualised a collection and gave it the title COURAGE. Alone in her studio she battled day and night to do justice to this vital cause, and secured a time-slot on Valentine’s Day, celebrating and bolstering the struggle for gay rights in Russia and across the world. Pam’s models carried placards proudly proclaiming “Love is a Human Right”, “This collection is not for sale”, “it's A Dedication to Pussy Riot”. Six months later Karl Lagerfield followed her lead in his ss15 collection with banners for Chanel.
Pam’s designs are worn and requested by celebrities including Beyonce, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, Jessie J, Paloma Faith, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Bjork, Rihanna, Claudia Schiffer, Madonna, Ian Astbury (The Cult), Paula Yates, Lady Mary Charteris, and many, many more.
Pam’s clothes have appeared in publications including Vogue, Itallian Vogue, ID Magazine (cover & 5-page interview for “Warrior Queen” collection, 1989), Love Magazine (multi-page feature styled by Joe McKenna and shot by David Sims, 2009) and many more. Her interviews have been published in the Guardian, The Scotsman, Vice and Untitled Magazine to name a few.
In 2006 Pam was invited to exhibit at Switch on the Power alongside Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol and Kraftwerk. In 2014 her work was exhibited at the V&A alongside designers John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood and Vera Wang. Pam was commissioned to design the Winner’s Trophy for the Brit Awards 2016. Her own exhibition ‘Divine Disorder’ (Liverpool, 2018) was a celebration of art, fashion and photography in collaboration with many of the UK’s top creatives. Also in 2018, Pam worked with the National Theatre of Scotland’s designing the costumes for their production of Cyrano de Bergerac. Pam’s prophetically titled 2020 catwalk show ‘Will There Be A Morning / Will There Be A Mourning’ featuring a finale of giant coffin headpieces was staged just before lockdown and was to become her farewell to the catwalk. Pam’s work has been showcased in countless galleries and venues worldwide, including the Pompidou (Paris), Christie’s (New York), Kelvin Hall Galleries (Glasgow), the V&A London as part of their Club to Catwalk and Wedding Gown exhibitions, the Barbican and the Winter Palace Vienna for The Vulgar exhibition, Tate St Ives, the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture (Moscow), and Summerhall (Edinburgh) for a career retrospective.
Pam’s early work was recognised with prizes and awards including the Newbury Medal of Distinction from the Glasgow School of Art, the Frank Warner Memorial Medal, the Leverhulme Scholarship and the Royal Society of Arts Bursary. Her subsequent career has been lionised with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scottish Fashion Council, the Great Scott Award alongside Trevor Sorbie and Andrew Marr, and the Award for Creative Excellent from the Scottish Fashion Council. Pam holds an MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Art, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art (2016).