Reflectively speaking, when Darcie Scholes chose to pursue a life in fashion at the age of 17, she was somewhat naïve. “There is so much more to being a designer than I first knew”, she said. “At the time, it felt natural for me to express my creativity through drawing a dress. Instead of simply just drawing a picture”
Seven years later, she stills loves the initial design process. But now she recognises that there are much deeper roots to the industry. “Perhaps they didn’t seem relevant initially”, she added. “Now I aim to think about fashion ethically whilst staying true to the aesthetics and style that I love. Whether that’s with my own designs, or with a brand that I admire”.
A pink paradise of electric neons. The WTFLUFF collection by Darcie Scholes embraces everything feminine from sickly sweet glitter to candy pink rubber and latex. I delved into her mind to take a pew on the fluffy cushions and talk all things pink and girly. But more importantly, why that word doesn’t have to mean what you think it means.
Darcie Scholes loves designing in her bedroom. “I have a huge memory wall and if I get a creative block and hit a wall (excuse the pun), I tend to sit and take a good look at my pictures. It takes me back to happy times in my life and naturally this gives me a positive lift”. From this, her garments are born.
Regarding inspiration, femininity and girl power are high on the agenda. Although that may sound vague, there are many avenues to be explored. “Within recent years, I feel there has been a hyper-sexualized phenomenon of depicting femininity through infantilizing women. This itself has created a new genre for women by portraying them as childlike with a select emphasis on the girly characteristics that women are expected to stereotypically obtain”.
It’s this continuous interpretation of femininity that surrounds women’s lives that fascinates this designer. It’s a notion that can be translated in so many ways, and she’s keen to explore all of them.
The idea behind the name, WTFLUFF, was influenced by the likes of noughties flick, Mean Girls. But the name was purely for the fun element it incites, as well as being a play on words. “I feel the noughties is such an iconic period for fashion, film and celebrities”, Darcie said as we spoke more about her influences. “There are moments in pop culture history from the noughties that have shaped society today. How could that now be inspirational?”
Mean Girls in particular is a film with an automatic stigma attached to it, and it holds a string of connotations that most teenage girls encounter throughout their pubescent years. “It tackles an abundance of issues that are so common in modern society. Friendships; enemies; sexuality; secrets, lies; clichéd cultural groups; “Girls who eat their feelings, girls who don’t eat anything, desperate wannabe’s, burn outs, sexuality active band geeks…” I’m sure you get the picture…”
It portrays many representations of girl culture. And it’s also easy to see where the aesthetic influence has come from; “The ‘medieval’ font splattered across logo tees, the questionably shorter than short miniskirts and the constant reinforcement of pink. Because everyone knows that on Wednesdays we wear pink”
But fictional characters are not the only influence for Darcie Scholes. Off screen, Lindsay Lohan in her ‘cutesy’ noughties phase is a prime example of that turning point in a girl’s life when she is screaming that she’s not a little girl anymore. “[Lohan] let the world know this through her own rebellion. Girls or women, whatever stage of life they are at, were and still are empowered by wearing a miniskirt and an extra cropped crop top. These items were so prominent in noughties fashion”.
Pink, for many, embraces everything feminine. Yet the world we live in would deem this too cliché. For a long time, Darcie Scholes associated a particular aesthetic with femininity. That was until she read an article by Morna Laing titled ‘The Lula Girl’.
“Laing argues that the idea of dreamy and childlike femininity is in fact constructing a problematic contemporary adulthood for women”, she said, “and that the beautiful ethereal imagery we are presented with actually represents girlhood in a way that exhibits women as ‘sublime, pure, whimsical creatures’. It was at this point that I questioned everything I previously associated with femininity”. Darcie Scholes’ girl, her woman, wears her flamboyant pink, fluffy clothes with attitude. She stands with confidence and is presented in a dominant, beautifully neon, light. “She is reclaiming her power through a girly aesthetic and conveys an empowering persona”.
There’s a quote that Darcie is fond of; ‘Girls can seem so powerful, and yet have no actual power at all’. I questioned the juxtaposition it puts on the argument she is putting forward though. She begins to tell me that there are several factors that come to mind that can be used to question this way of portrayal. Youthfulness, sexuality, innocence, even chastity. “It’s the glorification of these factors that contribute to women being portrayed in a ‘natural state'”, she said. “And this is reinforced in the media. Women are portrayed in this way to underpin their sexuality. Mostly for the benefit of a male audience”.
We are constantly exposed to the focal aspect of femininity, grounded in youthfulness and innocence but at the same time power and seduction. “It’s these two opposites that reinforce ‘seeming powerful’ and ‘having no power’. This concept is to appeal to the allure of sexuality. The way women are represented is subconsciously subverted, thus resulting in depicting women as innocent and weak. It’s this self-caused controversy that was a starting point for me. Why are women purposely being exploited as powerless and how is this exploitation being translated? These are the concepts I choose to challenge and develop visually”.
Girls and women alike can often bear a string of their own contradictions. Darcie Scholes’ collection does the same thing. It’s cute, but fierce. Pretty-in-pink, yet wanting to look past that. “There is a huge contradiction in contemporary society alone. There is an emphasis on the ‘women should be’ mentality. Women should like pink. Women should like pretty things. There is still an idealization of what people think women should conform to, and that’s what I wanted to work with and use to reclaim back a sense of power. My collection toys with these stereotypes but delves deeper at the same time”. It references an allure of something darker and somewhat erotic.
Speaking about the shoot itself, Darcie explains that the cute aesthetics collide with sexual references. “At a glance, the images do look sterotypically girly; the cotton candy wig, endless shades of pink and a location filled with references that fit a standard definition of girlhood. But on further inspection you start to notice the hidden depths of the imagery. Our model has a beautifully distinct look, which meant she wasn’t lost behind the overwhelming sense of girliness being portrayed. She allows us to reference sexuality due to her active presence in front of the camera. It was key for us to work with someone who is self-empowered by their own confidence and by who they are as a woman”.
“You could call me an obvious girly girl and ironically I have always fitted into the stereotype of ‘what a girl should like’, during both girlhood and womanhood”, Darcie admitted. “These designs are an ideology and extension of myself. I knew I wanted my collection to be a specific representation of everything I admire. Whether that be now or 15 years ago. My favorite piece of clothing as a little girl was a jersey dress with ‘Angel’ splattered across the front in sparkly diamantes. A New Look masterpiece. It was little quirks like this that I picked from my childhood pictures and interpreted into my designs”.
She wanted to play with the stereotypical connotations of girlhood and all those things that little girls ‘should’ love. It just so happens that she loves all of these things too. “I have often been referred to as cute”, she added, ” which admittedly is lovely, but I’m not a cute little girl anymore. I’m 24 and a woman, whether I like the responsibility that comes with being it or not!” Her garments and their features aim to reinforce this mentality. Yes a girl may be ‘cute’, but there is much more that defines a woman.
“Just the other week I received some advice from the creative directors of a brand I absolutely adore; ‘Continue being genuine and honest. The fashion game can eat you alive, but not if you stay true to yourself’. That speaks for itself doesn’t it. I am very early on in my career but I can tell that this is genuine heartfelt advice from someone with experience. There are people out there who have done exactly this, sticking to what they believe in and at the same time have remained true to themselves. This is a huge factor to my personality. I am honest and genuine and it’s only recently that I’ve started to believe that it’s this, alongside all of the hard work that will get me further than I once thought”.
Girls are under an immense amount of pressure. And it’s the historical pressures that British society has always longed for that still plays a huge role in gender pressure; “For example being a mother, a housewife, getting married and so forth, this is a contemporary issue that women are expected to comply to in order for them to be noted as successful, attractive and powerful. This and the immense pressure of being the perfect girl leaves us with extreme social anxiety questioning if we are doing it right”.
These pressures begin in the adolescent years of a girl’s life and continue until enough is enough. “I have often thought to myself, should I have a house by now? Should I be thinking about children? Why aren’t I in my dream job yet? But this should all be important when I’m ready for it. I feel that’s a huge factor for changing the amount of pressure put on us. It’s when YOU are ready, not when people expect you to be. I also think it’s important for girls to be aware that there is more to a role model than just being beautiful. When these role models begin to focus more on promoting female empowerment, as opposed to products and body image, that’s when things will begin to change”.
Darcie Scholes will always have that ‘little girl’ element inside of her. Whether it’s visiting Disneyland in her twenties (we did it too), or using memories from childhood to inspire her work and creativity. “These life transitions are what define you as a woman, and what define me as a designer”.
As a final thought, Darcie told us to think of the collection as a fluffy baby bunny that has attitude. “Cute but fierce, delicate but strong. Always be confident enough to express your own ideology of femininity and what it means to you to be a girl. Whether that is being a girly girl or being totally genderless. Be as delicate or as robust as you wish, there is nothing more empowering than female confidence”.