He may not grace the covers of magazines or the red carpet, but designer Simon Whybray is more famous than you think. When you’re lurking about on the internet and being entertained by seriously cool and interesting stuff – do you ever stop and think, who the hell made this? Well, occasionally, it’s Simon. Designer by day, Tumblr scroller by night, Simon spends most of his time tucked up in his bedroom overlooking Old Street on his laptop. Sound lazy? It isn’t. He’s busy creating products, GIFs, designs, logos, club nights, clothing, memes, typefaces, music…you name it. Being on the internet all day has fed Simon’s brain like a drip, and subsequently he’s now asked by big brands to come in and teach them what the hell is going on out there in the real – well, online – world.
We visited Simon at his home as that’s his place of work. His bedroom is full of clothes. Six year’s worth, if you’re wondering. He lies in the middle, on a mattress on the floor, underneath a snow white duvet, his laptop on his lap. Soon he’s moving to San Francisco with his girlfriend to start a new life, and he’s going to have to have a little bit of a clear-out. He told me that in order to do so he’d just have to burn absolutely everything, otherwise it would be impossible. “I can’t throw anything away. I feel like I have so many memories embedded in all this stuff that I can’t let go of it.”
Why are you wearing all white?
I’ve never had a white bed before, and then I bought all white stuff to go with it. Also I have a lot of this stuff because some of my friends had an “all white everything” party. It’s nice to feel really warm, but also really clean. Since September I’ve actually been wearing a lot of black.
Do you feel better when you are in white?
I can go outside and like, sort of be all in black and weird but I am alone here in my room a lot. Doing freelance I am basically here, wrapped up in my duvet like a burrito, on Tumblr all day talking to my weird friends in Shanghai. Sometimes I have to go to an office and they’ll all be like “Oh I did normal things this weekend, what did you do?” And then I have to explain what Seapunk is to even get on any kind of level of conversation.
“Doing freelance I am basically here, wrapped up in my duvet like a burrito, on Tumblr all day talking to my weird friends in Shanghai.”
Because they were all doing really normal stuff on the weekend and you weren’t?
Basically, yeah. I like colours and they don’t. I was walking home yesterday and everyone was wearing black. I look down and I’m in yellow, pink, green, white.
Yeah you seem to have a lot of colourful clothes. Do the colours reflect your mood each day?
Yeah. Definitely. I feel confident anyway, but it depends what I’m doing. I play on opposites a lot of the time. If I’m working in a boring places I’ll wear close to pyjamas to work. I worked at Getty Images for four months a few years ago and that’s like an “office” office. It’s how the Vitra catalogue looks, if you pointed at the Vitra catalogue and said “I want that, but for a quarter of the price.” They’re really nice people! But it’s a very office-y office. And I don’t really work in places like that very often. It is quite fun to go in there wearing a really, really long sleeved T-shirt and some baggy trousers and just being like “Morning!”
Does anyone ever comment on what you’re wearing?
Oh all the time! People are like “Why are you wearing shorts? It’s freezing” and I’m like “Yeah! In the 60 seconds it takes me to get to Hoxton Square, but I’m sat in a boiling hot office all day.” I suppose I dress how I want the weather to be. I just need to move to the climate that [works with] how I dress.
What did you used to wear when you were about 16?
I’m 30 now, but back when I was 15 I did an exchange trip at school and I went to Germany and someone gave me a Dog Eat Dog CD, and I got my first pair of baggy trousers and a Fishbone hoodie, and I got that on the second day of the trip and I wore it for the rest of the week and a month after that. I really want to get back into really stupidly big jeans. I used to wear jeans that could fit a 30cm ruler inside them. I was really obsessed with that shape you used to get on snowboarding games where they have really big chunky feet and slender legs.
“I used to wear jeans that could fit a 30cm ruler inside them. I was really obsessed with that shape you used to get on snowboarding games where they have really big chunky feet and slender legs.”
What colour is your hair normally?
Uh, brown. Normal brown. I hate it. I feel so bland. I started dying it in 2009 and it went black, then bleached, then brown again. It’s been bleached for the last two years. I dye it myself. There’s a Turkish barber three doors down, they’re really good. I’ll usually dye my hair then go in there and get it cut.
What’s that on your necklace?
It’s a splitter – so you can attach two sets of headphones together. My friend, a musician called Tielsie, it’s his merch. It’s like the most perfect expression of his character and his music. I always have it when I’m flying as it’s really useful. There was a couple arguing about what to watch on a plane and I told them about my necklace and showed them that they could borrow it and listen to the same thing. And they did!
Tell me about your beloved yellow jacket?
I don’t really spend much money on clothes, I think this is probably the most expensive jacket I’ve ever bought and it was like one hundred and something quid. I bought it one day when I was out and about and realised I didn’t have any pockets, so I wanted to buy a jacket that had some. I was wearing some bright pink shorts and a white T-shirt, so when I tried it on it all just went really well together.
What’s that green mermaid T-shirt about?
This is great! I bought it when I was on acid! This is great, I never get to talk about this stuff with anyone! Have you ever been on a site called Zazzle? You have a text box over the T-shirt shape and you just type on to it. There’s another Tumblr called Zazzle Poetry. I must have bought it because it arrived about two weeks later and I was like, “cool!”
“I love going to weddings and looking good and sharp. And my mum loves it. But if I can just not, any other time, then that’s fine by me.”
Tell me about your backpack with the patches?
This is by KTZ. Everyone thinks I put the patches on it but it came like that. A lady I was working with earlier this week was like “Uh, your bag says Saturn on it,” and I was like “No it doesn’t. Oh! You mean ‘satan?’”
So do you ever wear smart clothes? For a job interview or funeral?
Well, the last job interview I went to was for a full time job at Work Club, an ad agency in London Bridge. Their creative director asked me to come in for a chat and so I went in, for a chat. And he said “So did you bring any work with you?” And I was like “No! I came for a chat…like you said!” So I just arrived in “chat” clothes. He said “Did you think that was a good idea?” and I was like “I don’t know!” But I ended up showing him all my online work. I don’t like that sort of posturing, dressing up. I don’t want to do it for anyone that doesn’t deserve it, if that makes sense? I love going to weddings and looking good and sharp. And my mum loves it. But if I can just not, any other time, then that’s fine by me.
In time for London Fashion Week kicking off on the 20 February, we have spent time travelling around London visiting artists and designers who may or may not be too busy to bother with following fashion, to find out what creative people really wear, and why. From dusty boiler suits and pyjamas, to homemade T-shirts and one-of-a-kind jewellery, the stories behind these creatives’ clothes are far more interesting than they are de rigeur. All photographs were taken by the wonderful Nina Manandhar who created the book What We Wore. Enjoy!
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