Elly Prizeman made ‘that’ shirt for long-term friend Dr. Matt Taylor, an acclaimed scientist of the Rosetta Project, which broke the internet and media across the globe and had us all talking about #Shirtstorm. But what has Elly been doing since the storm broke? As well as building a massive fan base of shirt-wearers who have purchased the original #shirtstorm shirt or one of her quality custom orders, Elly has been turning some pretty illustrious heads creating shirts for Dr. Brian May (Queen) and has worked alongside UFC commentator/comedian and podcaster, Joe Rogan. One of Elly’s most recent commissions saw her collaborate with official DC artist Des Taylor, to create a range of character inspired clothing for the Sky TV show – DC Fancast.
So, what’s the latest from this feisty entrepreneur? Well, unafraid as ever to push the boundaries of alternative fashion, we caught up with Elly, who has since teamed up with husband and award-winning tattoo artist, to create a range of tattoo inspired clothing.
Hows it going Elly, hows your day so far?
Manic as usual! I am getting lots of custom and website orders as people are preparing for Christmas. I usually close my books from the 1st December until New Year to try and catch up with my workload and not disappoint anyone. As manic as this time of year gets I love being busy and I love some of the requests I get sent for custom makes.
What is a typical day in your life like?
There isn’t usually a typical day! Things change so much and sometimes everything I have put on my ‘To Do’ list when I get up can change in a moment! Usual tasks involve replying to customer queries, packaging up orders from the night before, fabric research, clothing style suggestions, cutting fabric, sewing, buying patterns and fabric and when I get time sketching design ideas.
I am very vigilant that I have to do a list every day so I don’t completely lose track of things.
Sometimes I work with TV shows and then have to spend the day on set or in the studio and sometimes if I am working with a musician I will have to go into London for gigs or events with them. I have to remake my most famous shirt on a weekly basis as it is still very much in demand! Sometimes I allow myself to have a few hours off and will escape for a coffee with a friend but it really depends on my workload that dictates if that is even feasible!
So launched your eponymous line Elly Prizeman back in 2014, what has the journey been like since then?
It’s been a mad three years and at times I still can’t believe it happened! Like anyone woman show there have been ups, downs, celebrations and meltdowns! So far it is the typical roller coaster and from one week to the next, you just can’t predict what is going to throw itself into the mix. I do enjoy the challenge and one day is never the same as the next but it has been very humbling.
Pricing has always been something I have worried about as I do EVERYTHING myself by hand and it isn’t cheap compared to some of the mass produced high street prices. I have been blown away by the number of people who want the items I make and don’t care about the price as they are getting a special handmade a garment. I try to not repeat the custom makes and will only create the same item 2-3 times and that’s only if the customers are in different countries!
Can you talk us through #shirtstorm?
Ahh, Shirtstorm! It is a bit of a love/hate sentiment for me. It is my most well-known item and sometimes the thought of making another makes me want to scream! It has opened so many doors for me for which I shall be ever grateful for but there is also a sadness attached to it for a personal reason.
I made the original shirt back in October in 2014 for my close friend Dr. Matt Taylor as a birthday present. Matt works for the European Space Association and has been heading up the Rosetta mission. This mission had been ongoing for about 10 years and the aim was to successfully land a probe (Philae) onto Comet 67P. There was lots of excitement for the upcoming landing and on November 12th, 2014 tensions were high as a live stream covered the mission of the probe descending onto the comet.
I had no idea Matt would be wearing his birthday present from me for the most important day in his career and such a historical achievement so it was as much a surprise to me as it was to the world to see him in his shirt! It was also adorable to see that he was so proud of his shirt to wear it for this huge achievement!
I bought the fabric from America and the pattern features pin-up cartoon characters. Needless to say, not everyone was too pleased about this and there were online attacks on both myself and Matt stating we were sexists and misogynists.
For me personally, it did upset me to see one of my closest friends being torn apart in the global media and online and that they were more interested in what he was wearing rather than the historical event that had never been done before that he and his team had spent 10 years working on! The team achieved an incredible thing and it was shadowed by people getting upset over his shirt. It is heartbreaking to see someone you love being attacked and completely misjudged!
There was tons of media and online coverage from the aftermath including the New York Times and even Boris Johnson writing about it all!
We love the Wonder Woman fabric you designed with DC artist Des Taylor for Sky, but what has been your personal favourite collection you designed?
That is definitely one of my favourites too but I think the tattoo art collection is my total favourite as it is designed completely from scratch with custom artwork from tattoo artists.
There are a series of mechanic shirts with 3 designs on the back designed by my tattoo artist husband and for the ladies, we created a skater dress in various colours (all with pockets!) and the mandala patterns on them are also drawn by a different tattoo artist. I love these because they are completely bespoke, unique and I chose great quality sturdy fabrics for comfort and durability.
I always get requests for licensed fabrics that already exist as it is a lot more cost effective for my customers but these I am proud of as the start to finish process were all designed completely by myself and my husband.
Best piece of advice you have been given?
I think this has to be when I was mulling over in the beginning as to if I give this a try as a business or just wait for it to blow over.
Someone gave me a flyer which said: ‘What if I fail? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?’ This resonated deeply with me so I just went for it. It was only the fear of failing and falling flat on my face that was stopping me so I figured I would rather try and even if I fail at least I tried. I also don’t see setbacks as failures they are just learning curves. There is always a way!
We love the confidence you ooze, so what does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
I absolutely LOVE that #BEYOUROWN features powerful women from ALL walks of life. I particularly like that it covers creative aspects as well as business and even science. I love the variety and inspiring interviews with some absolutely kick-ass women!
Where can you see yourself heading for your future?
Onwards and upwards! I in discussions with some more celebrity collaborations in the music industry (mostly classic rock genre) so I am hoping that this will grow more as I adore the industry. Really I have no limits to where this will take me and I am learning all the time as surprising turns of events seem to be a regular pattern.
I would like to work on smashing down some of the fashion barriers in some of the more mainstream magazines as I feel that there is a bit of a gap covering some of the types of clothing I quite often see out there in my genre of fashion. I don’t think it gets the right press so I would really like to work on changing that a bit.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2018?
I will be on a Channel 4 TV show for one episode of a popular cake show in the spring so you can see some of my story on the TV and also some more celebrity collaborations in the pipeline.I am also working on adding to the line of clothing on my website in the Spring too. My future is so hard to predict as things tend to change in a heartbeat but bring it on! It can only grow and improve!