Brixton resident Justine Kenyon weaves a passion for fashion around her work as an arts consultant. Simone Richardson discovers more
Justine moved to Acre Lane in Brixton in 1991 and now lives in the St Matthew’s Estate area.
She was born in Kingston upon Thames, her dad was a Londoner and her mum from Northumberland, and grew up in Sheffield and Ilford.
She studied history of art in Edinburgh University and after graduating studied pattern cutting Morley College in Waterloo. It was on this course that she discovered her passion for making clothes.
“I’ve been sewing all my life,” she says. “It’s something that was passed down through my grandmother and mother (who studied fashion at Kingston College).
“I still have a load of vintage haberdashery from my grandma,” she says.
Introduced to fashion from a young age, Justine remembers her first choice when growing up. “I had some nylon black flares from Tammy Girl that I loved so much my mum would wash them overnight so I could wear them again the next day.
“And I remember envying my cousin’s little pink denim skirt so badly that my grandma made me a similar one in the night and put it by my pillow to find immediately when I woke up! I’ve never forgotten the delight of that discovery.”
Justine says her height has also encouraged her. “Being tall, I find that off-the-rail clothes often don’t fit me very well which incentivised me to make my own to measure.
“Achieving good fit has become a bit of a speciality.”
Justine “weaves around” her daily work at Queen Mary University of London – supporting the cultural and creative industries – with time in her own workroom at home whenever she has the opportunity.
“Sometimes I block a day or afternoon out for it, maybe when I am cutting a new pattern. Then I get the podcasts going in the background and go deep into my own space. Heaven!!”
She is currently making a run of jackets. One is for a friend who chose the fabrics in Brixton’s Simply Fabrics on Atlantic Road, which is where Justine chooses many of the fabrics used in her creations.
“I love African Dutch wax prints and have been making tailored, western styles from it for a long time now, I like the contrast in it.”
Justine also loves the challenge of recycling. She made another jacket recently out of two vintage French linen nightgowns, which were linked with colourful Dutch wax too.
She joined Instagram to “follow quirky picture feeds and post some of the little things that have caught my own eye in passing. That’s the kind of stuff I like best.
“Recently I included some of the things I have made, especially if I could tell a story – for instance, how I transformed an old kimono into a blouse.”
Justine is trying to “break the habit” of walking round in her favourite colour of grey, with “sage, khaki green and a touch of dusty pink”.
She believes it is something to do with lockdown that she wants to feel comfortable – it’s all about elasticated or draw-string waists”.
Living and working in Brixton for nearly 30 years, Justine still loves its vibrancy – “long may it survive in the face of all the changes that have been going on” – and “the reggae Upstairs at The Ritzy!” When it comes back!
She has also done some successful second-hand shopping. “I found a bonanza in a charity shop with some Paul Smith wide leg wool trousers and a beautifully cut denim dress from Calvin Klein.”
She has no favouriter designers, but says: “I was very inspired by Shelley Fox when I was first studying pattern cutting for the way she disrupted all the rules.
“For properly out-there brilliance, i follow Iris Van Herpen on Instagram.”
For your own stylish clothes choice designed by Justine Kenyon follow her on Instagram – @talljaytee