Philip Colbert’s head is buried in the paper and he is agitatedly knocking back juice, nervous energy engulfing him like a cloud. We are in a Grade II-listed East End caff, round the corner from his new studio, an outpost of his Notting Hill premises, where he’s being ribbed by Italian cockney owner, Nevio, who addresses him as ‘Rodnik’.
This elicits a wry smile from our protagonist. ‘You been on them mad drugs again?’ torments the Italian. ‘Them ones that make you feel like you can do anything…’ he jokes, pointing in ‘Rodnik’s’ direction. At this, Colbert lights up, ignited by the irreverent back-and-forth and also, you sense, by the allusion to anything being possible, an intrinsic sense within this entirely self-taught designer.
As an interviewee, he is a curious prospect, at once both reticent and extrovert; mercurial yet grounded. As the founder of The Rodnik Band, a satiric sartorial label, his ensemble today is unremarkable, save for the red baseball cap that bears the legend of his brand (hence being known ‘dahn the caff’ as ‘Rodnik’).
It’s a duality that seems all-pervasive; this is a man who loves his label yet eschews labelling in a broader sense; one whose clothes are designed to rip through the absurdity of the fashion industry and art world, but who also craves expansion and unequivocally sees himself as an artist; a man whose humour is bound up inextricably with his pop-oriented modus operandi, but whose intellectual approach lends the box-defying Rodnik Band brand a sense of, if not gravitas, then certainly focus…
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