Welcome to Girl on the Rise, where we interview and shoot up-and-coming talent in order to deliver to you the name to drop at every future watercooler moment, as well a few solid styling and shopping tricks along the way. Don't. Go. Anywhere.
Team Who What Wear is quite fussy about who they follow on Instagram, but if there's one under-the-radar Brit girl we all turn to time and again when on the hunt for a truly eclectic outfit or two, it's Phoebe Lettice Thompson. She's the London fashion insider with more strings to her bow than even the most competitive slash generational—photographer, stylist, creative whiz, It girl, the list goes on—and her no-holds-barred approach to getting dressed in an assortment of eclectic garms has frequently piqued our interest on Instagram.
Over on her 139k-strong account, you'll find she can pull off a tracksuit with glossy aplomb (it must be down to that long golden hair!) as easily as she can do kawaii kook in Tokyo without breaking into a cheesy peace-sign pose. Thompson's getting-ready process is no more than a gut feeling combined with something probably being rescued from her bedroom floor, she tells me. In fact, the cute cricket sweater she wore on set before our shoot can be traced back to that holy fashion place. Even her "Instagramming" cat, Dracula, has a charmingly insouciant attitude to match.
Phoebe's day job is a varied one: For the most part she's leading the charge as the creative director of Illustrated People—a streetwear brand with cheeky slogan tees that have garnered a cult-like following. And as an example of the kind of work she also fits in on the side, Phoebe's currently busy styling rising music star Anne-Marie. Keep scrolling to explore our exclusive interview and shoot with Phoebe Lettice Thompson—aka the girl ticking all our boxes right now…
WHO WHAT WEAR UK: Was there a particular moment where you knew you wanted to go into fashion?
PHOEBE LETTICE THOMPSON: I was always a creative child, and I think that interest turned into looking at magazines, becoming obsessed with different publications and covering my wall with them. And I think from there I pretty much studied credits, and everything I thought I liked about a picture because I didn't really understand what a stylist did, what a photographer did. Well, I knew what a photographer did, essentially, but how it all worked, and I could never get my head around it until I started interning, I guess. There wasn't the internet to look up these kinds of things.
WWW UK: So how did you start the process of getting into the fashion industry?
PLT: The first fashion magazine I interned at was when I was 14, and I went to House & Garden. I was like, Do I still like fashion? Yes. I did Wonderland. Then I went from Wonderland to Condé Nast, which was quite amazing to go from an independent [publication] to a much bigger company. I spent a while at Tatler, and then I did freelance assisting for the fashion director there, Anna Bromilow. And then I did a few American Vogue jobs over in the States, bits and bobs in Europe, and then I went into Illustrated People.
I did a collaboration with the brand over three years ago now, and I don't think [the team was] expecting me to get as involved as I did. I was there pretty much every day for six months creating everything from the clothes to the end campaign, and [the team] just loved how I'd given this particular capsule collection a look. So Duncan McNamara, the owner, asked me—when its head designer was leaving and it was changing things around—to come on as creative director.
I could never get my head around the fashion industry until I started interning, I guess. There wasn't the internet to look up these kinds of things.
WWW UK: Who are the women in the industry that you look up to?
PLT: Kate Phelan. Of course I'm nowhere near her kind of level, but I like her journey from being in magazines for so long to then going to Topshop and doing such a phenomenal job there. I look up to her as an icon of mine. In terms of peers, it's people like Sharmadein [Reid, MBE, of WAH Nails], I always look up to her because she's always doing so many different things. She's very tech-savvy.
WWW UK: From your Instagram feeds, it's plain to see you're into '90s and '00s style—do you have any pop culture references you're particularly into right now?
PLT: I kind of get obsessed with different people. Marilyn Manson for a while. Lil' Kim. I'm always finding a different look that Christina Aguilera did. Of course, there wasn't Instagram back then, so I search for paparazzi shots of them in, like, ripped jeans, a crop top and a trucker hat—I idolised those images as a child, and I still feel a sort of attachment to them. I think a lot of wanting to wear throwback items is to do with the fact I was never allowed a trucker hat, or I was never allowed Buffalo Boots. [Ed. note: Phoebe turned up in a khaki pair on set.] A lot of the things I felt that I was never allowed, I now incorporate them into Illustrated People, and it just so happens it's a trend.
I kind of get obsessed with different people. Marilyn Manson for a while. Lil' Kim… I'm always finding a different look that Christina Aguilera did.
WWW UK: If your wardrobe was burning down (heavens forbid!) what is the one piece you would try to save?
PLT: I should save all my sunglasses, but I would be so upset if I couldn't get these trousers [a pair of wide-leg navy pinstripe pants from Sharmadein's collaboration with ASOS] again. They're sold out. I'm going to get someone to make me a pair… No, I would take these Versace, really tight, really high-legged high leather boots—they are one of my favourite things I own, and I don't wear them enough.
Next up, the noughties fashion trends we never predicted would return.
Credits: Photographer: Phill Taylor. Stylist: Lily Russo; Photographer's Assistants: Pete Navey and Natalie Taylor. Makeup artist: Christelle Gbeudjeli using Smashbox Cosmetics. Hairstylist: Mary Mumford using Bumble and Bumble.
Shot at Smashbox Studios, London.