Philip Normal is the undisputed king of camp nostalgia. His website and Depop account are awash with a range of colourful items, ranging from Spice Girls t-shirts to Whitney Houston inspired phone cases. If it’s pop culture related, Normal has it covered.
Normal grew up in Cambridgeshire and moved to London to study Fashion at the University of Westminster. Graduating in 2003, he quickly realised that the ‘traditional’ fashion industry wasn’t for him. In an interview with GayTimes (GT) Magazine last year, he said: “I don’t really fit into the whole fashion bubble. Because there’s a whole system around fashion, you have seasons and collections and I don’t really work like that.”
Instead, Normal opted for designing one off items and customizing vintage clothing. In 2008, he started selling at Camden Market before moving online where he quickly became a notable seller. The rest is fluorescent, geometric shaped history.
Not only is he a successful fashion designer but he’s also the LGBT officer for the Vauxhall Labour party. Normal has used his position as officer to speak out on important issues within the LGBT community, such as the loss of gay venues and the growth in the dangerous ‘chemsex’ culture. Vauxhall is estimated to be one of the gayest boroughs in Europe and therefore the position holds substantial responsibility.
The decreasing presence of gay venues, especially in London, is no joke. In recent years, many iconic pubs and clubs have been forced to close their doors due to soaring property prices. In 2015, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) became under threat but was thankfully saved when it became the first building to be given ‘listed’ status because of its LGBT history. The campaign to do so was backed by celebrities such as Paul O’Grady and Sir Ian McKellen.
As for the issue of ‘chemsex’, it’s one that isn’t going away any time soon. ‘Chemsex’ typically refers to taking drugs just before or during sex and often in a group setting. The most commonly used drugs are crystal meth, GHB, GBL and mephedrone. These drugs can result in addiction and sexual disinhibiting effects, and are often taken in an unsafe environment.
In the same interview with GT, Normal has spoken out on the matter: “It’s not just self destructive but it’s dangerous for the community as a whole. I’ve heard of people losing their jobs because they can’t stay in control of it. There’s so much support out there.”
Normal has effortlessly fused many of these political messages within his eye-catching designs (see his poppers t shirt for inspo) and is undoubtedly the reasoning behind his success. A socially aware designer that refuses to sell out to the mainstream; even when that means saying no to designing the clothes for Ariana Grande’s tour.
He identifies stereotypes within the LGBT community and tears them to shreds. Normal is a modern day fashion rebel that has built his brand on his own terms. Now, back to the Spice Girls tees.