To celebrate the launch of Onitsuka Tiger’s expansive, marble-laden new store in London, we hit up two of the country’s emerging artists who know a thing or three about innovation. First up, we travelled to Hastings to meet with portrait painter and impression-enthusiast, Rosa Luetchford to ask: what is the power of creativity?
As the world reopens its doors, so begins the flurry of enthused shoppers flinging off their dressing gowns in favour of a slick new look. Fortunately, Japanese fashion label Onitsuka Tiger has just opened a brand spanking new flagship store on London’s Regent’s Street.
Not only is the near 10,000 square foot, two-floor space located on one of the world’s most prestigious shopping streets, but it’s the first location to offer the entire Onitsuka Tiger lineup in a single establishment, from the contemporary and heritage collections to the NIPPON MADE series rich in craftsmanship, as well as the luxury THE ONITSUKA line.
Onitsuka Tiger is also opening its doors to the eclectic crew that makes up London’s creative scene – they have big plans for the gallery space that’s located in the store’s basement that’s soon to be teeming with local and global artists exhibiting their work.
One artist that’s already on the brand’s radar is Hastings-based Rosa Luetchford. The fine artist has exhibited with Guts Gallery in London, who champion and support underrepresented artists, and many independent venues – including The Elizabeth Bauer Gallery and The Biscuit Factory – across the UK over the last nine years and has become known for her lively portraiture, capturing her subjects with elaborate props and wacky costumes as they embody the personas of famous personalities.
We took a trip to Luetchford’s creative studio down by the sea, Onitsuka Tiger’s Autumn & Winter 2021 collection in tow, to see where the magic happens.
Hi Rosa, tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name’s Rosa Luetchford and I’m 26-years-old. I grew up just on the coast of Dungeness and lived there until I went to uni at Wimbledon College of Arts, where I studied fine art painting until 2017. When I’m not in the studio I work part-time for adults with autism. I recently moved to Hastings which has really given me the space and time to be able to paint more. Now, I can’t imagine not being an artist.
I saw you recently painted Posh and Beck’s lookalikes. What are the themes that influence your work?
Down in Dungeness, it’s actually quite Americana. There are trailers and slot machines and seaside entertainment. I was taken to Elvis tributes a lot when I was younger. There’s glitz and glamour, but it’s also a bit rough around the edges. So I think moving away and then coming back I realised how unusual it is down there.
The tribute acts just really appealed to me. I just find it really fascinating how people will pay to go and watch somebody dress up and really embody another persona. It leads to the fact that I’m also interested in this Western fascination with self-enhancement. We strive to succeed all the time and I find it really interesting that people will use somebody else’s success as a vessel for that.
So when it comes to the creative process, where do you begin?
I like to watch some guilty pleasures on TV: Below Deck, Selling Sunset, Real Housewives. Then, I start to draw from my own environment, but the real fun comes from sourcing the costume. I’ll try and find some awful oversized, synthetic clothes and a bad wig. During lockdown, I started painting myself more, but before I was dressing my friends up as characters like Ronald McDonald and Dolly Parton or the Spice Girls.
How have you learnt to master your craft?
A lot of practice, and I think I’ve realised that more and more. In my free time, I’m in the studio with my boyfriend, who also studied at Wimbledon. His practice is a lot more about the paint as a material and he’s very abstract in his approach. We’re a good contrast because our work’s really different. I also look up to a lot of artists like French painter, Nina Childress. And then I really love Mexican votive paintings which often depict a religious figure. They’re really beautiful.
Do you like to push boundaries?
Definitely. There’s a lot of power in women painting themselves and reclaiming their image. When I was younger, I always felt like my work had to be about something because of my family’s political outlook. They’re big campaigners and work in international development, so there was a lot of pressure actually. I really felt like I had to be doing something to help and I couldn’t just be painting. Now, I’ve found a sweet spot where I find it fun. My work draws on escapism and I love getting people dressed up, but I can also comment on things in a social sense.
What’s blasting on the speakers to get you in the creative zone?
A lot of podcasts. I’m really into one called The Great Women Artists. I also listen to audiobooks to kill two birds with one stone. I can’t listen to music really anymore, I find it too energetic sometimes.
Would you say the last 18 months have impacted your creativity?
It actually really impacted it. I couldn’t collaborate like I usually do – I got my boyfriend to dress up as Priscilla Presley at one point. The shows came to a close, others were postponed, and the gallery near me shut down. In the beginning, it was nice because it brought me back to painting for myself and I didn’t have to think of deadlines but it soon wore off.
How has returning from lockdown impacted your fashion choices?
Moving back to the seaside is so different, I don’t feel the pressure to look a certain way as much here. It’s a lot more practical. That’s what I like about the Onitsuka Tiger collection, it’s practical but elegant and that’s what I strive for.
What’s the best thing about being a young contemporary artist?
Having a platform to be able to express your opinions. The beauty of it is it’s visual and can reach a wide audience, it doesn’t have to cater to a certain class. It can be inclusive. And I like being connected to like-minded people.