Zoe Hitchen: Aim High

SHOWstudio and Manchester School of Art alumnus Zoe Hitchen's multimedia fashion and photography project {Un}titled is set to take Manchester by storm. She tells us about her influences and ambitions

Feature by Jessica Campbell | 06 Jun 2013

Manchester creative Zoe Hitchen is a true all-rounder in the art world. Having graduated from Manchester School of Art – part of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) – in 2009 with a BA in Design and Art Direction, Hitchen now specialises in fashion film, photography and creative direction under the guise of {Un}titled. She also takes time out of her own practice to pass on her wisdom to students across the school's faculty as a lecturer and tutor. Hitchen is enthusiastic about this latest role: “I really enjoy being back and working with a new generation of students,” she says. “I find their energy and enthusiasm so inspiring, not forgetting the wonderful staff at MMU. There is a great amount of talent within the academic staff too!”

Since the beginning of her studies, Manchester School of Art has played an important part in Hitchen’s growth as an artist and designer. Her first introduction to photography came when she was studying her art and design foundation course there. “I had a ‘photography induction’ where I learned black and white photography and from that point I seldom saw daylight again. I was hooked and spent most days in the darkroom,” she recalls.

Without wanting to focus her work too early on, Hitchen continued with her initial plans to undertake her degree in design and art direction. It was this course that led her to her ultimate passion. “My interest in film, or I should say ‘fashion film’, came later in my degree,” she says. “I discovered SHOWstudio; I was completely fascinated. I didn’t know much about the fashion industry at that point, but I knew I wanted to be in the studio and behind a camera filming.”

It wasn’t long after her graduation that Hitchen was offered a dream job – to work with Nick Knight at SHOWstudio. How did she find the transition from studying in Manchester to working in London? “I don’t want to lie and say it was easy; I was terrified. Having only been to London a couple of times and knowing only a few people, I did feel like Dick Whittington! London was a little overwhelming for me at first. I had to adapt to that fast paced lifestyle and environment quickly; fortunately I thrived off it, I still do.”

Even with the thrill of working in the exciting hub of the capital, Hitchen will never forget her Manchester roots. "I love Manchester!" she says. "I was born here, it’s my home, it’s where I studied and so it was fantastic to be invited back by Manchester School of Art as a guest lecturer, and now as a member of staff, part-time tutoring across disciplines. Needless to say it’s changed since I left in 2009; there’s a new impressive art school building and as a result the facilities are even better."

Manchester does, however, have its down sides, she jokes. “It still rains, which is why I find the new addition of a ‘roof garden’ quite amusing, but I’m hoping the students will design some umbrellas or some other wonderful solution to dodge the rainfall.”

In 2012, Hitchen decided to leave her role as first assistant to Knight to embark on her solo directing career as {Un}titled. “One of the reasons I chose to leave SHOWstudio is that I wanted to collaborate with others, and go on my own adventure,” she explains. “I am very passionate about ‘fashion film’ as its own genre, but also [within] performance and across the whole creative arts. Recently I got to explore film and performance as I collaborated outside of fashion, this time with a wonderful new, young director/producer of musical theatre, Daniel Wood.”

It was with Wood that she directed film content for a concert production of the musical Rent, and she’s full of praise for Wood’s work. “Daniel has a great vision and an enormous amount of faith and trust in me to bring something different, visually, to the stage. The concert starred Kerry Ellis of West End and Broadway fame. The tour lasted ten nights across the UK and received much acclaim. It is by far one of the best new experiences outside of fashion that I’ve had since leaving SHOWstudio.”

Hitchen’s first solo fashion film venture after leaving SHOWstudio was a collaboration with 'haute coiffeur' and designer Charlie Le Mindu. “I’ll always remember it,” she says. “Rankin had selected me as part of his Dig the New Breed of fashion filmmakers and to feature in his North London gallery. This set off a chain of events, one of which was my introduction to Charlie Le Mindu. On this occasion, like every film, it’s a result of the working relationships between a team of people. From the first meeting with Charlie Le Mindu (having never met him prior to the project) and his fabulous stylist Anna Trevelyan, I knew that we were all going to create a ‘wildcard’ fashion film because we were laughing from the minute we started discussing ideas. I worked with the most wonderful team of people.”

The film was shown as part of several major fashion events including Paris and London fashion weeks, and at international fashion film festivals. She describes it as being very surreal, adding: “I feel very honoured to be invited to these events.”

Hitchen’s most recent collaboration was with creative consultancy Patternity, which resulted in the bold and dramatic fashion film Pattern Power. It gathered a lot of social media attention: “I’ve known Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham, the founders of Patternity, since 2011 when I was collaborating with fashion designer Craig Lawrence,” she explains. “Patternity developed some amazing metallic hosiery for Craig’s SS12 collection from some of my photographs. We’ve all remained friends and collaborators ever since. Pattern Power was a really special collaboration as it was Patternity’s first major exhibition, and we also included a piece of Craig’s archive that was shown at his first retrospective at the V&A Museum.”

Pattern Power includes strong graphics and starkly contrasted visuals. Does graphic design play a major part in Hitchen’s filmic style? “I don’t intentionally strive to have a particular aesthetic or style,” she says. “I think that’s something that evolves and changes throughout your life and experiences. I like to keep the creative process as organic as possible and experiment and push ideas further from project to project.” She does admit, however, that having a degree in design and art direction does inspire her work whether she “intends it to or not”.

So what’s next on the cards for Zoe Hitchen? Well, she’s excited to announce another huge collaborative project: along with Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic and Tim Collard of Collard Manson, Hitchen will be introducing the highly anticipated AIM LOW + M—SS (aim low and miss), a new fashion brand, fanzine, sporadic music-night and 24/7 attitude, described as “the ubiquitous multiple choice tick box public vote of no-list celebrity success – a personal vote for hyperbole free happiness neither totally nailed nor smashed, not ‘put down,’ high-fived or dragon-approved – not the richest, fastest, strongest, biggest, thinnest, sexiest... just a wonderful life neither more nor less ordinary.” That sounds like something we can get behind. 

See more of Zoe Hitchen's work at: