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It’s a (very) chilly Monday in January. Snow is starting to dust the courtyard of our South London office. Inside, in the design studio, things are brighter. Paintbrushes are being swirled. Fabrics being cut. Designs being discussed. We spent a day with our print and garment design team to find out how they created our latest collection.
“Our inspiration for the collection,” Sophie, Print Lead, explains, “was looking at Yves Saint Laurent’s Moroccan home, Majorelle. It's beautifully decorated with really amazing gardens. We loved the blues of the interiors, the tiles. And the greens of the botanical garden. It was the combinations of colour, and the kind of textures that we could find in the landscape, that really struck us.”
Around the same time, Sophie travelled with fellow Print Designer Zara to Paris. “We went to an exhibition on Joan Mitchell and Monet”, Sophie says. “And we were really inspired. Mitchell’s paintings are really expressive and free.” The team start each season in this way: researching, going to exhibitions, looking at catwalks and gathering pages from glossy magazines. “Together we come up with huge, life-size boards and start to pin images that group together,” Senior Designer Alex explains.
Unifying themes emerged from what they had gathered. Emily, one of our Print Designers, went away and hand painted the expressive, abstract print that became the hero pattern of the collection. Designers Beth, Alex and the team looked at key silhouettes that suited the mood. A shirt dress for example. A trench. And then started sketching the pieces.
“Sustainability is always at the forefront of what we do,” Alex explains. “We always make sure that there's certified, more sustainable materials within the fabrics we’re sourcing.” After carefully deciding on these fabrics and silhouettes, matching different prints that had been created (all designed in house) to different garments, they produced CADs of the pieces and our suppliers made up samples. It usually takes four to six weeks, and sometimes months, which is why the design team work a little over a year ahead of when garments will reach the shops.
“The hero print in this collection is our first ever digital print,” Zara says. “Regular printing has to be colour separated into screens, so you can only use a certain amount of colours. But with digital printing, there's no limitation. I can paint something on a canvas, scan it in and we could print it.”
When the samples came back, they were measured on one of our fit models to check the shapes worked perfectly. There’s a rigorous five-step process to make sure each piece is spot on.
“We're being much more mindful about the amount that we design,” Sophie says. “Everything has much more intent to it. And is much more special and considered. We make sure everything that we get back from our suppliers is as amazing as it can be.”
"I think it was my grandma that made me want to be a designer,” Sophie says with a smile. “She had a little sewing box I was obsessed with when I was little, and she used to teach me to sew and do cross stitch on tiny squares. And then as a teenager, I was obsessed with all things Vogue, and used to have all the pages on my wall.”
“My mum was always painting, always making things,” Zara adds. “And my dad's very DIY as well.”
“A bit like Zara, I have quite creative parents,” Design Assistant Sarah explains. “So my dad is a stained glass artist. And then my mum's always been very crafty. So I grew up encouraged to be creative. I actually worked at a White Stuff store when I was 18. So after I did my design degree and there was an opening here, I just went for it.”
THE NAMES BEHIND THE PIECES
“I’ve been here for over 10 years now, so it's just over a third of my life! It’s a really big part of what I am,” Alex says. “There’s a bit of me in everything I design.”
“When you see someone wearing clothes you’ve come up with, it’s great,” Beth says. “It’s the best feeling.”
“I don't know if there’s one word to sum up our jobs,” Alex continues, “but a genuine love for it. I think we do the job because we actually love it. We love designing for this brand.”