When I embarked on this new journey, I wanted to get back a sense of community to my working life. After leaving the RCA, my career started out at Fendi in Italy, a brand and country that supports family traditions and makers are revered for their long standing artistry and craft. I learnt Italian from scratch and quickly built up relationships with fabric manufacturers, pattern cutters and the factories that meticulously interpreted sketch to sample. There was a sense of pride in the 'family' effort of creating a collection to be proud of together.
The other thing that struck me about working in Italy was how much original source material was referenced from local culture and the rich history that surrounded us in Rome. Colours would be matched to the soft frescoes of Renaissance art, prints could be inspired by anything from mosaics to contemporary art and shapes were influenced by historical togas through to skinny jeans dolce vita style. Rome was their oyster. It taught me to delve deeper into style references and explore what was under my nose.
After four years, I decided I missed my family too much and wanted to base myself back in the UK. It was a bit of a culture shock for me with British fashion at that time centred around the High Street, with its pressure on cost and huge production runs. From Roman atelier to central London studio, I adapted to quick turnaround fashion and commercial costings. I embraced the industry and soon managed to find creativity in all projects whether for a large multiple or smaller mid level brands. What remained consistent was my love of seeing the product made, photographed and marketed, working alongside the teams that helped to make products and stories come alive.
So for my first exciting venture on my own, I look forward to working with my new family of 'British Isles'. Working in Britain enables me to meet face to face with manufacturers, fabric producers, designers and crafters who contribute their skills and creativity . As a small business I can keep an eye on production and ensure that care and quality is maintained. It also means that lead times are shorter, travel is kept to a minimum and any problems can be sorted quickly. After years of working with mass producers in far flung places it's good to be able to meet the real people that make it happen.
Fabric is sourced where possible in Britain and with the exception of silk I've managed to find Nottingham lace, Yorkshire wool and Scottish knitwear for A/W 16. Every mill that I visit has a wealth of heritage and is passionate about keeping British manufacturing and quality ahead of its game. It's a small world and I've found that suppliers have been only too happy to recommend others. Kate Hills who spearheads the 'Make it British' campaign has been hugely helpful amongst others.
And as with my career beginnings, I'm discovering that inspiration can be found on my doorstep. As a lover of social history, it's been fun exploring the people, folklore and quirks that make us unique from past to present. Just as I discovered in Rome, there are so many ideas that can be adopted from my own heritage for colour, print and style. This season it's my Northern roots and my love of the East End. Shapes are cut with a nod to tradition, simplified for ease of wear with a dash of modern romance to detailing.