A date with the dentist confirmed the Cath Kidston design director’s love of fashion.
On the bus into work I’m always looking at Pinterest, blogs and Instagram, emailing the team with any little bits of inspiration I find. I love websites like fine art and antique online auction site 1stdibs. Wherever I look, I’m focused on detail in print and the use of colour. I find inspiration everywhere, from childrenswear and street-style bloggers to interiors and homewares. I think it’s very important never to discriminate about where you get your inspiration from.
I’m responsible for the overarching themes and design direction at Cath Kidston. I work with a team of 14 print designers, as well as full-time creative consultant Jessica Pemberton. We have just signed off autumn 16 and we’re beginning to find our inspiration for spring 17. Each season we can have anywhere between 80 and 120 new prints, in several different colourways, meaning we can have more than 400 different print versions per season. We develop four different capsules a season – the preview, followed by drop one, two and three. The first drop, for example, might include 27 to 39 different prints just for bags and around half as many for our fashion collection, although we do produce unique fashion-only prints. For each season, we need an overarching story or mood, which we tailor to fashion, bags, accessories or homewares.
‘Blooming Lovely’ is our overarching inspiration theme for spring 16. The collection was heavily inspired by English country gardens, resulting in prints showing herbaceous borders and classic British blooms like hydrangeas, wildflowers and roses in all their glory. We have experimented with a soft and fresh spring palette and confident mono prints, resulting in a modern twist on traditional floral design.
I sit down with my team and set the direction based on my thoughts, colours and keywords for the season. We then go away and draw prints based on this direction. It can take up to three weeks to create a 12-colour print as we are very detail-orientated. We then translate the hand-drawn design into CAD and send the files to our different suppliers worldwide, after which it can take up to four weeks to receive the samples. Next we have a big internal meeting where we review the whole collection and sign off the designs.
My favourite print from the autumn 15 collection is the vintage-inspired Hampstead Rose floral in jewel colours, which we have used for bags, dresses, skirts and shawls.
The Cath Kidston DNA is modern vintage. I would describe our designs as warm and friendly, as well as being quirky. We try to take an old-fashioned floral print and transform it in a modern graphic way. We have an archive room in our west London studio filled with huge bookshelves of every fabric we have ever printed. In terms of our bag shapes, satchels are a timeless style, although I think our new tote with an embossed coating is set to become a future classic.
I love the variety that my role offers. I get to work with artists every day and watch my ideas come to life. Also, being a director means I get involved with the business side of the company and I love the fact we’re a growing international brand. Cath Kidston has more than 220 stores internationally, from China to Korea and Thailand. Japan is our second biggest market after the UK. They love the ”Britishness” of our London-centric prints and classic florals in soft, feminine colours.
Hampstead Rose bag
I was inspired to get into design from a young age. I drew all the time and crafted with my family, whether that was knitting or crochet. When I was 15 I went to the dentist and read an interview with Karl Lagerfeld in Vogue about catwalk and design. It was such a big moment for me. As I went to a vocational high school in Norway, I decided then and there to specialise in a tailoring and art diploma, which I finished at 18.
Along the way I’ve learned to listen to my instincts, which helps you to make good decisions. Happiness comes from doing something you’re passionate about, but you need to be prepared to work hard. Throughout my career, I really have put in the hours and never questioned having to stay late, an attitude which has helped me grow and grow.
I think it’s so important to hone your craft, so you really understand what you’re doing as an artist. In design you can only really take things apart and move things on if you understand how to put them back together.
The last thing I do at night is read magazines and blogs in more depth. I love to read a variety of magazines, so I can be exposed to different references, although The World of Interiors is one of my favourite reads. I jot down ideas in a notepad next to my bed and send little emails to myself with inspiration for the next day.
Hampstead Rose dress
I would love to work in the art world and own a gallery mixing sculpture with fine art and modern masterpieces. I have loved the work of US mixed media artist Robert Rauschenberg since I was a teenager, so it would be great to include some of his work.
Oct 1999-Apr 2001 MA in Fashion: Printed Textiles at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design, London
Sep 1995-May 1999 BA in Fashion Design with Print at Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Dec 2014-current Design director, Cath Kidston, London
Sept 2013-Nov 2014 Head of print, Cath Kidston, London
Nov 2012-Dec 2012 Freelance print and colour consultant, Louis Vuitton, London
Oct 2011-Sept 2013 Maternity leave
Sept 2010-Oct 2011 Freelance senior print consultant, Esprit, London/Düsseldorf
Jan 2010-Jul 2010 Freelance colour consultant: make-up, Topshop, London
Oct 2006-Dec 2008 Senior print, colour and soft accessories designer, Burberry, London
June 2001-Oct 2006 Freelance print and research consultant, Louis Vuitton, London/Paris
June 2001-Jun 2002 Freelance print designer, Christine Kinden Hafsten, London