Sophie Chadwick, co-founder and senior print designer at Cornish womenswear brand Seasalt talks to Drapers about how the company is retaining its seaside feel as it expands, creating handcrafted prints and working in a family business.
What does your role at Seasalt involve?
Along with my husband Neil [Seasalt joint managing director], I oversee the creative direction of the company. I’m also the company’s senior textile director, so I’m responsible for all the printed textiles for Seasalt. We create 300 prints a year and up until a year ago, I was creating all the prints myself. We recently took on a second textile designer, so now the two of us work together.
How do you ensure Seasalt’s prints keep customers excited in the collections?
All of our collections are inspired by Cornwall’s landscapes and maritime heritage. We have 12 launches a year, one each month, to keep the brand fresh and each collection starts with a theme. Recently we’ve had collections inspired by the gardens of Cornwall, so we had a fisherman’s garden and a sculptor’s garden. We had spent a large proportion of our time working on colours. We keep an eye on trend forecasts, but we’re a design-led rather than a trend-led business. We’ll sometimes spend a day in my kitchen dyeing pieces of linen to get beautiful shades, which we then send to suppliers – which I’m sure they find very annoying, but colour is so important.
Why is print so important to the brand?
Our prints are unique to us because they’re mostly handcrafted and are the brand’s handwriting. I use a lot of different techniques when I’m designing and I make a real mess – hand painting, waxes, potato printing, screen printing. Technology is only part of the process at the end, which is quite unusual. It’s really important to me to have that handcrafted feel.
Why do you think Seasalt has been successful?
Seasalt has a very strong brand identity. It’s a combination of who Neil and I are, combined with where we come from. We’re determined not to turn into a high street brand and it’s so important to keep the integrity of the brand and the quality as good as it’s ever been.
How does Seasalt plan to grow?
We’re not after world domination. We want to grow steadily. We do want to open more shops but we want to do that slowly and carefully, and with all the passion and skill we had when we opened our first store. We originally started opening shops in coastal location but we’ve found some city centre locations, like Bath, are working well for us.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in print design?
Make sure you’ve got good computer skills as well as great creative skills. Keep an eye constantly on what’s happening around you all the time. My uncle, who was a teacher at Camberwell [College of Arts], used to say you need to draw and paint every day to stay half decent.
What are some of the pros and cons of working in a family business?
The company started when Neil’s father, Don Chadwick, was on holiday with the family in Cornwall in 1981. He ran into a shop to buy some waterproofs and ended up buying the shop. Neil’s two brothers, Leigh and David, are also involved in the business, as is my aunt and we even have my dad working a couple of days a week in one of the stores. It works because
we all have different roles but share the same vision and aesthetic.
What do you like best about your role?
Ever since I was little, I’ve been holding a pencil and creating, so for me it doesn’t get much better than designing textiles and living in Cornwall. We have around 150 creative roles, which is quite a lot for a small company, and we all feed off each other.