Designer Holly Fulton spoke to Drapers about her passion for pattern and the importance of cultivating a business mindset.
British designer Holly Fulton founded her eponymous label in 2009 and quickly became known for her eye-catching prints and bold use of colour. She spoke to Drapers about the importance of business know-how for designers, her magpie tendencies and her passion for Prada.
Holly fulton image
How did you get started as a designer?
I was focused on being a vet, got to 15 and realised I’d made a mistake! I’d always had a keen interest in art and design growing up as my parents are both very creative, so, on reflection, it seems like quite an obvious path for me to have chosen. I took a circuitous route, but eventually made it to the Royal College of Art, which is really where things really took off for me. I went straight from there to a design assistant role at Lanvin and haven’t looked back since.
You’re known for your prints. Where does your interest in pattern come from?
I am an avid collector of pretty much everything, including sentimental World War I pincushions, Scottish folk art, rubber glove moulds … My collections inform a lot of my work and the pieces I live with are a big influence. I’m quite a magpie and grew up with parents that collected everything – it’s a standing joke that no matter what it is you are looking for, it can probably be purloined from my parents house.
What do you do to get inspiration?
Travel, visiting spots round the UK and abroad, my own collections of objects, books both old and new, artists such as surrealist Eileen Agar, film like cinéma du look, my friends and peers, the streets of London and Highlands of Scotland. I am naturally inquisitive and love to delve into whatever I’m exposed to.
What are some of the challenges you face day to day?
Juggling the business side with the creative is always a challenge for any label: the amount of time you have to spend on the organisational and management aspects of running a label is huge. Often you end up only getting time to work on the design side once the nine to five is over. Managing people and the motivation of a team can be challenging, but equally incredibly rewarding, as your team really form the backbone of your business. Maintaining your cashflow and ensuring it runs according to plan is always a challenge, as it is essentially out of your control.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you started your career?
Never underestimate anyone you meet along your journey and treat everyone as you would wish to be treated yourself. I used to work for a very high-end antique jeweller and he used to say you can never tell who will have the money to spend by looking at them, and that’s remained true.
You’re an ambassador for Graduate Fashion Week. Why is that important to you?
I have had a huge amount of help starting up my business and have been fortunate to have some very influential mentors along the journey. I couldn’t really believe how much help I received when I was starting out – it both surprised and delighted me. I believe in putting back what you got out of something, so it feels very apt to be able to support GFW and give some of the time and assistance we received back into the next generation of talent.
Is there anyone in the industry you find particularly inspiring?
I’m always inspired by strong females who have managed to carve a niche for their own vision and succeeded in growing a business to a global level. Miuccia Prada is such a force within fashion. I have huge admiration for what she has achieved and the strength and clarity of her resolve. [Fashion East founder] Lulu Kennedy was instrumental in helping us start out as a label and has had such an impact on so many emerging labels over the years, as has [Vogue’s chief critic] Sarah Mower with her support of UK talents and graduates.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be and why?
I would ensure designers are given solid business advice as soon as they start to show and launch their labels. It’s so fundamental to have a robust infrastructure at the core of your creativity to make it work, but when you start out it’s easy to get caught up in shorter-term goals rather than the broader picture.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
In East London, usually running round Lea valley marshes first thing in the morning then soaking up as much culture, time with friends, decaffeinated coffee, fine food and wine as possible! And, if I’m lucky, then searching for more books, jewellery and objets for my ever-expanding collection…
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
In my dreams Prada but in reality Ebay.
Last fashion purchase
Silk chiffon Prada dress and a 1950s Latvian military camouflage coat
Scotland and Hong Kong
Last book you read
The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
Last film you watched
Subway by Luc Besson
Collaborating with or creative directing a brand I admire or retraining as an antiques auctioneer