the inspiration behind teatum jones’ wool utopia

Discussing storytelling and craftsmanship with Woolmark Prize-winning design duo Teatum Jones.

by Lula Ososki
12 August 2016, 10:14pm

London-based design duo Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones go way beyond the moodboard when it comes to gathering inspiration for their collections. With each season they immerse themselves in research, building a world around the designs driven by their love for human stories. For autumn/winter 16, the designers focused on an English nun, Agnes Morrogh-Bernard, who founded the Foxford Woollen Mills in 1892 in order to provide woven blankets to an impoverished town. Intrigued by her story, they travelled to the mill and develop a 21-century update on the original blankets, modernising the patterns with geometric foil prints and hand embroidery applied to skirts and jackets. The detailed outcome transformed the skill and quality of old school techniques into contemporary fashion, creating bold and intelligent designs which were rewarded with the prestigious International Woolmark Prize earlier this year. Curious to find out more about their own stories, we caught up with Teatum Jones to talk about the importance of storytelling and the speed of the fashion industry.

What was the catalyst that brought the two of you together?

What was the inspiration behind your most recent collection? What was on your mood board? What music was playing in the studio?
The human stories that inspire us each season are translated into bold, exquisite, vibrant fabrics that are like a celebration of the grit and realness of each human subject or movement we decide to obsess over that season.

Once we had found Agnes Morrogh-Bernard and the mill she had founded in the 1800's was still working today we had to go visit them. It was the complex social narrative of the mill that inspired us but what really inspired us was the opportunity to modernise their fabrics and make them relevant for how women want to wear clothes today. Music is also such a huge part of our story telling so we were listening to important Irish female political speeches on loop mixed with Irish Folk, House and early Bjork.

You travelled to France and Italy to develop the perfect materials. How did you find that experience?
With each season we start off with a clear journey to innovate and push the mills we work with to try new techniques and take chances. We find that the Mills in France and Italy are really up for taking chances to create something beautiful and really enjoy the experimentation.

You must have met some interesting and talented characters. Can you tell us about some of the people you met and worked with to develop the textiles?
Gloria Jones who sang the original "Tainted Love" came and visited the studio after writing to her. What a legend. She really helped bring our Northern Soul Mood board to life. Listening to her tells a story of Bolan, Bowie and others was a real honour.

Why is craftsmanship and storytelling so important to you?
We want to celebrate and give a voice to the amazing human stories that inspire us. For us, that is why telling their story with conviction through our shows and collections is so important.

How do you want those who wear your clothes to feel?
Modern and Bold.

There's been a lot of talk about the speed of the fashion industry lately. What are your thoughts on this? What is the future of fashion?
We think that though it is hard for the smaller brands to keep up with the speed of the larger brands, what we do have on our side is ideas and the ability to try out those ideas that go against the norm. It's an exciting time seeing all the smaller brands switching it up in terms of showing and delivering fashion etc. It really feels like we can do want we want now and go for it.

What advice would you give to the next era of fashion designers?
Don't compromise, be fearless and trust your instinct.

What's next?
Expect to see more vibrancy, more bold pattern and colour - and a whole load of male models that you won't have seen on our runways before ;)


Text Lula Ososki
Images Jason Lloyd-Evans

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