Ever wanted to learn how to make your very own clothing, but found the thought of following a dress pattern more daunting than Everest? Print aficionado, Keighley is here to put you at ease. We caught up with Liberty’s loveliest print designer to pick up some dress making tips, and pry into the world of the Liberty Design Studio and what it’s like to work there. We also got a glimpse of Keighley’s collection of handmade garments – flirty floral frocks, retro A-line minis and a host of snug fleece sweatshirts – all enough to make you green with wardrobe envy.
How long have you been a print designer at Liberty, and how did you end up working in the Liberty print design team?
I’ve been at Liberty for about two and a half years. I studied fashion print at Central St. Martins and was on a sandwich course so I could spend a year in the industry before my final year, most of which I spent at Liberty. I loved it and was offered a job for when I finished my degree which was really exciting.
What part of the print design process do you love and find the most exciting?
I love the actual designing part the most; drawing, painting or lino printing the design. But getting the brief and the research part, when I’ve got lots of ideas buzzing around my head, is pretty exciting too. Once the design has been approved the colouring stage is really interesting. When the design starts to be coloured it really comes to life and it always amazes me how colour can transform the design.
You sometimes go on field trips to get inspiration for the seasonal fabric designs. What has been the most memorable trip you’ve taken with the team?
The most memorable trip was Florence. One of the other designers and I went at the end of last year and it was just incredible. There is so much beauty packed into such a small city. We went for three days and managed to see so many inspiring things, I can’t go into too much detail as it was research for Autumn/ Winter 2015 – which is still very top secret!
Working so many seasons in advance, how do you ensure designs will remain relevant and current?
It’s great working so far in advance because it allows us to almost set the trends and create designs that will go on to inspire others who will use the fabrics in their collections. Our briefs are always so inspiring and within our collections we try to create gorgeous designs and beautiful colours that will appeal to a variety of customers. We also have an innovation team who search for great new base fabrics to put our designs on to. We have recently launched denim and fleece, which are both amazing and so wearable (I think I have five Liberty fleece jumpers now!).
What is your favourite Liberty print, and what does it mean to you?
Oh that’s quite a hard question! I’m going to have to mention a few. I’m quite attached to all of my designs as I work on them for so long, then we can name them after someone and that makes you feel even more attached! I named my very first design ‘Jacqueline Helena’ after my mum; I designed it at St. Martins when we did a collaboration competition with Liberty in our second year. My first design as a designer here was inspired by sound and was named after my brother, ‘Joshua Graham’. I also love ‘Kevin’ (my dad!), a design from Autumn/ Winter 2014 which was inspired by star constellations. From Spring/ Summer 2014, I think my favourites are ‘Sheree’ which was inspired by the Liberty Bath House and named after my auntie, and ‘Jess and Jean’ which was inspired by the furnishing room. I’ve just seen that Sessùn have used it for a dress which I’m really excited to buy. I haven’t even mentioned the designs I love that I haven’t designed! I must just mention ‘Alice’s Garden’, a design from Autumn/ Winter 2013. This is ‘Anna’s garden’ (also a beautiful print which was inspired by a scarf print from the archive) made really tiny and put onto fleece, it’s just gorgeous. ‘Wild Flowers’ from Autumn/ Winter 2014 was created from a paper cut sculpture of a botanical book, it was also printed on fleece, so I made a gorgeous jumper and also recently upholstered my wooden desk chair cushion with it, which looks lovely.
Is it true there is a print named after you? Have you made anything from the design?
Yes! ‘Keighley’ was designed in Spring/ Summer 2012, I absolutely love it and have brought metres of it. I can’t decide what to make, it has to be something special. Luckily, Paige Denim used ‘Keighley’ and made a really cute pair of denim shorts which I obviously bought.
You make many of your own items using Liberty print, what has been your favourite project so far?
When I was interning I collected lots of different scraps and made a quilt which is on my bed so I love waking up to that. But making clothes is fun; being able to see something I like then try and re-create it is great. I went through a phase of making lots of fleece jumpers, but at the moment I seem to be making lots of A-line mini skirts out of the denim and also material from our new Furnishing Fabrics collection. I also really enjoy making presents, it’s lovely to give someone something you’ve made, even if it’s something little.
Many people feel daunted by the prospect of making clothing, what advice or encouragement do you have for those first timers?
Don’t be daunted! It really is quite easy if you start with something simple, like an elasticated skirt, for example, or a T-shirt style dress. The best way to start is to get hold of a garment that you like the shape of and that you can ideally cut up to create a pattern. It’s a really good way of seeing how garments are put together and the more you practice the more you will get used to knowing what the patterns need to look like to be able to fit the body. Trial and error is the best way to learn if you haven’t had any training in it.
Finally, will you be making anything from the new season ‘Gallery of Prints’ collection? If so, which print will you be using?
As we design so far ahead I’ve had the Spring/ Summer ’14 fabric around for a while, so I’ve made a smock dress from ‘Jonathan’, some boxer shorts and an iPad case out of ‘Sheree’ and lots of cushions out of ‘Jess and Jean’, which look lovely. Also, a little rag doll for my niece’s first birthday with a patchwork dress of ‘Sheree’, ‘Jess and Jean’, ‘Jennie and Steve’ and few other designs from other seasons. I went to have a look at the collection on the shop floor the other day and was reminded of how much I love ‘Isle of Wight’, so I really want to make something out of that… I’m not sure what yet.