Suffolk’s young entrepreneurs are revolutionising the county’s fashion scene – could this inspire more budding designers to do the same?
In recent years we’ve witnessed Britain become ‘the one to watch’ in global fashion. Between New York City, London, Milan and Paris, London Fashion Week receives the second highest footfall of all four events during fashion month, showing that our capital is favoured by designers and attendees alike; this accomplishment has been a catalyst for the creation of regional fashion events, including this year’s Suffolk Fashion Show – a roaring success in which some of the best local designers and retailers showcased their clothes and accessories to a room packed with guests.
Our county is slowly rising in the sartorial ranks within the UK, nurturing and inspiring creators to produce innovative, locally made designs. EAUX managed to catch up with a handful of inspiring, local fashion designers, to ask how Suffolk has influenced their careers and what they’re doing to encourage creation and ideas within the community.
Sarah Louise Chatterton, creator of self-dubbed ‘happy fashion’ brand SLC SLC, sees the Suffolk label as a unique selling point. A passionate advocate of local talent, she explains to us that the county is home to untapped potential: ‘there are a lot of cool artists and creative people in the local area. Suffolk is overflowing with talent.’
The designer encourages support by collaboration, and regularly works with creatives and aspiring students to cultivate new and exciting projects: ‘we love working with new talent, so local school students Becky and Georgia have been involved in programmes with us to create prints and we really enjoy helping to grow their confidence and skill set – it’s lovely working with such enthusiasm.’
‘East Anglia used to be a hub for the textile industry so it’s great to find a team of talented seamstresses who used to work for labels such as Jaeger when they produced here. Part of our business model is to breathe life back into this fantastic industry, which is great for people who like to make and create!’
Suffolk’s innate beauty is an inspiration for many, and Chatterton is similarly enthralled by her beautiful surroundings: ‘Suffolk is such an inspirational place to design and create; there’s so much natural beauty to watch and draw and then turn into our silk screen printed patterns.’
Isabella Singleton, Suffolk-born designer and creator of colourful accessories brand Bella Singleton, has utilised her countryside influences and inspirations to create stunning pieces on a larger scale in London. ‘There is something about London that gives you your drive. Everyone is always so busy so your work ethic – well, mine at least – is at it’s best here. Most of my friends live here too now and there is always something arty to do! But a big studio in the countryside is what I would love one day.’
Having previously moved across the country to Falmouth for her Art Foundation Course, Singleton is well-travelled, but enjoys visiting her hometown of Sibton where her supportive family still reside, ‘I go back about once every six to eight weeks; my little brother is still at school there and I love to visit my parents. A much needed break!’ Her father’s shop in Yoxford, Suffolk House Antiques, is one of her favourite stores: ‘his shop is wonderful! He has one of the largest collections of early oak furniture in the UK.’
Singleton’s designs are inspired by ‘a mixture of topics, hugely by the surrealist movement where one subject merges into the next and into the next, to form completely illogical and nonsensical dream worlds. West African patterns and textiles are a more recent influence for me, after I realised that my designs were often being compared to them. The detailed repetition combined with big bold punches of bright colour – that is what my aesthetic has been all about from the start: simplicities made complex through a constant process of reworking and manipulation. My scarves are currently stocked in The British Library in line with their exhibition on West Africa.’
Bubbly and passionate designer Estelle Ruth believes that inspiration can be found anywhere, but that Suffolk ‘has a lot to offer, and it is definitely an inspiring and beautiful place to live’. Having lived in a city for nearly six years, Estelle moved to Suffolk to pursue life as founder of her eponymous brand: ‘it took some time to adapt; it was a new place with only my family and familiar faces, so starting a business here was a scary step – but it didn’t take me long to realise that Suffolk has such a strong community spirit and that really affected my career in a positive way.’
Estelle realised her passion from a young age, declaring that she had ‘tunnel vision’ from the age of 15 when she discovered that becoming a fashion design was, indeed, a possibility. After studying for three years at college and four years at university, she found work as a childrenswear and menswear designer; however, she longed for something more: ‘I knew women’s fashion was my true passion and I always dreamed of seeing my own name on the label.’
Now an up and coming name within Suffolk, Estelle is determined to further her involvement within the community: ‘I am extremely eager to get involved more with local charities and any events to promote small businesses within Suffolk. I think collaborations are an important part of growing a business, and in such a short time I have developed some great relationships within Suffolk – and nothing is more inspiring than passionate people.’ And what of supporting young aspiring designers? ‘I would love to take on interns in future. I worked as an intern for just over a year and it was the most influential experience of my education. I would love to help others nurture their talents.’