6 minute read

Violet & Wren

VITA S/S 2018

SS18 explodes in a cascade of hyper-feminine, English garden flowers where the scandalous Vita Sackville-West’s, renowned garden at Sissinghurst Castle meets a 1930’s masculine aesthetic in a celebration of the very best of British Horticulture.

interview by Kevin Voller

Lady Vita Sackville- West, a controversial character never far from scandal and intrigue, defined herself as a divided personality;

“Half of me is feminine, soft, submissive and attracted to men while the other one Is masculine, hard, aggressive and attracted to women.”

This dichotomy and her anarchic spirit defines the SS18 collection with a marrying of the feminine and masculine, the hard and soft, modern and historical, and lends to a complex and intriguing season where maximalist celebration of colour, form and unapologetically showy florals are celebrated and embraced.

From elegant, velvety white spring tulips set against a background of rich sun-drenched yellow, to luxurious, over scale Iris flowers in sapphire and cerulean tones, the Vita collection is bursting with mouth-watering colour and photo real blooms in an exploration of earthly delights.

Opulent, feminine flowers are offset by strict, regular stripes in narrow and super wide settings, alongside lush, jewelled tone solids of Opaline green and Fuchsia pink.

1930’s design details, referencing the decade in which Vita moved into Sissinghurst, pepper the signature silhouettes to bring a masculine sensibility to juxtapose the overt feminism. Fresh silhouette introductions to the collection see modern, square cuts in a midi sleepshirt and slouchy tee layer with sporty shorts or classic pyjama pants to bring a modern and youthful approach to Loungewear dressing. In purposeful contrast, soft silk georgette prints are translated into an ethereal, deep plunge Grecian Maxi dress, floor skimming, sensuous maxi robe and flirty, lace trimmed frill lingerie.

Contrast piping and bindings accentuate the vibrant, mouth-watering colour and a scalloped French lace trim updates the signature cami and slip and features on an elegant yet relaxed backless jumpsuit.

Violet & Wren is proud to be represented though a host of premium UK and international stockists including Fenwick of Bond Street, Journelle NYC, Fred Segal and Estnation Japan.

KV - In a few words, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Louise - pretty much- Mother, Creative, multi-tasker… not always in order!

KV - When did you start getting into fashion?

Louise - I always had a strong creative side growing up and was forever making “projects” around the house! I loved textiles and art at school and fashion seemed a natural progression. I seem to remember in the early 90’s as a teenager I wore a pair of cream jeans with a hyper colour t shirt and a purple waistcoat and thinking i looked amazing ! I may even have also had a perm…. “Fashion” just wasn’t as accessible to everyone then, especially not growing up in a rural area so when I started to discover the world of designers and fabrics , prints and fashion shoots it was a revelation!

Helen - like Louise, I was always creative as a kid - but I was more into painting and drawing and making things out of wood! Fashion wasn’t an obvious route for me to be honest - I grew up in the Lake District with my very outdoorsy family, and didn’t even really discover my love for clothes until I was well into my teens. I studied art and design foundation after school, and loved textiles and fell into fashion that way - creating 3D pieces from a flat sketch has always been something I loved doing (albeit from wood!), and fashion was an exciting and wearable development of that.

KV - What is “Fashion” to you?

Louise - nowadays its so personal which i think is a great thing and with the Vetements movement, a humble ikea bag is now seen as “fashion” which is more i guess about branding and the cult item effect. Yes, you have the “Trends” which tend to set the direction for the high street but I think if something is beautiful to you and you love to wear it, that should be the quality with most value. I think craftsmanship and artistry and still so important which goes hand in hand with the buy less, buy better mantra that is gaining momentum.

Helen - To me, Fashion is what you make of it - almost the art of wearing and presenting yourself in whatever way that may be. When I was younger, fashion to me meant keeping up with the latest trends and constantly having newness, now I’m older, I feel style is a more important part of fashion, and finding those pieces that you will wear again and again.

KV - What inspired you to start your own clothing line?

Louise - Helen and I have been friends for a really long time, since meeting at university so after building our careers in the industry we collaborated on a commissioned project together. After this we took the plunge and combined our skills into our own brand ! It was far more “lets give this a go and see what happens” rather than having a grand plan and a set of goals from the off-set but we have found that natural growth has suited us so fart and has allowed the brand to develop and us to learn at a gentle-ish pace!

Helen - I have always made bespoke pieces - mostly bridal - and had always wanted to have my own line. Louise designed a print for a wedding dress I was making, and we decided to go from there!

KV - What are your favourite materials to work with?

Louise - I don’t really have a favourite material as such. The Violet and Wren collections have always been anchored in silks which is course is a beautifully tactile and lustrous cloth to work and give such a wonderful depth of colour to the prints but we woful love to explore more into the silk blends for coming seasons. I would love to be abel to work with some stiffer, structural qualities for a more architectural, RTW approach- this will be in the future plans I think!

Helen - My background is mostly bridal and tailoring - and I also spent a long time working with leather, so it is really hard for me to be specific as each has its own appeal! I love the malleability of leather (and the smell), the softness and drape of silk, and its depth of colour, and the structural, architectural qualities of stiffer tailoring fabrics. I love the way fabrics can be manipulated around the body to create different effects and enhancements.

KV - What message do you want to give through your collections?

Both - As a british brand we try and get across a very Artisan, British feel within the prints and the collection that i think resonates with our customers but other than that it is no more complicated than we just want our customers to feel like they are buying items they love and will keep forever. We love every piece we create and try to bring that feeling to the people that wear our collections.

KV - Do you look to anyone in particular for inspiration?

Louise - everything you see tends to act as an inspiration... As i said, I’m quite a magpie so am always finding new inspirations or people doing things I love. Generally, I love the romance of designers like No 21, Simona Rocha and Chloe and the palettes and vibe of Miu Miu, Vivetta, Roksanda are always so fresh and inspiring, that modern edge and clever twists that make their collections so beautiful and challenging. There is so much great newness out there but we do generally follow our own path. Our prints are always based upon botanicals so when i start designing, they tend to evolve organically really from a basic concept or theme, often with a historical hinge, maybe a person or an event that we add a modern ,aesthetic to to make our own. Or sometimes , just a really beautiful flower or leaf…

KV - What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Both - Starting our own business has been a big achievement and to be stocked with such amazing stockists such as Le Bon Marche, Fenwick, Journelle, is quite humbling. We tend not to think on what we’ve achieved to be honest as there is always some new challenge to tackle.

KV - What is next for you?

Both - We would love to continue to develop the Violet and Wren brand with new fabrications, techniques and product categories and continue to grow our family of stockists. The US is such a great market for us, so to be able to work with a department store over there would be great. We still love what we do which hopefully shows in the collections we create.

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