Amelia’s Magazine | Charlie May: S/S 2014 Preview Interview

Charlie May S/S 2014 by Rebecca May Higgins
Charlie May S/S 2014 by Rebecca May Higgins.

Last season I was most impressed with the new collection from up and coming designer Charlie May: sadly this time around I missed her show at St Martins Lane Hotel. Here the talented young designer talks about her love of minimalism, working with British mills to create bespoke materials, and teaming up with Hudson shoes.

Charlie May S/S 2014 by Claire Kearns
Charlie May S/S 2014 by Claire Kearns.

Where does your love for sleek minimalist designs come from – can you trace it back to any early influences or inspirations?
That’s a tough one – I think coming from a farm where it’s always busy and messy and you have to dress for the mud, you natural want to create the opposite. I’m always inspired by the feeling I get from being in the countryside, there’s a calmness that I like to translate into my collections.
Charlie May S:S 2014
Charlie May S:S 2014
The Charlie May girl wears a lot of white and pale colours – any tips for keeping the look fresh and clean?
Every season I plan to use black and I always manage to phase it out! I think it’s got something to do with a clearer cleaner vision and the same goes with personal style. I always feel like I’m dressed better when I’m wearing lighter colours. At the moment I love the look of black shoes with a white look, I think that looks fresh and not overdone.
Charlie May S/S 2014 by Slowly The Eggs
Charlie May S/S 2014 by Slowly The Eggs.

I understand you worked closely with mills to create a range of exclusive fabrics this season, what was that process like?
It was really fun and quite eye opening. I’m used to working with exclusively natural materials, so weaving polyester and silk together created something quite unique to me. I think it was a natural step for me to push for more creative fabrics and something that’s not readily available, I’m looking forward to doing it again for AW14.

Charlie May S:S 2014
Charlie May S:S 2014
You used some stunning pearlescent and metallic print fabrics for S/S 2014 – where did you source these from? 
Thank you, it started with working with the mills on the pink metallic woven fabric, and when I saw the butter soft blush foil leather I knew it would be the perfect accompaniment. The collection was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek with references to my youth and the spice girls – so it goes without saying that pink leather was meant to be there! 

Charlie May Dress by Claire Kearns
Charlie May S/S 2014 by Claire Kearns.

How did you get involved with Hudson shoes and what was the process of producing a limited edition shoe? where can fans buy a pair?
I met Hudson through my blog, Girl a la Mode. We quickly got talking about collaborating on a shoe for my SS14! I love their classic, elegant brogues and boots and knew they’d be the perfect choice. They will be a limited edition, available to buy through my site ( from January. 
Charlie May S:S 2014
Charlie May S:S 2014
What are your aspirations for the coming year?
I hope to keep growing as I am and developing the collections and brand image, I’m excited to develop knitwear for AW14 too. 

Categories ,Charlie May, ,Claire Kearns, ,Girl a la Mode, ,hudson, ,interview, ,London Fashion Week, ,Rebecca May Higgins, ,S/S 2014, ,Slowly the Eggs, ,St Martins Lane Hotel

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Amelia’s Magazine | Charlotte Daffern – Not your stereotypical designer

75dpi legs

Charlotte Daffern’s playful statement jewellery borders on the completely eccentric, whilst tackling ideas of gender and national stereotype. The work re-visits the 1950’s as a result of the surge in a return to the ideals of the housewife from baking and sowing to the current increase in upcycling. Daffern’s work re-invents what are considered to be traditionally upper crust British Fabrics into something fresh and vitalic for today’s youth.

From looking at your designs, the humour and whimsicality often associated with the idea Britishness is incredibly evident, especially in the manipulation of tartan. What other material stereotypes did you find to be eponymous with British Culture?

Whilst I was studying for my MA we had a seminar discussion about what imagery you see when you think of British fashion or British people. It was basically fairly twee: twin sets and pearls for women, shooting jackets for men, flat caps etc. Pearls have run through all of my collections so far, I suppose its one element that nods towards the stereotype and the historical fashion of Britain. I try to create an updated version of the pearl necklace. I think most people imagine pearls on royalty, wealthy ladies or the light lipped librarian. However I didn’t want people to dismiss wearing them because of stereotypes they might have.

75dpi escape apron

Subsequently, how has the exploration of what it is to be British affected your designs?

Whilst my work is based on stereotypes it aims to subvert whilst making reference to them at the same time. In the red tartan work, everyone comments on the connection to Vivienne Westwood. If you change the fabric to something that isn’t tartan I’m not sure you would necessarily make that link with her. I suppose I learned the power changing one element such as a print or colour can have on the perception of the work. Having studied with international students and networked with some American artists and galleries I realised how interested they were in British culture and style, perhaps more so than British people themselves. Really it was a natural progression from observing other cultures perception of ‘Britishness’. The result was a want to present my idea on British lifestyle and stereotypes through design.

charlottedaffernteapot spout bangles

Continuing from the discussion on stereotypes, how do ideas of gender and sociology feature in your work? – I particularly enjoyed the ‘hoody’ body adornment and the one armed necklace.

I like to challenge ideas of gender by putting pearls on a man or by giving a woman a pretty polka dot penis necklace. I love humour, irony and contradictions and I think this corresponds with my ideas of what it is to be British as well. I like knowing what’s going on with social and fashion trends. There are things you can take from the pieces that maybe reference different aspects of past or present culture/ lifestyle.

My more recent work is a combination of two stereotypes – the 1990’s acid house rave character combined with the 1950’s housewife. I represent the raver stereotype through the acidic fluorescent colours and the chaotic nature of some of the pieces and the fabrics are all typical to the 1950’s style – polka dots, stripes, gingham checks, florals.


Favourite designers?

I’ve done some work experience at Paul Smith which really influenced my love of all things British! Vivienne Westwood is obviously a huge inspiration and proof you can achieve anything if you go for it and believe in yourself. I suppose that’s the ultimate dream to work for Vivienne Westwood! Comme des Garcons, Viktor and Rolf – love their style and how they challenge rhythm and tradition within their designs. I like to see what other people are doing as well, other jewellers, illustrators, graphic designers, furniture makers! The list is endless.


From reading previous answers, would you say your choice of fabric evolves from their involvement in the stereotypes your are subverting?

Yes I think they do. I begin with fabrics that people associate with the stereotype and try to deconstruct and develop new sometimes mutated forms from the initial subjects forms and materials. I think a lot of people associate tartan with ‘Britishness’ and gingham checks with tablecloths but they don’t usually see these made into other things and then transformed into something wearable.

What fabric are you using in the new collection?

In my latest collection I have used the things that I associate with the imagery of the 1950’s housewives. Polka dots, checks, ginhams, florals. I imagined the polka dots on a housewifes dress, the stripey shirts of her husband, the checks on her tablecloth, the flowers sitting in a vase on her table. The fabrics I use are a combination of new, vintage and second hand.


As Amelia’s Magazine focuses frequently on sustainable fashion – I wondered if I could could enquire about your thoughts on the following? Would you consider yourself environmentally aware? If so does being aware of the environment impact your work?

I would definitely like to think I am environmentally aware. My fashion degree dissertation was based on what it is to make a company ethical and profitable. Through all the research I learned a lot about how much gets wasted and which companies (Red Mutha, Kate Fletcher, People Tree, Ciel, Junky Styling) are taking steps towards improving their methods and sourcing. I love recycling and upcycling. There’s something exciting about spotting something in a charity shop that others have overlooked. There is also the challenge of trying to make it into something even better! The only downside to this way of working is storage space. My mum has endured my hoarding ways for years and now my poor boyfriend is going to be subject to it.


Are there ways that you think our society can be improved and are you as a designer or as an individual engaged in doing anything about this?

I think the ‘fast fashion’ of today is really damaging. Most customers who pop into town won’t know what goes into their £2.50 t-shirt. I think there have been programmes on television which have tried to highlight this but I can appreciate those on low incomes will completely overlook that when they’re at the till. I don’t think it is going to do much good by trying to educate people and leave it solely in their hands. I think it’s the responsibility of the designers and manufacturers to only offer sustainable options (or as sustainable as possible). As a designer there’s the argument of where do you draw the line at calling something ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’? I don’t usually bring up where my materials come from unless people ask. However I do like to use recycled beads, haberdashery, fabrics etc and combine these with new. I would like to use more and more recycled materials in the future. Sometimes the problem lies in getting good quality second hand materials and I would rather create something combining new and old so that the aesthetic of the work is not compromised.


Where did you study and how did you find the design ethos of the teachers on the MA?

I studied at Birmingham School of Jewellery In the Jewellery Quarter. I found that the course supported ideas, concepts and material investigation. It isn’t about trying to fit into any boxes as far as style or design is concerned. You are really encouraged to develop your own creative handwriting and I learned to be confident in making work that some people might not understand. The work I make is a hybrid of fashion and jewellery; I’ve always struggled to explain it to people when they ask what I do! I’ve found that most people like to be able to explain exactly what something is and they get confused when they see some of my pieces. I think it adds to the fascination but people sometimes reject what they don’t recognise. I think they are happy for you to do anything here, just justify why and that there is a market for it and you can do anything!

What aspects of design make you happy?

So many aspects of designing make me happy! I like to find creative solutions to problems such as how to use the last scrap of vintage fabric effectively; How I can incorporate and combine various colours, fabrics and findings etc. I love creating something that makes other people smile. I think fashion should be fun and daring! It’s a shame that as we get older we sometimes lose that playfulness that we had with our dressing up box. I worked in retail for a couple of years and met such a wide range of interesting people. I was really inspired by peoples reaction to colours, trends etc. One lady told me that despite the credit crunch she wanted the bright orange dress and not the safe black cardigan, That really got me thinking – of course if you only have so much to spend you want to spend it on something that’s got the wow factor! This made me happy!

Find Charlotte Daffern on her new website:

The lovely photographs are by Stuart Upton

Categories ,Charlotte Daffern, ,Paul Smith, ,Tarten, ,Upcycling, ,Vivienne Westwood

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