Amelia’s Magazine | Modern Love: S/S 2012 Preview Interview with designer Sarah Arnett

Modern Love by Ola Szpunar
Modern Love by Ola Szpunar.

Sarah Arnett is a multi talented designer who just happened to train at the same university as me. She graduated the year above, and since then has had an extremely interesting and varied career – from contributing illustrations to Amelia’s Magazine to creating a beautiful fashion line that is exclusively stocked in Liberty – it seems she is capable of turning her hand to all aspects of design! Prepare to be very inspired….

Modern Love SS12
sarah arnett Modern Love by angela lamb
Modern Love by Angela Lamb.

You’ve had an eclectic career, training firstly in woven textiles for fashion on the same course as me at Brighton Uni, and then moving into illustration, interior design and back into the world of fashion. Can you tell us more about your journey across these disciplines?
I found it very difficult to decide what to do in the first place, all I knew was that I wanted to go to art college, I grew up with a family of designers and makers so being able to sew and paint seemed normal and I used to watch my father work in his studio, everyone was able to draw, paint… in fact my great uncle designed fabrics for Liberty. Things happen in your life like having children, and other things become important… it’s the same with my work, other things become more exciting and more important. I am totally inspired by the process and that drives me to try more things. It’s an exciting time for crossing over disciplines and I have always just thought of my self as a designer… It could be fashion, interiors… or illustration. I am so inspired by working on a range of projects; in the last couple of years year I have shown in a couple of exhibitions at Somerset House, worked on Modern Love, designed the new look of the uniform for the National Trust, as well as creating illustrations for The Sunday Times Style Magazine. I also design a small bridal collection that I sell through a vintage shop in Brighton… and there is a long list of other things that I want to do!

Modern Love SS12
Modern Love by Laura Griffin.

What is the highlight of working across disciplines?
No day is the same….

Modernlove ss12 Long v neck dress
And what have been the difficult parts?
I love and hate fashion, sometimes I think it’s a frivolous waste of time and on the other hand can make someone feel beautiful and have a real impact on their life… I don’t think I am a fashionable person and have never felt very comfortable in my own skin, but I am and have always been fascinated by clothes. I find fashion a very big challenge. The stress of running your own business is hard work, as is that freelancer’s worry of where the next job will be coming from… and there is always self doubt. But I look at all of these as things that drive me on to try and do better.

Sarah Arnett Modern Love by Isher Dhiman
Sarah Arnett’s Modern Love by Isher Dhiman.

Why did you name your clothing brand Modern Love?
Myself and my business partner Kim Hunt really liked the idea of a name that encompassed what we felt and admired about good design. The Love of beauty, vintage, heritage and the feminine and the Modern… a way of thinking, responsibility to the environment, ethical and local manufacturing, our vision, our way of working and maintaining a good work/life balance for ourselves (we did have our production meeting on the beach over looking a very calm sea today!) and a reference to David Bowie never hurt anyone! I

Modern Love print design SS 2012
Print design from the current collection.

For S/S 2012 Modern Love is all about a mix of tropical and country garden prints – described as earthy African hues meet the soft English sky (love that description) Where did you find inspiration for the imagery?
I find that I am constantly working and re-working the same themes which are a mix of my African, big sunshine early influences and my love of the softer, rolling South Downs up-bringing. I can’t ever choose between them. If I admire or value or find something beautiful or fascinating I am drawn to design with it, I think it’s a very similar sensation to eating something or collecting things. It’s a different way of owning or tasting something. I draw it.

Modern Love print design SS 2012
How do you reconcile living on the sometimes rainy south coast of Brighton with your fabulous African childhood? Are there ways to bring a bit of African sunshine back into your life?!
In a strange way having the coast and that big expanse of water and sky to look can be as dramatic and uplifting as the sunshine and dry African plains: I walk down to the sea every day I possibly can, it’s very important to me. Without it I would hate the winter even more than I do! My ideal situation would be six months here, six months there. 

Modern Love print design SS 2012
How easy is it to design shapes to suit your prints, or do you begin the other way around?
The collection starts out with shapes and a woman in mind first. Then I feel like I have to think about that woman, what she would wear and start to fit the prints around it. It’s always a bit of a narrative, there has to be a reason for the print to be there. Quite often we will find an image of a woman for each season and then we will always question whether she will wear each design. Kim and I design the shapes together so we talk and talk and draw and have to justify why it has to be there. Once we have the bones of the collection together I go into my own world for a few weeks getting the new prints together. I like to engineer the print to the pattern pieces of the garment.

Modern Love print design SS 2012
Why did you decide to print the fabrics in Como, Italy?
There is a fantastic tradition of textiles in Como. I first went there when I did a work placement in Switzerland. We were very near to Como and visited it often. If you have to choose a location for a factory visit, I can’t imagine anything more beautiful! The printers I work with have printed in a traditional way for a couple of generations and then moved over to digital twenty years ago when it was first being experimented with. The laying down of pigment, whether via digital or by screen print, is only part of the process. They are very skilled in the handling and finishing of the fabrics which makes them feel beautiful and gives them a longevity. The digital process is much cleaner than traditional screen printing and uses far less water and energy. I like the tradition and the finesse of the final production. What they lack in delivering on time they make up in the detail and quality!

Modern Love SS12
Modern Love SS12 5
Modern Love by Nanae Kawahara
Modern Love by Nanae Kawahara.

Who are the craftspeople who make the collection for you? Can you introduce us to them!
Brighton is so full of talented machinists and pattern cutters, it’s a very sociable place and over the years I have met lots of people I can call on to help me. I have used the same machinists for the last ten years. They work form home and small studios as well as working for me they are working for lots of top designers; a good machinist is worth her weight in gold! There used to be a lot of small garment factories in the area and it’s a shame they have all disappeared. There is a new initiative called The Fashion Trust based in Sussex which is trying to pull all the local resources together which will be great for designer just starting up.

Modern Love SS12
Sarah Arnett Modern Love by Jacqueline Valencia
Sarah Arnett’s Modern Love by Jacqueline Valencia.

Modern Love is stocked exclusively in Liberty – a dream for most clothing brands. How did you get the label into this most prestigious of shops?
Well, Liberty made it very easy, even with beautiful photographs and constant emailing it’s very difficult to get the attention of the buyers unless you see them face to face at a show. We lined up with everyone else at their Best Of British Open Call and were the only womens wear brand to have got through last year. It was a great experience because at least you knew you had a few minutes of complete attention to show your collection in the flesh. I think it has been a great success and we feel very proud to have our collection there, especially since it was our first goal when starting Modern Love.

Modern Love SS12
Modern Love SS12
Find Modern Love at Liberty right here.

Categories ,africa, ,Angela Lamb, ,Best of British, ,Best Of British Open Call, ,Bridal, ,brighton, ,Como, ,David Bowie, ,fashion, ,Fashion Textiles, ,illustration, ,Interior Design, ,Isher Dhiman, ,Italy, ,Jacqueline Valencia, ,Kim Hunt, ,Laura Griffin, ,liberty, ,Modern Love, ,Nanae Kawahara, ,National Trust, ,Ola Szpunar, ,print, ,Sarah Arnett, ,Somerset House, ,Sunday Times Style Magazine, ,Sussex, ,The Fashion Trust, ,University of Brighton, ,vintage, ,Woven Textiles

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Amelia’s Magazine | The ACOFI Book Tour visits Castor and Pollux in Brighton

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 -000

Art and design shop Castor and Pollux is situated in three airy arches on Brighton seafront, ampoule a location that was formerly public loos and then a yoga studio.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011
The view outside the shop. How gorgeous is this?

The arches now house a beautifully curated collection of well designed goodies: there’s a kids’ section, for sale a book section, a gallery space and lots of cards, note books, homewares and hand made jewellery. It’s all highly desirable, so I’m super happy that my Roger La Borde cards now have a home in Castor and Pollux alongside Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration. You really must visit the shop if you are in Brighton!

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011

Unfortunately I arrived last night for my ACOFI Book Tour with very little time to spare. (Thankyou traffic, in the four years since my beloved Cinquecento departed for the great car graveyard in the sky London streets have started to resemble the chaos of cities like Delhi, what with all the large trucks a-honkin’ and a-hootin’ at each other). Luckily April was on hand to help me shift piles of books down onto the seafront – aided by Suki and Alice Pattullo, who studied illustration at Brighton.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 postcards
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 ALICE Pattullo and April
Alice Pattullo and April of Castor and Pollux.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Suki, Alice with a guest
Suki and Alice with a guest.

I should have known that if I went to Brighton I was bound to bump into some people who studied on the same course as me at University of Brighton (Ba Hons Fashion Textiles with Business Studies since you ask). Turns out the fabulous illustrator Sarah Arnett, who I first discovered at Pick Me Up (and who has since started contributing to Amelia’s Magazine) was in fact a few years ahead of me.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Sarah Arnett
Lovely Sarah Arnett.

Sarah has taken an interesting route to illustration – she specialised in weave at college (we had a choice of print, knit or weave) and then went into the textiles swatch trade, before setting up a small studio making clothes that ended up becoming a shop. She only discovered the joy of illustration when a friend bartered some Illustrator lessons in exchange for a dress. Now, not only does she produce gorgeous illustrations, but she has also recently launched the most BEAUTIFUL collection of clothes featuring her inimitable flower designs. The label is called Modern Love and you can find it in Liberty.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Lou Taylor, Jo Vintage Brighton, Kate Jenkins, April
Lou Taylor, Jo of Vintage Brighton, Kate Jenkins and April.

When Kate Jenkins turned up I recognised her instantly, and not because we have run multiple blogs featuring her unique knitted artworks. She looked familiar because she too was the year above me at Brighton. How wonderful to discover that Brighton fashion textiles graduates are doing such diverse and interesting things that have fed into the world of Amelia’s Magazine.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Juiceology
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Angel Food Bakery
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Angel Food Bakery.

Before my talk started guests had a chance to once again try out the lovely Juiceology juices, which I have decided are a bit like a juice equivalent of Refreshers sweeties – they have such a wonderful tang to them, quite unlike any other juice I’ve tasted. April had also managed to source some outstanding cupcakes from the Angel Food Bakery – who, quite without my knowledge, had baked the most beautiful buttery creations featuring a transfer design of the Amelia’s Magazine logo.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Lahloo tea

This time round I also had a moment to drink a few cups of Lahloo Tea, and can confirm that both the Peppermint and Darjeeling were absolutely delicious, served very prettily in tea cosy covered china teapots. There were also of course samples of Dr.Hauschka aplenty to take away, much appreciated by those in attendance.

There were plenty of other interesting people at Castor and Pollux, and here’s a selection of those that I managed to talk to:

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Paul from Chichester
Paul had come all the way from Chichester on behalf of his girlfriend… and he’d sneaked out a copy of her issue 2 for me to sign for her birthday (hope she’s not reading this) which I thought was incredibly sweet. Fortunately he didn’t seem at all daunted by the heavy female quotient: sadly one boy ran away before my talk began. Boys, please come and meet me, my talk is just as much for you! I’d also really like to encourage as many people as possible to come and talk to me at the remaining talks… I want to hear what you are up to so that I can give your creative projects as much exposure as possible.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Sarah Meredith and Matilda
ACOFI book tour rock cakes pumpkin ring
Sarah Meredith of Rock Cakes could only stay for a little while because her little girl Matilda needed to get home for bed, but she too had brought along some back copies for me to sign. She was sporting some fantastic rings from her dainty jewellery collection – I particularly love the enamelled pumpkin and the cute birds which sit together as if talking. You can find more of her designs on the Rock Cakes website and on Etsy.

ACOFI book tour angel food bakery cupcakes
ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Angel Food Bakery
Me chomping on a cupcake from the Angel Food Bakery.

Also present was Lou Taylor, who has also recently started contributing to Amelia’s Magazine. She has been using paper art to create the most amazing props for many years, but illustration is a new thing. I think her paper cut techniques work marvellously well as illustration – see her CocknBullKid illustration for example – and am glad she has found a place to showcase this new work.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Jessie Ford
I also met illustrator Jessie Ford, whose website you can check out here.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Racheal Brooks, Racheal Stott, Verity Brown, Judith Wilding
Racheal Brooks, Racheal Stott, Verity Brown, Judith Wilding

Judith Wilding of Delicious Industries is a graphic designer, who keeps a great blog about old school design.

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Verity Brown
Verity Brown shows me her portfolio.

A few recent graduates of my course turned up just as I was finishing my talk and one had been savvy enough to bring her portfolio of lovely fashion illustrations to show me. They missed most of the part where I talk about how you absolutely have to be online and engaged with social media to promote yourself as an up and coming creative, but I hope they will listen to my advice as, unbelievably, none of them had any web presence at all! I wish my old course would ask me back to teach the students a bit more about self promotion and marketing for creatives…

ACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Verity BrownACOFI book tour Castor Pollux Art 2011 Verity Brown
Illustrations by Verity Brown.

Jo of Vintage Brighton has very speedily blogged about my talk last night, so you can find out more about it by hopping over here. Thankyou Jo!

As I upload this blog I am sitting in the Pegasus Theatre cafe in Oxford and in a few minutes I have to get along to the next date on my #ACOFI Book Tour. Tonight I will be talking at Comma Shop at about 7.30pm tonight: please do join me from 6pm to network, eat Good Biscuits, taste a new G&D ice-cream flavour and learn how to make button rosettes with Custon Made UK. Then tomorrow I will be rolling on up to Bristol to speak at the Soma Gallery. It’s all very exciting because I love meeting so many different creative communities, so do come and join me at one of these venues soon and tell me what you’re up to. I am back at Tatty Devine in Brick Lane on Tuesday 7th June. Over and out.

Categories ,ACOFI, ,Alice Pattullo, ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,Angel Food Bakery, ,brighton, ,Castor and Pollux, ,Cinquecento, ,CocknBullKid, ,Comma Shop, ,cupcakes, ,Custon Made UK, ,Delicious Industries, ,Dr.Hauschka, ,G&D Cafe, ,G&D ice-cream, ,Good Biscuits, ,Ice Cream, ,Jessie Ford, ,Judith Wilding, ,Juiceology, ,Kate Jenkins, ,Lahloo Tea, ,liberty, ,Lou Taylor, ,Modern Love, ,Oxford, ,Pegasus Theatre, ,Racheal Brooks, ,Racheal Stott, ,Rock Cakes, ,Roger La Borde, ,Sarah Arnett, ,Sarah Meredith, ,Soma Gallery, ,Tatty Devine, ,University of Brighton, ,Verity Brown, ,Vintage Brighton

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