As AW16 pieces start hitting the stores for the impending cooler months, it’s a great time to talk to a designer that specialises in dressing us for a cosy winter’s day. A staple during autumn/winter and a favourite of Editor Natasha, British Style Bloggers talks to London based designer knitwear Caitlin Charles-Jones. Following her debut show at Graduate Fashion Week in 2012, Caitlin won the prestigious Visionary Knitwear Award and in addition to this Caitlin was also named “Knitwear Graduate of the Year from Kingston University”.
Take a look at Caitlin’s inspiration and vision for her label and her insights into the fashion industry.
Caitlin, give us a little insight into your creative background.
I’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer; I remember drawing outfits for my friends in the playground at primary school before I knew you could do it as a career! I have a very creative family, my parents run an interior design business and my grandmother is a sculptor so I think creativity is in the genes to some extent. I did a foundation degree at London College of Fashion followed by my BA degree at Kingston University. It was at Kingston that I specialised in knitwear and then went on to complete my Masters degree at the Royal College of Art.
Who was your influence when you started your own label?
My parents are self-employed so that has had a huge influence on me; I always knew that ultimately I would never be completely satisfied working for someone else. My parents and friends and family are hugely supportive and believe in me and without that I think starting my business would have been so much harder.
What have been your key inspirations for your design and concepts?
I always start my research by reading, it’s often a word or phrase that triggers a theme. I’m always inspired by architecture and landscapes and I always like to have an artist as a reference. In the past I’ve looked at Frank Stella who is one of my all time favourite artists, and this season I’ve been looking at Sonia Delaunay.
Describe is the essence of your label?
I have the idea that the most beautiful things are the simplest. I have a fairly clean aesthetic so my label has a real focus on wearable clothing combined with innovative textiles.
Why does your label stand out in this competitive industry?
The aspects that I see as my signature are my use of colour, easy shapes and the idea that my clothes are actually wearable. I often get feedback that it’s refreshing to see garments that people can really see themselves living in, they’re not intimidating or overpowering. Also I think specialising in knitwear is a bit unusual.
Are there enough opportunities for emerging designers to showcase their designs and enter this competitive industry?
I think there are a lot of opportunities but you really have to go out and find them. Fashion is a tough industry so you can’t wait around for opportunities to find you, you really have to be proactive and put the effort in. There are lots of people and organisations within the industry that are willing to help but you have to reach out.
Is the fashion industry campaigning enough for boutique labels and recognising emerging talent?
I think fashion is always looking for something new, which bodes well for emerging brands but like anything it’s a hard and often slow process to build up recognition. In a difficult economy it’s often hard for a new brand to get that first stockist but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to look and give feedback.
Describe is your ideal customer?
Someone who appreciates the quality, craftsmanship and provenance of my pieces and who will enjoy mixing them into their unique style.
What has been your most memorable success to date?
Since starting the label I think my biggest success was securing my first stockist in my first season and being selected for the Boden/BFC initiative, Future British.
What has been the most challenging stage when bringing your fashion label into the industry?
The whole thing has been one enormous challenge. Cashflow is always hard; I started by doing a lot of freelance work to build up capital to get me going. I now have most of the machinery I need to produce my pieces to a standard I am happy with but in the beginning I had to be fairly creative in finishing my pieces because I didn’t have access to all the necessary machinery.
Tell us your fashion label’s signature style?
Easy shapes, unusual colours, colour blocking, intricate textiles, clean construction.
What are the key images you want to portray when people see or hear your label?
Quality. Craftsmanship. Colour. Strong Femininity.
On a personal note, how would you describe your style?
Like my work I wear mostly simple shapes, nothing too fitted, but I’m quite flexible with my style and I like to change it up depending on my mood.
What is your hope for the future of the label?
I would love to be stocked in major luxury stores as well as have a strong e-commerce aspect. I always want to have an atelier where I create the really unusual pieces, work with outworkers and craftspeople and have the staple pieces produced by UK manufacturers.
British Style Bloggers would like to thank Caitlin for taking the time to give us her insight and thoughts on her own label and the industry. Please do check out her collections at www.caitlincharles-jones.com.