In celebration of fashion design in the lead up to London Fashion Week, we are interviewing British designers for a special showcase on innovative design and insight to the industry. Editor Natasha had the pleasure of talking to Anneli Nowroz, Creative Director of Monks On Vacation on her thoughts on the industry and inspirations behind this stylish brand.
Anneli, give us a little insight into your creative background
I lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and while I was there I set up a small clothing and accessories company. This gave me the experience of working with manufacturers and designers but on my return to the UK I knew the British fashion industry had so much more to offer Monks On Vacation. The UK has some of the most innovative and talented fabric and garment producers, which are vital to a slow fashion brand like us. In addition we have working partners which allow easy communication, responsible production and fabulous quality in our end products.
Who was your influence when you started your own label?
Two of my grandparents worked in textiles and the leather footwear industry in Leicester. They were artisanal in their approach, with intricate attention to detail and quality. I wanted these values to be reflected in our brand too.
What have been your key inspirations for your design and concepts?
Travel, nature, and art. Colour and unusual textures or use of fabric are also very inspiring for our design.
Describe the essence of your label?
To create garments which reflect a modern lifestyle, and that can be worn comfortable and easily while retaining a simple sophistication. We are a slow fashion company designing versatile and transitional pieces which can be worn all year round.
Tell us why Monks on Vacation stands out in this competitive industry?
I think we’re quite distinctive in that we have all of our fabrics knitted in the UK, as well as producing all of our garments in the UK. We also aim to keep our collections small and limited, focusing on pieces that are transitional and can be worn in different ways and combinations, so your purchase really is a stable element of your wardrobe.
Are there enough opportunities for emerging designers to showcase their designs and enter this competitive industry?
There is always room for more opportunity and currently there are quite a few effective online platforms, which are great for small designers such as us. Social media remains a powerful tool, and we’ve been lucky to have been supported by some fabulous bloggers which is a great way to showcase your products. While seeing your brand in a high street window can be exciting, selling into boutiques can sometimes be counterproductive for small brands due the nature of wholesale pricing, and onerous obligations. However recognising the importance of connecting with our customers we frequently participate in trunk shows and pop up venues, which are becoming more popular, especially outside of London.
In your opinion is the fashion industry campaigning enough for boutique labels and recognising emerging talent?
I think it’s very supportive on the design and production front, and have found that with our own producers and manufacturers. I think the main issue for emerging brands remains getting any major mainstream coverage to showcase their products, without paying for expensive advertising campaigns. It’s the market awareness piece that needs attention if we want smaller, niche brands to emerge.
Who is Monks On Vacation’s ideal customer?
Our collections are aimed at customers enjoying a varied and busy lifestyle, who value quality, beauty and creativity in what they are wearing whatever the occasion.
What has been your most memorable success to date?
Achieving our first collection, including the shoot for the website, and seeing our products featured online.
Tell us what has been the most challenging stage when bringing your fashion label into the industry?
Finding a slot in the manufacturing process.We are small and tend to have to fit in around the bigger guys! But we do have a fabulous working relationship with our factory and fabric manufacturers, who have really helped us out with our small runs. But sometimes it’s simply getting the logistics of the fabrics being knitted to fit in with our short notice production runs that causes a few headaches!
Describe the brands signature style?
Working glamourous styles such as our Ella or Maisie dress in gorgeous luxe knitted fabrics, which can be dressed up in heels or equally dressed down with a pair of converse, and by doing so the garment takes on a completely different look and feel.
What are the key images you want to portray when people see or hear Monks On Vacation?
Stylishly sophisticated garments which have been created by talented and dedicated artisan producers in a responsible way.
On a personal note, how would you describe your style?
I love my dress down days in our Rushy pants and Walberswick sweat in which I can relax on the sofa with a good book, or equally feel great dashing round the local supermarket or enjoying a walk on the beach! However I also love to dress up in something eye catching such as the Maisie dress which also features a unique print by Scottish print designer Katie Charleson. I think the combination of these two elements of my personality have definitely influenced the design features and wearability of the collections so far.
What is your hope for the future of the Monks On Vacation?
To continue to build and develop further niche collections which inspire our customers. Customers who are not only buying into MOV, but also into a more transitional slow fashion brand and more ethical way of adding to their wardrobe.