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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with British fashion designer Samantha Cole

Colin Dawidziuk chats to Samantha Cole...

Written by Colin Dawidziuk

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

British fashion is normally typified by its quirky features, but Samantha Cole of Samantha Cole London is a stand out star in her own rights. Having presented her collection Identity III: A New Dawn at the London Fashion Week On|Off Presents… show and winning Best Womenswear Designer at New York Fashion Week for Spring Summer 2009, she is truly a force to be reckoned with. In an interview with her, I got to know the inner workings of her creative mind, and pick her brains (er…not literally) about her unique style.

Your Autumn/Winter 2010 collection, Identity III: A New Dawn, made heavy use of your smocking technique, giving the fabrics a beautiful texture. Do you think that this is a key element in the feeling of “coming out, coming through, a fresh start and something new” that you had?

The feeling of coming out and coming through was more from a cleansing point of view and starting over with a clean slate which, in its purest state, was emphasised through the use of white. It was a re-birth into something new that felt almost alien-like and surreal in approach, which can be seen from the styling images of the collection to further enhance this point. 
It is my love of structure, detail, texture and architecture that produced the smocking techniques inspired by the pyramids of Egypt used to create the textured feel to the collection.

Besides your smocking technique, there is an elegance and grace in your clothing, which is arguably difficult to find when using your unique and exaggerated silhouettes. How would you define the style your line exemplifies?

Thank you for that, it’s the first time my work and the words “elegance and grace” have been used in the same sentence. 
My style stems from a definitive point of view, very rarely subtle or subdued. It can be aggressive to further emphasis a point and for the most, be part fearless in its approach. This can be seen in more detail through the styling of my work, it goes beyond the garments to produce a complete overall look of my inspiration which, for the most part, is a combination of both fantasy and reality.

Your previous two collections Identity: A Journey of Self Discovery and Identity II: Warrior, as well as A New Dawn, both feature quite voluminous and textured aspects, especially in the tailored yet feminine qualities. Would you agree in saying that these techniques create an haute-couture element to your designs?

To some degree yes it does, I love detail and textures which does give that couture feel but still like to keep the silhouettes simple at the same time.

Your collections tend to only draw very little influence from modern trends. Every designer in the industry is unique, but do you feel that your collections, such as A New Dawn, allow you stand out like many designers before you, such as the late Alexander McQueen?

I don’t know that I stand out as such, but there are a plethora of creative minds doing similar things who are also unique in their approach. I just do what I want to do regardless of what’s going on around me. 
In regards to my influences, it’s really what I’m drawn to at that time. Though having said that, there is so much to pull from the past, which I find more interesting as a designer to do.

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

You worked on the design team at Burberry before your venture into your own label, leaving that uniquely British imprint on your designs. Do you feel that your designs exemplify what British fashion is all about?

British fashion for me has always been about creativity, individuality, eccentricity, rebellion and the freedom to explore your skills and talent to the fullest. It’s the complete and total abandonment that you can only get here in the UK, which is why I love this country so much and why it’s such a perfect fit for me. So in answer to your question, yes, I do believe that my designs exemplify what british fashion is all about.

Arguably, there is a lack of popularity among British brands in the market, with the exception of the likes of Burberry, and that consumers aren’t really aware of other labels. Do you feel that, as an award-winning British label, there is a need to promote the rebellious and eccentric natures? Do you feel that Samantha Cole London could be a potential front-runner in promoting these British natures?

I don’t look to what the industry wants, expects or requires. It’s not intentional to rebel or to be seen as different, and I’m personally so overwhelmed with the outpouring of so much commerciality, that I’m sometimes bored to tears. I’m not here to raise the flag or be a front runner but just to be me and express my thoughts and ideas through what I do. It’s why I got into the industry in the first place – I have something to say, it may be considered rebellious, but it’s just an opinion. Something I don’t go out of my way or ethos to express, and definitely wouldn’t, is consider myself a poster child or otherwise to what you call “British natures”….I’m just me, doing me.

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

With the head scratching, questions out of the way, I took it upon myself to ask Miss Cole a few quick fire questions:

Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them?

Constructing them for me is the fun part, the first garment mostly sets the path for the rest of the collection and i never end up with what I sketched anyway, so it is sometimes a waste of my time

What do you like the most about designing your clothes?

Experimenting with textures and details

How would you define your personal style in three words?

Dark, understated, confused

What does fashion mean to you in three words?

Creativity, rebellion, individuality

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to follow in your footsteps and do fashion design?

I think if it is their dream and passion they should go for it. It will be stressful, tiring, exhausting, most days feel like an emotional rollercoaster and it can be disheartening but as long as they stay true to the dream and the passion they started with and are in it for the right reasons, then I say great!!…The fashion industry is an amazing place to be, and design is the hub of creativity.

You can see more of Samantha Cole’s collections on her website, and read our review of the On|Off Presents… show here.

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