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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Modern Love: S/S 2012 Preview Interview with designer Sarah Arnett

Meet Sarah Arnett, one half of fashion design duo Modern Love, a label that is exclusively stocked at Liberty. She's a super talented lady with an inspiring career that spans illustration, interior design and of course fashion.

Written by Amelia Gregory

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
Sarah-Harnett-by-Laura-Griffin
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.

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