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Alfred & Wilde: an interview with designer Simon Mitchell

Simon Mitchell introduces his wonderful interiors brand Alfred & Wilde, and reveals the reason for his fascination with the Platonic Solids.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Heart London lifestyle -Alfred&Wilde
I have had my eye on the Alfred & Wilde brand since I first discovered the bold graphic designs of founder Simon Mitchell at the 2014 Tent London exhibition in September last year, and I then convinced him to contribute a special piece about the Platonic Solids for That Which We Do Not Understand, my 10th anniversary book. I caught up with Simon again at the recent Top Drawer at Olympia, and marvelled at the latest additions to his collection: bespoke jewellery created in collaboration with the Wolf & Moon jewellery brand. Here’s the low down on his wonderful style.

Simon Mitchell - Alfred & Wilde
What inspired you to turn from fine art to graphic design?
My fine art practice at university tended to use a lot of graphic design – I created advertising-style posters and lightboxes for my degree show – but the art world never appealed long-term. However, after a few years with an office job I realised I needed a creative outlet, and figured that designing cards and prints might provide this, while also potentially providing a more steady income than being an artist.

Yeshen Venema Photography
How long have you lived in Hackney and how does the area affect your work ethos and design?
I have lived in the area for nearly 7 years now, having lived in North London for four years before that. Both areas – like most of London – have a brilliant mix of people from all over the world, with all the variation in food, music and culture that goes with that. But you really can’t beat Hackney for arts and culture. Hackney Wick is home to the largest community of artists in Europe and Clapton and London Fields are full of the world’s fashion crowd. The city provides constant mental and creative stimulation and is always pushing you to up your game and be better than your peers. I’m not sure how I’d manage if I moved somewhere quieter!

Plywood (black and white) print-Alfred&Wilde
Yeshen Venema Photography  Icosahedron-tea-towel-AlfredWilde
Why are you so enamoured of the Platonic Solids?
I’ve always been a bit of a science geek – I studied natural sciences before fine art – so was keen to reference this in my designs. I was drawn to the Platonic Solids because they have a historical and mathematical significance that is intricately linked to what they look like. The geometric shapes were studied by the ancient Greeks but still manage to look like contemporary graphic designs when printed today.

What is the process of creating your designs?
I’ve got a box full of cuttings and postcards and bit and pieces, plus Pinterest boards, that I use for ideas. But most of my designs are sketched out on my Mac using an open source version of Illustrator called Inkscape. The software can be a bit limiting which has probably helped shape the style Alfred & Wilde style – less is more!

Cube Brooch-Alfred Wilde
How did the collaboration with Wolf and Moon come about?
I thought the Platonic Solids designs would be perfect for jewellery so was on the look out for someone to collaborate with. Luckily a friend of a friend put me in touch with Hannah from Wolf & Moon who loved the idea. It has been great to team up with a fellow Hackney brand with such a strong focus on geometric shapes. They’ve been amazing to work with.

London notebook-Alfred&Wilde
What was the highlight of your recent Top Drawer outing? Any exciting new retail outlets you can share?
Top Drawer was a great platform for Alfred & Wilde and I had interest from some really well respected retailers. I’m particularly pleased about getting new stockists outside of London in places like Brighton. And I’ll soon be stocked in the Southbank Centre shop in London – that’s pretty exciting!

How hard is it to run a business alongside another job, and do you have any tips for other designers in a similar situation?
I never seem to have enough time for Alfred & Wilde which is difficult, and my to-do list seems endless. But keeping my job on a part-time basis has given me an invaluable financial safety net and I couldn’t have started Alfred & Wilde without it. I think its important to have a job that can be really flexible. I’ve been really lucky that if I have an important event or need to wait in for a delivery I can change my days I’m in the office.

What do you hope for the future of Alfred & Wilde?
Whenever I am asked this question I always give the same answer: my dream is to have an Alfred & Wilde HQ in a canalside warehouse in Hackney Wick, with studio space, print facilities, and a cafe, bar and gallery. From there I can run the global design empire!

I wish Simon the best of luck with his plans for the future: let’s hope they happen!


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