Tell us a bit about your background before you launched BRAE. After leaving university and before launching BRAE I worked for various design companies throughout the UK. Some very established brands and some still up and coming, which gave me a well-rounded view of the industry as a whole. I've gained skills working in very traditional, almost feather and quill type art studios to learning how to keep up in fast paced, tech-only design studios. I felt that it was necessary to get as much experience behind me as possible to gain the confidence I needed to start my own brand. I started laying the foundations for BRAE last December so it's almost been a year in the making, and it's been a massive amount of work but I've loved every minute of it.
What drove you to start your own textile business? Throughout my career I have always found myself in a position that helps companies start a new venture, whether it be the launch of a new design or colourway, a new collection or even a completely new sister brand. Being involved in the entire process, from trend research and design conception to the product development and the ultimate store launch is something that really excites me, so it felt only natural to start doing the same process for myself. The opportunity to have creative freedom was a huge deciding factor as well and I think I'm happiest when I have my product developer hat on. Sometimes my imagination can run wild with all of the development opportunities within a design. I love exploring all of the different options and now with my own brand I can actually spend the time fine tuning them and turning them into reality, I just think its so exciting and it keeps me very motivated.
Tell us about your process, how do your ideas come to life? I like to do a lot of research! I think research is such an important tool in a designer's bag of tricks. Whether it's researching trends, current affairs and popular culture or traditional techniques. I quite often lose myself in the research process when making my mood boards and colour palettes. The deeper I delve, the more likely I'm going to come up with something that's completely my own and original to BRAE. Most of the time I don't really focus on an end goal with my moodboards and they can often take a lot of re-working. When I'm 100% confident in the theme I'll take it to the next step, which is usually hand drawing and painting or hand dyeing fabric, playing with texture, colour and form. I love the fluidity and the unexpected aspect of working by hand, there is something so beautiful about something that hasn't been too crafted and perfected. Whilst I love the wonders of Photoshop and I certainly couldn't live without it, I also love the idea of ink over pixels. Overall, for BRAE, a healthy mix of both is key!
We think its great you consider sustainability, is this something that has always been important to you when creating textiles? Definitely! I'm very passionate about it and I think it's so very important to protect our beautiful planet and the people who live here. Recycling is huge for me and all of the packaging materials for BRAE are made from recycled components. I'm also dedicated to creating a brand that is an extension of my own beliefs and that's why I'm so proud of Brae's 100% made in the UK ethos. As consumers, I think it's far too easy for us to forget about our ecological footprint and in particular the devastating consequences of fast fashion. Materials and labour are expensive so if you are buying something with a very cheap price tag then you can be fairly certain that someone, somewhere is working in pretty poor conditions in order for you to get that cheap fix. Or at the very least, cheap pesticides or dirty fossil fuels were used somewhere along the manufacturing process. I hate the idea of big corporations exploiting workers and in this day and age it's inexcusable. I urge people to think about the consequences of their actions. Choose well and buy less - live by that and you're fine.
We love your use of bold colours and patterns, what inspires this? For me it's usually nature and the vivid colours all around me. I'm really lucky in a sense though, that I get inspiration from almost anything and I'm a very visual person. My mind is constantly looking at things, trying to figure out how I could translate what I see into a drawing or a painting. I particularly love the contradiction between the delicacy of flowers and the wildness of the Scottish landscape. I love a good contradiction and the idea of things fighting against the odds, an underdog so to speak. That's how I feel about a lot of the flowers in the Scottish Landscape so I'm quite often drawn to them. Water also played a huge part in the inspiration for the BRAE AW16 collection. I love the erratic but beautiful patterns that are created when paint or dye mixes with water.
At the moment you focus on creating unique luxurious scarves, have you always been passionate about fashion? Would you consider designing for interiors in the future? Funnily enough, for most of my career I have been primarily involved in the interior industry. When I branched out on my own I knew that I wanted to incorporate both sides of the industry into BRAE but I also wanted to step away from what I have done previously and be seen in my own right, so I decided to focus on establishing my brand in the fashion industry before branching into interiors. I wanted a challenge and I certainly got one! I'm hoping to launch some interior pieces into my collection as early as next year though, so watch this space!
Where do you see BRAE in 5 years time? Well firstly I want to expand my own product base. I like the idea of a men's silk collection and I will definitely be branching into interior textiles and hopefully ceramics too at some point. My main goal however is for my website, THE BRAE EMPORIUM to become a place where new, up and coming designers can sell their designs too. This has always been my end game and the reason I named my website THE BRAE EMPORIUM. BRAE is my brand and the name of the label but THE BRAE EMPORIUM website will hopefully become a home for carefully selected and curated design talent. I'm already on the look out for other brands that complement BRAE and would like to hope that I could be approaching other designers in this way as early as next year.
What advice can you give to other textile designers looking to start their own business? To be 100% confident in yourself, your designs and your core values is the first step. Confidence is infectious and if you are confident in yourself other people will be confident in you as well. The second step would be to realise that starting your own business is completely achievable, it's not a pipe dream and with a lot of hard work it's very much a reality. Sure, you're going to do a few late nights - okay more than a few but the end result is incredibly rewarding. Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help, very few people have ever got to where they are without asking for help. Constructive feedback is a powerful tool and it's basically gold dust when you're working for yourself but you need to keep your core values at the heart of things and know when something isn't right for your brand. At the end of the day it's your ideas, your heart and soul and YOUR late nights that you are pouring into it, so you just have to own it.