Next week sees the launch of a collaborative range I have been working on with the wonderful Helen Ruth Scarves. Helen Ruth is another wonderful Aberdeen based design brand specialising in digitally printed silk and wool scarves created from her magical illustrations. It has been a joy to create this range together and even better to work on such a great project and give us an excuse to see each other more!
The Collection is due to launch on Thursday 21st October at 7pm GMT on my website - keep an eye on both of our social media accounts for updates and design reveals until then!
- How did the collaboration happen, what sparked the idea?
Helen - It all started just almost a year ago when we were hosting a pop up shop at John Lewis in Aberdeen - we had been discussing where we were going with our brands and what the following years plans and ideas were, and I mentioned that I was working on a limited edition scarf to mark my ten years of Helen Ruth Scarves. I’d also considered offering alongside this commemorative scarf having some other limited edition pieces and potentially working with another designer to create these. We already really admired each others work - and seeing it for the first time sat together in a retail space we could see how well our colour palette and designs looked together - so of course it was very easy to get carried away and start dreaming up a collection together!
Rachel – I had been a long standing admirer of Helen’s work and over the last couple of years we had ended up exhibiting at the same design events and becoming firm friends. It was so appealing to work with another designer who shares my values and vision. We both run our businesses solo, and this can be a lonely way to work sometimes so it was wonderful to work closely together to develop the range.
- What was it about each other’s work/practice that made you want to create something together?
Helen - Well first off, I’m a big fan of Rachel’s work and brand ethos - creating pieces that are designed with functionality in mind, and with the capacity to stand the test of time both in durability and classic styling. Aside from creating quite different ranges of accessories, we actually have quite a lot in common - we both love bold colour, have a passion for craft and traditional skills, and both create with a responsible ethos in mind. Until we spent time curating the pop-up shop at John Lewis last year, we hadn’t really seen our work sitting side by side, and there was just something about the block colours and shapes of Rachel’s bags in contrast with the intricate prints and details of my scarves that just really worked and got us excited to create something together.
Rachel - As I don’t work in pattern design myself, it is always a dream to be able incorporate amazing patterns like those Helen produces in my work. It is easy to buy patterned fabric off the shelf, but working with another independent small business is so much more special. It also allowed me to explore some new designs that married really well with the luxurious style of Helen’s brand.
- Where there any constraints to consider?
Helen - of course as with all projects there are constraints, and in a lot of ways this is a good thing as it makes you consider creative options to work around them. Limited time, costs and not forgetting a pandemic were all things to consider. We had to work around covid restrictions for meeting up to look at fabrics and combinations as this is so much better done in person. The cost was a big factor, as using specially printed fabrics jumps the price up from using standard cloth. But I think we managed to juggle these factors well and have come up with something really special!
Rachel – with any new exciting project is can be so tempting to just jump into it completely and forget everything else that is going on around you! We had to balance the excitement for a new project and working together, with the very real realities of the rest of our lives and business. As Helen has mentioned it was very tempting to just let our imagination (and budget) get completely carried away! We had to consider each of our customer bases to ensure there were designs that appealed to both whilst also some that would introduce our work to the others in a new and exciting way.
- What did you each learn about each other’s practice and did this make you reflect on your own practice differently?
Helen - It was really interesting for me to work on taking my prints from being a flat ‘artwork’ normally worn as a decorative accessory, to something that would be 3D and a much more functional, hard-wearing item that would get more heavy use. I’ve made clothing and other accessories from my prints before, but nothing that potentially would need to be as hard wearing as a bag. Things to consider were the type of fabric, how the print would wear over time, and the layout of the print to work within a 3D object. We went for hard-wearing fabrics in heavy cotton and cotton velvets, which will stand the test of being handled, brushed against, and potential rubbing from items in your bag like keys and hard objects. The layout of the print was also interesting, having to be very accurate with measurements and composition to make sure it worked within Rachel’s carefully worked out dimensions - the inner pocket on the bucket totes is pattern match perfection! It was also really interesting to see all the consideration Rachel puts into her designs to make them so pleasingly functional! Things like adding key clips, pockets and even where the straps go to make the balance and comfort of the bag just right.
Rachel – the digital design element of Helen’s work blew me away. Everything is hand drawn and illustrated at the outset, but the digitisation then allows manipulation of the sizes, colours and pattern placements in such an amazing way. It allowed us to include design features like pattern matching, having the patterns appear the right way up both sides of the lining of the totes and pulling features out on a larger scale for the clutches. It was really interesting having to consider the aesthetic of the pattern when considering sizes and construction methods for the pieces. As I usually work in block colours this was a nice new design challenge.
- Tell us about your favourite piece in the collection.
Helen - It’s really hard to pick one favourite as I love them all, but for the sake of this blog I’m going to talk about the bucket totes, as I think they perfectly sum up the collaboration. From the outside they have a very practical appearance. We purposefully went for quite a classic/modest colour palette for these to contrast with the riot of colour and pattern on the inside of the bag, and I think it really shows off our two worlds but working together in great harmony! I also enjoyed the challenge of working out the pattern match for the inner pockets on these, and reworking the placement of the print so there is almost a garland of foliage running around the top of the lining. I actually have one of Rachel’s bucket tote bags already so I know how great they are for everyday use - and what’s really nice about these ones is the outer colours will go with almost anything, and then you have this fun lining that you’ll get occasional flashes of and just feels really cheerful.
Rachel – I think Helen has highlighted a definite favourite for both of us in the bucket totes. But my other favourite is definitely the clutch bag. This is absolutely the most luxurious combination of materials and design I have produced before. It was so wonderful working with the velvet. A huge part of most of my designs is that they are useful so a huge range of occasions, hard wearing or really practical and easy to slip into your everyday life. The clutches are a really special, extravagant design and it was lovely to indulge in this. What I do love about them though it that whilst they are perfect on a fancy night out or at a wedding, they would look amazing with a great white t-shirt and jeans to just add a bit of glamour.
- Would we want to collaborate again? Plans for future designs or collections?
Helen - Definitely yes! I feel like answering this is like at the end of first dates when they ask if you will see each other again! But honestly this project has been a total joy to work on, I think we have similar mind sets and both enjoyed the process of working with another designer, and both get very excited about the same things! It’s all felt like the project came together very naturally. During the initial design process there was so many ideas we had to cut out so as not to get overwhelmed, so there are still plenty designs we’d love to try out in the future.
Rachel – Oh my gosh YES!! Oh we definitely will be cooking some more work up together I have no doubt. I have absolutely loved working together and it has been so much fun having someone to bounce ideas off and to see where this takes the creative process. Keep your eyes peeled for some one offs and hopefully some more collections in the future.
The collection will go live on Hackley’s online shop on Thursday 21st October 2021 at 7pm GMT