At the beginning of the year, thanks to an enthused tip from b Store's very own Matthew Murphy, I stumbled upon the intricately spun laced world of Marwood. Becky French's debut collection as Marwood showcased an exquisitely crafted range of ties and bow ties made with the finest fabrics such as woven silk, wool and traditional English spun lace. I was instantly hooked and have kept an interested on the label ever since. During the heat of menswear week in Paris, French joined the likes of b Store, Berthold, Baartmans and Siegel and Opening Ceremony at the Six London Showroom to showcase her SS12 collection, Camouflage Clouds.
For SS12, influenced by the photography of William Eggleston and painting of Peter Doig, French presents a brighter and more playful collection but still keeps Marwood's signature of matte finished textures and dazzling patterns throughout. Driven by her passion for pattern, colour, nostalgia and detail orientated design, French has developed close working relationships with some of the UK’s most skilled and experienced craftspeople whilst breathing fresh life in to neckwear. She believes in providing a product whilst drawing on and learning from established techniques and methods from the past in teams of craftsmanship and process. The label's neckties celebrate the traditions and techniques of a rich and distinguished heritage, yet still feel modern. Here, she introduces new finishes and fabrics and works with a family run manufacturer that from Sicily who specialise and insist on making solely hand made products. Armed with my camera, I was able to explore the sophomore collection and take a closer look at a few of the latest addition which include fragile lace bow ties from the previous season which have been updated with a pleated technique and solid vivid orange ties...
Shots from Marwood's stand at Six London Showroom
Upon my return to London, I could not resist learning more about Camouflage Clouds and caught up with Becky French to discuss the evolution of the label, how the work of Eggleston and Doig influenced her work and look to the future...
SS: From your ever fascinating blog, Sketchbook, I can see that SS12 was influenced by the photography of William Eggleston and painting of Peter Doig. Firstly what drew you to their work and secondly. How did their work influence the collection?
Becky French: I love William Eggleston's work and in both collections I have used quite luminous, citrus shades as highlights to the palette which are influenced by Eggleston. His ability to make such ordinary subjects so beautiful and unusual looking is very appealing to me. As for Peter Doig's painting I have a book of his work but missed the Tate exhibition a few years ago - this painting of Lapeyrouse Wall felt like the right mood for the summer collection as well as an inspiring colour balance. At first I thought it was a scene from a British seaside (just hopeful) but then discovered it is a poignant location in the artist's current homeland, Trinidad.
SS: Describe Camouflage Clouds in your own words? The offering itself has grown tremendously, could you introduce us to a few of the new arrivals?
Becky French: This is a brighter and more playful collection enjoying the use of colour but still keeping to the Marwood signature of matt finished textures and patterns. Saying that, the solid vivid orange tie uses the back side of the cloth as it was more interesting to me and the silk yarns looped on the back were so much more vibrant than the wool. I avoid a shiny finish on ties but if the texture still creates an unusual surface then it can pass! New pieces are the geometric lace from AW11 in an updated off-white laid over shades of cloud blue and sand and the fragile lace bow tie is updated with a pleated technique. A favourite new fabric is called 'denim silk' in blue and sand colour... it looks like a casual tie and almost feels like jersey but is 100% silk.
SS: When starting Marwood, you made the conscious decision to find and work with the best craftsmen for the job in hand. Having found them in England, SS12 sees you venture to a tie and scarf manufacturer in Sicily who specialise and insist on making solely hand made products.
How did you find them? How was the experience?
Becky French: This factory approached me after seeing a small article on Marwood in Italian 'iO Donna' magazine. They are a family run company who take great pride in their work and produce incredible high end neckwear for some of the most reputable Italian menswear labels. They were in London and showed me some of their work including a pleated silk technique and it inspired me to try pleating the 'fragile' lace. They have made these two wonderful, precious bow ties that now complement the range of English lace bow ties in the offering.
SS: Working with craftsmen and women in factories is a treat for you and the results are never quite what you might have expected beforehand. Did you encounter many pleasant surprises during the creation of Camouflage Clouds?
Becky French: The most challenging part of producing the ties is the lace fabrication and so far it has been the most popular part of the collection! To make the bow ties is a very intricate job due to the fabric and its fragility. I have worked closely with the factories and to find solutions to problems and make new choices along the way to get the right results. This season, experiments like the pleated lace were really satisfying as were playing with colour combinations that worked. Myself and the factories know each other now and the relationship is more established which is helping the process a lot in terms of results and enjoyment.
SS: You've previously conceded that one of the highlights of starting Marwood has been the exploration of one product and delving in to the details of this accessory and learning about its components, its uses and its meanings. What have you learned thus far?
Becky French: I have learnt so much over the last ten months and particularly enjoyed learning how complicated the tie making process is. People are often surprised to learn than 1 meter of silk only produces two ties. It is an accessory that is worn for purely aesthetic reasons yet it is a functional, thoughtful and considered process which creates each tie. I have recently been shown a particular knot finish that an Italian factory have started using in order to avoid being copied in the Far East... they are trying to hold on to their craft and the reputation for hand made products.
SS: You've just returned from partaking in the Six London Showroom in Paris. How was this experience/what has been the buying reaction to the collection?
Becky French: It was a privilege to be a part of the Six London Showroom alongside such quality brands and I was happy to see the new collection receive a positive response. It looks like Marwood ties will be available in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New York by the end of the year - as well as b Store London who have been incredibly supportive from the start and responsible for Marwood getting seen so early on.
SS: Finally, this is now your second full collection as Marwood. How have the last six months been? What would you like to achieve in the next six?
Becky French: A whirlwind! I can't believe it is July already and I am about to start the 3rd collection for Marwood. Every step has been exciting and unexpected so far and I hope to ultimately extend the range gradually whilst keeping it focused. I introduced scarves this season but want to launch these properly in September with an offering for men and women. Coming up are some exciting collaborations - one with b Store and another with a Paris-based designer for some one-off pieces for AW12.
It comes as little surprise that Marwood's well crafted offering has caught the buyer's eye but I'm so pleased that its ties will be available in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New York by the end of the year. With the promise of a couple of exciting collaborations, 2011 looks to be an extremely productive year for the label. To help toast the success of the label, French has sent through her latest look book. Here, Ali Mobasser's photography really captures the collection's wonderful sense of texture and echoes its inspirations perfectly...
SS12 look book shot by Ali Mobasser