This coat was a bespoke commission for a mother of the bride who wanted to keep warm on the day! She wanted a royal blue cashmere coat so I delivered it with a twist. The base fabric was purchased new but all the embellishments, beads, charms etc. and the lining were all leftovers from previous projects or treasure finds from old stash that I find when trawling charity shops and boot sales.
After preliminary sketches I began by taking measurements and constructing the coat, up to a point. In order to decorate it according to our proposal I needed to keep some areas accessible. I take some ideas for colour/shape etc. from the client but also insist I am allowed some scope as far as creativity goes and to let my experience guide the results, keeping the client in the loop if I feel things are moving too far from the original brief.
So, once I had reached a certain point I began to plot and assemble the decoration. As you can see from some of the images the first step was to paint the lace motifs and embroidered scraps. I enjoy doing it this way as it gives a more blended look than flat colours. Care is taken to make sure the decoration will balance through the design so I plot it out beforehand using tailor’s chalk, in this case. Once I am happy with the amount and position of the decoration I began sprinkling stuff on the fabric. I used a combination of silk yarn, knitting yarn, painted lace and scraps and small pieces of embroidery cut from waste fabric. Some of the pieces I used were tiny.
It pays to keep standing back from the piece and taking a breather. This way I can keep assessing how the progress is going. The process is an organic thing. I am happy to undo or re-arrange and entire panel if I feel it’s not quite going according to the plan or the colours or weight of it aren’t quite right. I’ve been doing this for a while, though, so I’m quite good at it by now! I like to use a mixture of techniques and machines to create the embellishments. I also believe you can’t go wrong with a bit of hand sewing here and there.
For this piece I wanted the basic shape to be quite a classic style and let the decoration make it stand out. However, I couldn’t resist adding a little design feature on the cuffs that raised it from the mainstream. The cuff band actually weaves in and out of the sleeve. You won’t see that on a High Street coat; indeed it is my opinion you won’t see the attention to detail present in one of my pieces in many places anywhere on the planet. Where possible I use ‘old school’ techniques like French seams and bound buttonholes in preference to various corner cutting methods that I think lowers the standard of finish, wearability and longevity of so much of today’s clothing. My pieces will stand the test of time from both an aesthetic and practical sense. That’s sustainability for you!
Most of my pieces are my own ideas and creations but I am more than happy to discuss a commission with you if you have a special idea or a dream garment that you have always wanted to own. All I ask is that you allow me to use as much material as possible that would otherwise go to landfill or be discarded.