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10 questions with designer Sadie Williams


London-born designer Sadie Williams has captivated the fashion scene in the British capital with her textile-driven creations and playful ideas. She has been included in Selfridges’ list of ‘Bright Young Things’, has received NewGen sponsorship and goes from strength to strength, making her one to watch at London Fashion Week. Here we talk about her career, London Fashion Week essentials and the best places to shop in London

Emily Scrivener
Emily Scrivener ,

What was your vision for Sadie Williams the brand? Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
I didn’t ever really have a vision or plan to start my own label, but rather it came quite organically following my Central Saint Martins MA graduate collection. I kept working on projects and opportunities ‒ Selfridges ‘Bright Young Things’, a collection for Barbie and a capsule collection for & Other Stories ‒ that came my way. I was then invited to apply for NewGen sponsorship support, so I have been working on my own label since then. I think if you are true to yourself and continue to work creatively then your signature develops and speaks for itself without you premeditating any kind of brand vision in advance. I didn’t always want to be a fashion designer. After school I felt quite inclined towards art or print design, but my love for clothes and dressing up got the best of me.


You have worked for labels including JW Anderson, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Topshop. Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to work with a sports brand one day, or make costumes for a musical or a performance artist. I think that would be an exciting challenge.

 

You graduated with distinction from the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion course in 2013; you were included in Selfridges’ list of Bright Young Things; you have received NewGen sponsorship since autumn/winter 2015; and in 2016 you featured in Forbes magazine in its list of 30 under 30 Europe: the Arts. What do you think has been your career highlight?
It was really fantastic to unveil my glittering window in Selfridges on Oxford Street just six months after graduating. It’s such an iconic store and I have visited it since I was a child, so it was a really proud moment for me and my team of friends and family who all helped pull it together. Now that I am presenting at London Fashion Week, it’s always a highlight to emerge from dressing models backstage and walk out and see the set design and models ready to go ‒ and see the culmination of months of hard work.


London competes with Paris, Milan and New York for sartorial excellence. What makes the London fashion scene stand out?

I think there is a creativity and freedom with the way people dress in London that doesn’t exist so much in many other major fashion capitals. I think it’s down to lots of things, like the cultural diversity of this huge city, the excellent fashion and art colleges, the DIY aesthetic and the spirit that started with punk. There is a kind of eclecticism and eccentricity which is in our DNA.


Your collections are both modern and playful. Who or what inspires your work?
I think that if I even tried to make something look a bit more serious it would still have some kind of playful and youthful slant to it. I really love working with colour, print and texture. These are often my starting points. So I will begin making textile samples and swatches and then mock these into outfits. I do not like to pigeon hole how and where I research my collections because I’m rather eclectic. So I will always make multi-media collaged mood boards each season, which may contain swatches and trims, postcards, photocopies from photography books or vintage books and magazines, or images from garments sourced on eBay.


What does a typical work day look like for you?
It depends on which point in the season we are at. As we approach Fashion Week it’s a bit non-stop at the studio, managing the team ‒ which normally includes my family helping out, too. My mum is brilliant at hand sewing so she will teach interns and help finish garments off; my brother will help organise film and photography backstage and my dad will help with driving to and from factories or loading and unloading set design. There will be lots of liaising with all the different elements that help bring it all together, consulting with my stylist, overseeing casting, working closely with my set designer, doing hair and make-up tests and more. But on a more general day, if I am not out of the studio sourcing, researching or attending a meeting, I will be working with my interns and freelancers on textiles and making sample garments and toiles in the studio, using all kinds of fabrics, often with a metallic element to them.


What are your London Fashion Week essentials?
Upbeat playlists and power naps. But healthy snacks and a good hand cream are essential, too.


Where are your favourite places to shop in London?
My local Portobello Road and Shepherd’s Bush markets. Very different; both great.


What are your favourite areas in London? Where would you tell visitors to go?
I love the area I grew up in, where I live now in West London and being able to pop over to Portobello Road market to shop or head up the road to Golborne Road to grab a bite at one of the Moroccan food stalls or old-school Portuguese patisseries, or go and hang out at my friend’s dad’s local pub. It’s a lot quieter than East London where my studio is based, in Haggerston. But I love having a base in East London too.  It’s where most of my friends and peers are based and there’s always a lot going on, and there are tons of nice bars and cafés. I love going to the Towpath Café, which opens during the summer months ‒ it’s right on the opposite side of the canal from my studio.


Can you give us some insight to your SS18 collection?
I’m looking to explore a modernist craft approach, largely inspired by this amazing English group-community from 1930s called the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift. They believed in an outdoors lifestyle and pursuits, yet combined their way of living and handmade approach with really striking graphic motifs and symbols.

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