The countdown to London Fashion Week has begun, and all eyes are on Teatum Jones, as the label prepares to unveil its highly-anticipated SS17 collection. Marking the debut of their menswear line, this season’s show protracts the momentum of a banner year for the British label.
Back in February, label namesakes’, Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones, were awarded the coveted International Woolmark Prize in New York, receiving a $100,000 award and a crowning honour shared by icons the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and more recently, industry innovators, such as designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School.
For FW16, Teatum Jones has us hooked on their use of vibrant hues and geometric graphics. The collection is an acute study in wool, grounded in textile history. “We are inspired by human stories—people who fight for what they believe in,” shares Jones in our interview. Inspired by Teatum’s Irish heritage, the label turned their focus to English nun, Agnes Moirragh Bernard, for the fall/winter season.
After moving to Ireland, Bernard founded Foxford Woollen Mills, where she would build her reputation as a superior artisan of luxury woollen blankets. Working with the craftspeople at the mill, the designers revisited Bernard’s legacy and—drawing from Ireland’s rural landscape—innovated one of their strongest collections to date. The collection’s rich palette features dark autumnal colours, reminiscent of a haunting Irish countryside scene in late October, combined with dynamic brights—think the colour of St. Patrick’s day. Pieces such as patterned brushed mohair jacquard dresses and skirts carry the mark of traditional Irish embroidery, while a burgundy and mustard tile check wool coat takes inspiration from graphic ceramic floor tiles.
FW16 is true to the identity of Teatum Jones—and as such, its backstory gives insight into the brand’s ethos. As Jones explains, when the label launched their premiere collection in the spring of 2011, they wanted to offer the world of fashion something unique: the stories of remarkable individuals. Since launching, inspirational figures have ranged from international peace activist, Leymah Gbowee to jazz legend, Nina Simone—each uniquely informing the design process, as their essence drives the designers to experiment with different textiles. Jones is passionate as he explains the creative process. “The human stories that inspire us each season are translated into bold, exquisite, vibrant fabrics that are like a celebration of the grit and realness of each human subject or movement we decide to obsess over that season.”
With September 16th around the corner, the suspense leading up to London Fashion Week intensifies. Already enamored with the label’s womenswear, we eagerly await the introduction of their new menswear collection. It’s all come full-circle for the duo, who met while working in Italy, after graduating from design school (Teatum from Ravensbourne and Jones from Central Saint Martins) and shortly thereafter began working on menswear together, before switching their focus to womenswear. “Due to there being a large masculine influence in our womenswear, people have asked for many seasons when the guys would get a look in,” says Jones. “Now feels right!”
Gearing up to open London Fashion Week, designer Rob Jones breaks for a moment to take us inside the evolution of Teatum Jones.
Congrats on taking home the International Woolmark Prize in February! Can you tell me about that experience and how things have evolved since winning the prize?
It was such an exciting and fun experience. To stand in front of some of the most important people in the industry and have their full attention on our label was a real honour. To also win in one of our favourite cities was a dream come true.
I imagine you’ve been busy since the win.
We have got busier since winning, but what the prize has given us is an opportunity to get closer to our customer by visiting each of the stores we will be stocked in. This has been really important for us.
Despite using merino wool for a few years, being so focused on its use with the Woolmark Prize must have changed your approach to the material, no?
We brought merino wool into our world. After educating ourselves in the amazing properties of the yarn and its scientific nature, we then filtered the yarn through our design and textile development processes to make it become 100% part of the Teatum Jones story.
What does Catherine bring to the team?
And what do you think she would say you bring to the team?
With your brand being a culmination of two individual designers, how would you describe the identity of Teatum Jones, in terms of qualities inherits within both of your creative visions?
Teatum Jones is modern, polished and bold. Both Catherine and myself are quite fearless when it comes to our brand and creativity, which we think filters through everything we do. This is where the boldness comes from.
I definitely sense that boldness—it’s a signature trait, for sure. Which brings us to the inspiration behind this characteristic; you say you are inspired by human stories, who inspired FW16?
English nun, Agnes Moirragh Bernard. She founded the Foxford Woollen Mills, weaving luxurious woollen blankets to restore hope; [she] gave the people of Foxford a legacy of skilled craftsmanship. Based on this, we followed in her footsteps and travelled to the mill to recreate the blankets and modernize them with geometric foil prints.
Can you tell me more about the making of your innovative textiles, like the hand knitted jumpers?
We started working with merino [wool] a few years ago, however during the Woolmark regional finals, we started to go in depth with our research and bring wool into our world. We convinced a guipure lace mill in France to create a wool lace. There was lots of trial and error with different yarn counts and suppliers, but in the end, we achieved what we set out to do and created a truly innovative and unique merino wool lace.
You’re opening London Fashion Week and this will also be the label’s first catwalk show there, how exciting! What pressure does this place on you?
It’s a very exciting time and the buzz in the studio is great! With a show, we are really getting to tell the story of the people that have inspired us. This is something we have always wanted to do. It’s also a great honour to open London Fashion Week and be able to tell our story to a large audience.
What can we expect to see for SS17?
Love, passion and diversity! We are launching our first menswear this SS17.
Oh we know! Anticipation is high. On that note, last question, how do you plan on maintaining your craftsmanship as your brand grows?
By keeping the close relationships with the craftspeople we work with. It’s not about email, but about visiting where they work and discussing our ideas with their knowledge. The close relationship we have with them is paramount to us pushing boundaries and innovating.