Monday, 23 September 2013

INSPIRATION (Part 3 : Hot off the press)

The planner for this week says "Start Spring/Summer 2014 prototypes".  The new season's collection had already been forming in my mind for a while, a vague impression of colour and silhouette, but slightly ghostlike, a bit fuzzy around the edges. But no more! I spent 2 wonderful days in Cadaquès this weekend, and now the edges are sharp and the focus is clear.  Only two hours drive south to another world of colour, style and attitude. 

It's no wonder that so many artists have been inspired by this piece of coastline and the Catalan lifestyle. The sea and sky blues dominate in the sharp September sunlight with the hot pink and red flowers of the white village houses' just starting to fade towards Autumn. The relaxed atmosphere of a seaside town, the lilting movement of the fishing boats in the bay, tapas and aperitifs at every corner. I feel a relaxed, feminine collection coming on.  Let's see how it turns out!

Monday, 16 September 2013

INSPIRATION (Part 2 : Style choices)

I've loved clothes all my life, and given my family heritage (craftswomen, from embroiderers to potters and everything in between) and my height (6'2") I made my own clothes from a very early age, with my Mother, who trained at Barrett Street Tech (now the London School of Fashion) as my teacher.  When I moved to France in 1989 and was looking for a way to finance my life here, inspired by the many comments from friends who asked me where I got my clothes, I decided to take the plunge and start my own business offering the style of clothing I wear to others.  And that was the day I discovered my real passion and purpose in this world, and have never looked back.

How did I get to 'my style'?  As I said, I've always been tall, a classic "rectangle" body shape and no boobs.  That meant the body-hugging lycra style was never for me (apart from at the gym), but my height allowed me to wear pretty much anything else.  

I can't draw at all, my way of drawing is by sewing, so I go from mental image to paper pattern, always test new ideas on myself, wear it in the shop to see what the reaction is and edit accordingly.

I'm a huge fan of generous cuts, letting the fabric and gravity work their collective miracles on a variety of body shapes, and nearly always wear one size bigger than I am to get that lovely drape that comes with the extra width.  My body shape has meant that my clothes never needed much shaping and I have taken this style through to my collection.  More sculpture than close fit, but it's definitely helped to define the Beverly Smart look.

The simple, uncluttered style I favour mirrors my need for order and tidyness, but also my love of fabrics ... when the cut is simple and kept clear of fussy details then the fabric shines through and does what it does best.  That's also why I'm such a fan of bias cut clothes - the drape that comes from this way of cutting is simplicity itself.

I'm a huge wearer of accessories too, which are the best way to make "your" look just that, your own individual style.  I like to think that my clothes stand well alone, or make the perfect background for that statement necklace or earrings or scarf.  

As I continue to design collections that are based on my personal style, it follows that the mainstay of my clientele are 40 plus.  By this age, you've got over the need to conform to whatever this year's fashion dictates are, generally know what you can't wear (although this particular comment deserves its own blog post) and are looking for stylish comfort in good quality fabrics; from the feedback I get my designs tick all those boxes!  To end, here are some photos of my models from my recent fashion show, all over 40, just to prove my point.

Monday, 9 September 2013

INSPIRATION (Part 1: fabrics)

I'm often asked "how" I create, where my ideas come from.  You would think they were simple questions to answer, but not so, at least, not for me.

First and foremost it's my fabric selection that inspires me.  I just adore fabric, particularly natural fibres like wool, linen and silk. Natural fibres are so wonderful to work with; not necessarily easy, but so satisfying from a finishing point of view. When I visit my two main fabric suppliers it's like being let loose in a michelin star restaurant after a day or two of fasting! I generally have no idea when I go in what my collection will be, colour- or style wise, and I start with a full walk around of the stock to see what they have to offer. Then there's a second tour, where I'll touch the fabrics that appeal to me, and check prices with the supplier. Rolls are pulled out and put on the cutting table, and at the end of that tour the preselection is done.  A little bit of refining (usual financial) and the actual selection is done.

Fabrics for AW13-14

By that stage, the new collection is already forming in my head. My style designing is always inspired directly from a fabric. And it's often the inspiration that just one fabric gives me that sets the whole collection. Imagine the Okavango Delta flooding after the rains;  that arrival of the rains from the top left corner is that one inspirational fabric that gives rise to all the variations that make up the final collection.

The weight and drape of a fabric is crucial in my style choice.  For example, I'm a huge fan of bias cut garments and this needs a fabric with the right weight/density ratio to work well.  I also love sculptural clothing, meaning clothing that almost stands on its own, without a body inside it.  This necessitates a fabric with body and a closer weave.  Of course, this process is done pretty well unconsciously now, having been honed by my 40 years of sewing experience.

My signature bias cut dress on the left and the sculpural jackets on the right.

Then there's texture.  I love mixing textures within a garment; mixing matt and metallic linen within the same dress.

SS13 Collection

Or applying matt hand felted woollen strips to wool & cashmere fabric, that has a lovely satin pile. Then add felt onto the felt strips to get even more texture.  This particular idea in the photo below was a recent solution to a problem caused by a child tearing a couple of the holes, but looks so amazing it's given me lots of ideas for the Winter 2014-15 collection.  It really is true that the best ideas come from mistakes or problem solving.

Next week I'll talk more about how the designs themselves come together for each collection.  Have a great week.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Winter Accessories at BEVERLY SMART

The collection of jewellery that I put together in February during my annual Cape Town visit has been a huge success.  Lots of recycled materials, or "détourné" as they say in French (means diverted from their usual use here), wonderful traditional beading techniques updated and applied to contemporary designs, and of course the fabulous one-offs from Guidemore, the Zimbabwean jewellery designer who never ceases to amaze me with his creativity.  Here are just some of the gorgeous things you can find in the store right now.

Two of Guidemore's creations using a mixture of traditional African beads and rubber washers and tubing.

Climbing rope revisited.

Recycled bicycle inner tubes.

Masses of beautiful zulu beaded ropes.