A Contemporary Take on Elegance
The brainchild of London-based designers Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones, Teatum Jones is a new line of highly abstract and elaborately conceived fashions. Its acclaimed Summer/Spring 2011 debut collection showed masterfully draped and effortlessly wearable designs made for the modern woman. Here the designers give Fashion Salade some insight into their inspiration, teamwork and the state of British fashion.
You both met while working under John Richmond – can you talk me through how your previous experiences have influenced you and where they are most notably translated into Teatum Jones?
Our previous experiences have taught us to persevere and maintain our vision and brand concept above all else. When you work for other designers you learn to channel their energy and work within a team of creatives what we both now have is the luxury to channel our own vision and bring in some of the great people we have come across along the way.
You were one of 10 Fashion Fringe finalists in 2009 before launching for S/S 11 – do you feel supported as a young designer and why do you think it’s so difficult for young designers to survive these days?
We are fortunate in that we do feel very supported. We exhibited our AW11 collection at Somerset House in February this year and the BFC team were more than helpful – The support is out there you just need to spend time doing research into which avenues are most suitable to your business and creative needs.
S/S11 is the debut collection – can you talk me through your references.
The title of the SS11 debut collection “…The Moment Just Before…” was about delving deep inside the minds of both the executioner and the executed, and extorting the unnerving energy in the hauntingly powerful moment just before an execution, when a person’s senses are undoubtedly at their most extreme. A heightened tragedy, hatred, remorse, relief, and forgiveness—these are all and at once present.
The “Anticipation” print was inspired by 17th Century Spanish art, which drew on the trompe l’oeil drapery in the robes of the execution paintings by Diego Velázquez. The post medieval is tempered with blown up microscopic human cell imagery that has been captured whilst in the grip of “fear”—a simultaneously romanticised and scientific representation of that moment just before.
You use a lot of heavy prints – what do you like about working with print and what do you think it most adds to the collection?
We use print to graphically retell the narrative of that particular season. Our prints are the closest we get to being literal towards any subject matter we decide to explore and develop. Our prints are a great tool for when our cutting needs to be subtle and color and graphic can to do the talking.
In your use of tailoring masculine meets feminine – do you think this divide where fashion is going?
Several years ago Suzy Menkes made a comment in reference to Commes des Garcon’s Spring/Summer 2007 collection saying that ‘any relevant women’s wardrobe has to start from a man’s.’ There’s certainly an element of truth in what she had to say. There is such a strong and patriarchal heritage to men’s tailoring it’s impossible to ignore it in the context of a contemporarily relevant womenswear brand.
Use of technique and a good story – how do they best meet in Teatum Jones?
Our collections are always full of story. And when it comes to design we approach it almost like method actors. Teatum writes a script, Jones composes a play list and together we create a treatment on the woman, the setting, the mood, the lighting etc. Then from this we start to work on the silhouette, cut, fabrication, print…gradually the collection begins to take form much like a storyboard in an editing suite. It’s an exciting and inspiring process that you continuously learn from each time.
You take a very conceptual approach to design – do you think it’s an element that’s got lost in our current fast fashion/digital days?
In the current fast fashion digital days, we feel its more a case that you’re constantly kept on your toes in how to relay that concept to such a broad audience, indeed deciphering who is your audience and which communication channels you access that audience is a challenge in the first place. It’s important to make sure your brand message doesn’t get lost.
If you had to change something about the British fashion landscape what would it be?
A free and open UK directory for all designers, suppliers and manufacturers.
What are the signature piece(s) for S/S11 and what materials do you favor?
The “12.4 Ounce Jump Suit” petrol blue sandblasted silk jumpsuit and the “6.5 Ounce Dress” in silk Anticipation print with chiffon paneling. Luxurious washed silks and elegant traditional tailoring fabrics are what we like to use to create contemporary and effortlessly chic pieces.
How are you looking to develop the direction and label?
If you want to sell your vision to an international audience, you must speak to an international audience. With that in mind we need to continue to build on the strong press recognition we’ve experienced so far, both here in the UK and internationally. We are just staying completely focused on the Teatum Jones brand vision and a conceptual approach to design that remains loyal to an ethos of authenticity, desirability and quality.
You already have noteworthy international stockists – how do you feel differently received out of the UK?
After our first selling season for AW11 we were really happy with achieving retailers in four major territories; London, New York, Dubai and Riyadh. The feedback we have received from all of these retailers, in particular those outside of the UK was their appreciation of our attention to the high-end quality in our sampling. We manufacturer everything in the UK – it means our quality control and access to unique craftsmanship is all kept to a very high standard and importantly is kept local to where all the design
Contemporary artists you are currently most resonating with?
Too many to mention! In particular, a brother and sister who share a studio opposite us – Katie Leamon and Tom Leamon. They are developing some very interesting installation and illustration work. Katie Leamon’s unique illustrations on cards have also just been picked up by Liberty of London.
By: Davina Catt