You may remember our previous post
about our exclusive collaboration with underwater designer Amber-Louise Snow. After our editorial featuring her exclusive Bermuda Spring/Summer 2015 Ready-to-wear range ‘Virtues of Venus’, we caught up with Amber to find out her ideas and influences behind the collection.
What is it you create? Tell us about your brand.
I’m a Fashion designer, Pattern Cutter and Tailor and I specialise in women’s ready-to-wear, Couture and bespoke manufacture which focuses on the technical side of fashion.
My brand is an emerging womenswear fashion label with a direct couture foundation mixed with a fresh, quirky streetwear twist. I specialise in Couture, but I really enjoy exploring and introducing current youthful movements, which are often heavily influenced by bold prints, internet trends and fun textiles and textures, into the traditional technique to give it a quirky feeling.
I have had my own business for just over two years now, working as a freelance designer, Tailor and Pattern Cutter, but it has only been recently that I’ve been promoting myself as an independent design label called “Amber-Louise Snow”. Right now, my time has been shared between continuing to work with my previous A/W 2014 range, Dimensional Perceptions as well as focusing a lot of my time working on various new projects and ranges that are due to be launched throughout this year. The biggest upcoming development for my brand this year is the intention to launch a casual apparel ‘branch’ into my brand that’s solely more basic RTW clothing, designed to be very wearable which will also be available to buy. This RTW section of the business will be called “Bermuda”, and will feature mini seasonal capsule collections that will be extremely fun and influenced by up and coming/current trends and fashion forward prints, slogans, patterns and textiles.
My first range to introduce the ‘Bermuda’ branch into my brand, will be ‘Virtues of Venus’ seen in the Old Tat exclusive editorial.
Where do you get your inspiration in general?
A whole range of things often inspire different stages of my work. I love to learn, to watch people and to understand societies and social patterns. I feel observation and questioning is a good start to finding a concept. I often explore the internet, cross-referencing movements I see and working out what might be the new trends evolving before they develop into mainstream high street trends.
Sometimes I draw inspiration from fun, textured fabrics and unique textiles, even perhaps random scraps and items I find. I love to show expression and enjoy experimenting with bold designs and features like beadwork embellishments, as well as statement colour palettes, prints and textures as they are great ways of visual communication, having fun, and addressing taboo subjects in society.
Inspiration and ideas can also develop during the design and manufacture process by looking at things in a fresh light, but in general I’ve found that within all the things that have inspired me, they are often based around my passion for pattern cutting, creative cutting, tailoring and bespoke finishing.
There are many references of the underwater world within your work – why is this such a strong influence?
I’ve always been interested in exploring and understanding sea life and having a sister who is a training Marine Conservational Ecologist has only increased my curiosity. I find it fascinating that there are so many species of mammals, fish micro-organisms and other different creatures living in their own eco-systems, which are completely different to our own. I’ve always been passionate about the environment and I’ve made a conscious effort to be as eco-friendly as possible within all areas of my life. The ocean is such a vast, inspiring place, and I sometimes think that because people do not constantly see it or look at it every day to remind them that it is a massively important resource for our planet, they do not fully understand it and therefore they can sometimes show ignorance and careless tendencies towards the ocean and the life within it. This unfortunately, often disturbs the ecological balance of many essential eco-systems within the ocean as well as having a huge, detrimental ‘domino’ effect towards so much life within each environment.
I understand there’s an incomprehensible amount of work that needs to be done to even start to tackle these issues, but I wanted to make a range that focused on the sea and helped raise awareness about how beautiful, interesting and important it is to our planet. Environmental conservation and protection is really important to me and I hope ‘VOV’ is successful in increasing consideration towards our oceans as well as celebrating how diverse and beautiful they are.
How important is the underwater world for you and your work and what is it about the sea that inspires you so much to create clothing?
The ocean is hugely important to me because I recognise how important it is for the development and survival of our planet. Over the years, I have noticed how our oceans have been increasingly disregarded by humanity and the effects we’ve had on our seas and the rest of the planet. Within a lot of my work so far, I have tried to raise awareness and encourage consideration towards the conservation of the planet as we do not own it. Yes, we may be the most dominant species, but it does not give us the right to be careless and wasteful towards it, and every other species, no matter how big or small, has the same right to be here as us and we should be more aware of that.
The sea is very important, it’s a huge source of inspiration for me in many ways and I have been fascinated by it since I was very young. Still to this day, the majority of our seas remain unexplored and I feel it would be a detrimental mistake to not take notice now and start to protect them, so that we are able to continue to discover, explore and learn about how resourceful and important they are. I wanted to create a capsule range that stood as a tribute to how beautiful our seas are and I hope each wearer is able to feels as carefree and majestic as the creatures that live within our oceans.
You collaborated with Old Tat for an editorial and created some exclusive looks. How did you decide what to create and what inspired this?
When it came to designing ‘Virtues Of Venus’, I knew I wanted to design something that was very direct and bold. I wanted people to understand and recognise the concept of the collection straight away and really enjoy the designs and embellishments of each garment, rather than being confused by it or trying to figure it out. This range is designed to be more realistic and casual compared to some of my previous works, so I wanted it to still be fun and playful but more importantly, comfortable and wearable. I also wanted to continue to reflect my own personal interests and distinctive style into the range, and I decided to do this with unique Couture style beadwork paired with soft, simple RTW shapes.
What inspired your ideas for the editorial?
A huge range of things stood as inspiration for me during the design process of ‘VOV’. Underwater life was a great foundation to explore designs. There are so many distinctive characters in the underwater world that would be great to portray, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to avoid a complete ‘cartoonish’ feel, and wanted to introduce a more grown-up, delicate side with more structure and a storyline, into the range. I did this by taking references from Greek Mythology and more specifically, looking at the life story of Venus, the god of love.
I was also working within certain restrictions and requirements during the design process of ‘VOV’, which ultimately effected the type of things I was looking at for inspiration. As I was intending to use a lot of heavy beadwork within the collection, I needed to consider how designs would look when beaded; would they still be understandable and executed well when complete? The main requirement was that the designs were recognisable, clear, consistent, and wearable, which meant I was looking at ideas that could be successfully interpreted and communicated well using a traditional beadwork technique.
For the shapes and silhouettes, ease and comfort for the wearer was a key factor. I wanted to go back to basics and completely remove all fixtures and fastenings and have the choice of cloth, the shape and fit of the garment and the embellishment design to do the talking. I liked the contrast between a soft silhouette and a striking embellishment and I feel the shapes I have used demonstrate a good balance between comfort and simplicity, but are still playful and feminine with the choice of colour palette and subtle details like dropped back lines and slightly ‘flared-out’ classical shaping.
What is your favourite piece you have made for the shoot and why?
My favourite item from ‘VOV’ for the OT exclusive is without a doubt the purple tulle jellyfish dress. I absolutely love this dress, and anyone who knows me will know that this is a first, as I’m never satisfied with my own work, ever. I love this dress for so many reasons, I love its beautiful colour and the fact that it’s tulle, a fabric that’s regularly used in couture but I’ve used it for a RTW piece. I’m drawn to the shape and fit of the dress, I just love how casual and simple it is, but it’s got such a beautiful, classical fit across the body. I feel that the choice of delicate fabric paired with the intricate beadwork design, creates a subliminal but interesting contract with the casual shape and fit of the general garment.
But most of all, I love the jellyfish beadwork embellishment. I’m pleased with how recognisable it is and how it introduces a delicate, feminine element into the garment. I also covered the jellyfish with the same fabric as my Opal coat from my AW2014 range, which subliminally ties the two collections together. My favourite element of the piece is the little moving jellyfish legs in the embellishment, I wanted to make it look like they were alive when you moved and it think it brings character to the garment, plus it really reminds me of the fun little tops I used to wear when I was a kid.
What made you want to collaborate with O T?
For me, the thing that made me want to work with OT the most is that I can see many of my own personal work ethics within the way they carry out their work. I love how they don’t do things by halves at all, I totally love their ‘go hard or go home’ approach when it comes to their shoots and features. I am completely drawn to the very distinguishable style of OT. I love the way everything they do is fun and that’s the foundation of it all. It’s got such an enthusiastic and very enjoyable feeling about the publication, and for me, I think OT celebrates and really appreciates every part of fashion with equal dedication. They have an admirable skill in supporting and promoting a huge variation of unique and independent creatives, as well as considering all the other little things in between, which they are then able to bring together to create something that is so visually exciting, beautiful to see and lovely to be a part of.
How do you feel your work fits in with the current theme?
I feel ‘VOV’ and the ‘Sugar Coated’ issue both have a strong, direct femininity that underlines each concept but links them both together in a complimentary way. ‘Sugar Coated’ can be interpreted in plenty of ways; you can associate sugar with something super bold and bright, sort of like a bag of skittles, or you could look at the softer, more pastel side of it, perhaps like sherbet, which is a little more delicate but just as sweet.
I think ’VOV’ fits well into the theme because it shows that softer side to the concept. It’s not too bold or overpowering but instead introduces a more dainty side through the use of a pastel colour palette, light, floaty fabrics and striking but very intricate hand-beaded embellishments, which are all still very sweet and feminine.
What is the importance of pastels in your work?
I thought it would be nice to base ‘VOV’ around a pastel colour palette because I wanted to work with colours that complimented the shapes, fabrics, details and overall feelings of the garments within the range. I felt a soft, playful pastel palette would be the best way to also communicate the inspiration for the range as well as having the right dose of femininity and being the perfect canvas to confidently project the detailed and sometimes contrasting beadwork embellishments of each garment.
Why do you chose such flowy, airy and free fabrics? What do these represent?
I feel they are a strong representation of Couture traditions, but they are also a personal favourite way of expressing femininity and communicating that distinctive delicate feeling that Couture is well recognised for. Just like my previous AW2014 collection, ‘VOV’ has a Couture foundation with a casual street wear twist.
I work with these fabrics to show respect towards the genre I have adored all my life, but by blending traditional Couture techniques and associated fabrics with today’s modern trends and silhouettes, I hope to increase recognition for Couture and help revitalise this beautiful but diminishing trade.
Who do you design for? Who is your target audience?
I’d like to think my target audience is an individual who just wants to have fun with what they wear. They want to feel beautiful, happy, carefree and comfortable. Sometimes when I design, I don’t have a specific target audience in mind, I’m just designing or making something I think is exciting and would like to explore further, and it’s always really great if it’s well received and appreciated by the public. Some of my designs are obviously a bit more bold and daring but I also do custom or bespoke items where I can adjust designs to fit the personality of the wearer, which means I am happy to design for any and all, and I try not to single out a specific section of the market to direct my clothes to. I hope that anyone is able to look at my designs and see themselves in them and if there is something they don’t like, even if it’s the biggest or smallest element, I’ll be completely happy to personalise it until it is right.
Do you do anything by hand? Is this process gruelling?
I make most things by hand, particularly if I’m working with quite a difficult or temperamental fabric. I feel a better result and finish can be achieved by hand-sewing as I’m able to get a better ‘feel’ for the material I’m working with and I can really control each individual stitch I sew to ensure the cloth falls in the exact way I need it to without any discrepancies. With a machine, you obviously had less control over those sort of things, so I normally use a machine for very straight forward jobs but with more technical stuff, I’ll always hand stitch.
All of the embellishments on all my designs are hand-stitched. I have an unreserved passion and interest in pattern cutting, tailoring, bespoke finishing and couture. Throughout my work, I want to ensure that this traditional, diminishing way of hand finishing remains a part of today’s fashion, so much like my previous AW2014 collection, ‘VOV’ is a collection inspired and built around a lot of hand-sewn embellishments and beadwork. At first, the beadwork was quite time consuming but with more practise, I got a lot faster and had more time to really enjoy it and appreciate the result it gives. For me, I love how something so small and simple can have such a beautiful and striking impact on a garment and it’s a very fulfilling feeling to dedicate a lot of patience and time into a project and achieve such an elegant result.
What is the best part of designing a piece?
My favourite part about designing a piece is moving onto the manufacture stage once the final design and all the little details have been refined. I really enjoy taking the flat designs and developing them into their first 3D form, and seeing whether the initial plans will actually work, or will you have to continue to adapt the pattern until it’s right? Yes, at times it can get super exhausting and frustrating, especially when you’re making something a little more technical or specialist and you’re working to a strict deadline, but I do enjoy it all and I really appreciate that I’m still continuing to learn and understand new things.
What makes your creations so unique?
I think the factor that distinguishes my designs is the element of high quality fit and finish paired with a bold and exciting visual appearance. I hope that my designs are recognised for how fun and interesting they are, but at the same time the buyer/wearer can feel assured that they are purchasing/wearing something of high quality and beautiful fit, which doesn’t have to be compromised or lost if they want to wear something that is fashion-forwards and expressive.
I’ve always tried to combine my two most influential passions within my work, my love for couture quality manufacture and my love for fun, exciting, expressive designs, especially when it comes to detailing and I hope this is well communicated within my work. I absolutely love embellishments, specifically the really time-consuming microscopic embellishments that take forever to do but look amazing. I didn’t originally realise I like this stuff, but I noticed one day that everything I’d designed so far has some sort of detail that was super time consuming and repetitive to manufacture, but looked amazing and ‘completed’ the design. I think this factor in itself can be considered to single out my working style and may be the element that makes my designs so distinctive.
Your collection is very sweet, cute and girly – it is almost sugar coated. How important is femininity in your work? What does this mean to you?
For me, being feminine isn’t something that is automatically associated with a visual appearance, but rather than how someone feels within their own skin. I feel most feminine when I’m happy and comfortable within myself, not when I’m dressed up head to toe in pink, or recognising myself with any other stereotypical female association.
I believe the more content and comfortable a woman is, the more beautiful she feels and therefore the more feminine she feels. I wanted to encourage this feeling when I was designing and making ‘VOV’. The collection is a very soft, graceful range made from basic, classical shapes that celebrate and frame the female body rather than exploit it. I hope that the range is able to inspire confidence and happiness as I wanted the wearer to feel at ease within my clothing where she can feel feminine that way. Femininity is very important to me, because it’s more of a feeling and confidence that can be supported through the design of a garment, rather than a physical or visual representation that could be labelled with a design.
What does Venus represent for you?
For me, Venus the god of Love stands as a strong female figure. She is a timeless and empowering role model who I feel is an iconic representation of femininity and confidence. I looked to Venus for inspiration because she is widely recognised for her beauty and independence, but I was drawn to the depth of her story and how she has overcome heartache, judgement and possession but had the grace to still show mercy and to love and trust again. Her story stands as a strong foundation for the concept and I wanted ‘VOV’ to celebrate these reserved qualities of a woman.
What is the dream?
I want to prove to people that is not about your background and where you come from, or what has happened in life, but it’s about how much you want it and how hard you work. I want to help people, and teach people who doubt themselves and feel like they need help. I want to share my knowledge and support others as much as I can, as I know how hard, confusing and lonely it has been for me sometimes. The final goal for me is to have my own shop – a place where I design and make clothes and teach classes. It would also contain a workshop and café, where people can come in, feel safe and comfortable, and be inspired by life and crafts. I want to hold weekly workshops for people with mental disabilities and their families, to give support and to help build a support network, as I know from personal exposure to such situations, how difficult and unforgiving the word can be towards those with disabilities.
I am still as dedicated as ever to learn new things and gain new experiences. I’d love to continue creating really fun, quirky designs that are fresh and vibrant and that celebrate fashion, even if it meant working with another business. I’d also love to work with people where I know I am putting my pattern cutting and draping skills to good use, to create beautiful, intricate garments. I want to put my heart and complete dedication into something and watch it succeed and grow, but overall I just want to continue learning, developing my skills and exploring the fun design ideas I have and just take anything new that comes day by day, who knows what will happen?!
Featuring Amber-Louise Snow http://thebigyellowbag.blogspot.co.uk/
Words by Loo Loo Rose