An interview with Vicki Murdoch of Silken Favours
They say you learn something new every day. Old Tat never knew a ‘clowder’ meant a group of cats until we stalked the Instagram of cat-obsessed designer Vicki Murdoch. The creative mind behind Silken Favours, a bespoke brand of nature-inspired silk fashion and home accessories, has made moggies her muse since her childhood years. From sneezing her way through owning her first two cats, to the creation of her delightfully bizarre ‘Catavan’ in her final degree show; it’s clear Vicki is an established member of the “cat-loving folk.” Oh, and it looks like she’s got a new idea for her next crazy cat lady-inspired campaign, featuring a ‘clowder’…
Tell us how Silken Favours got started.
It started about four years ago, I loved creating personal gifts for my friends, as I studied Textiles at Chelsea art school. I wanted to use my developing skills and scarves were a perfect canvas for me as I had collected them since I was wee and loved the idea of receiving a box, opening it and finding a scarf your friend had made – just for you – covered in illustrations of your favourite things and colours. If someone got that for me I would love them forever! So I thought this was a great idea and created the brand, Silken Favours, thinking it would only ever be bespoke silk scarves that I made. This very quickly changed as I worked out that no one would pay a bespoke rate for a scarf from an unknown brand.
So I designed a collection, based on the ethos of the company, which was to make designs that people would fall in love with and have a personal connection with. But I wanted to aim high and dreamed of being stocked at the most prestigious scarf hall in the world, Liberty London. I knew they had an open day for young designers, so I went along with some friends and pitched my ideas and designs to a panel of buyers who were very helpful and encouraging. I got a second interview and they picked up my ‘Heart Collection.’ I had to learn on the job about production, marketing, developing a brand and all the thousand other things you have to do when you run your own business.
I was exclusive with Liberty for over two years and the brand has grown to over 40 stockists world-wide, while the range has grown to include silk and cotton shirts, shorts, swimwear and cushions.
We love silk, as it’s so Granny chic! What attracted you to the material?
It has been a favourite fabric as the colours stay so vibrant in silk, due to the close weave and shiny surface. The feel is also very important, and since I started the brand with silk scarves, I wanted to continue this fabric through to the other products. I’m also trying to be an ethical brand, using as much of the waste fabric as possible and making everything in the UK.
Cats seem to be a reoccurring theme in your work, would you say they are your muse?
YES. I’ve grown up obsessed with cats and begged and pleaded with my poor allergic mother to get two. We did; I loved them and named them Calvin and Klein after my CK One perfume. Then I discovered I was allergic too, but we kept them anyway and I sneezed a lot. A few years later I left Scotland to move to London, after winning a modelling competition and, sadly, I’ve never had a cat since. Maybe drawing them constantly helps to fill the void.
My final degree show for my textiles BA at Chelsea was based in a 1970s Cheltenham caravan as I thought it would be the loveliest atmosphere to create a ‘Catavan’ using 40 different prints, all of cats. That included wallpaper, cushions, upholstery, curtains, flooring and a welcome mat. I also made a dress for the cat-lady who I imagined lived there. It was quite a surreal project and it toured all the British festivals that summer with some of my friends. We dressed as cats and gave impromptu cat performances. It was pretty weird but everyone loved it and I enjoyed creating an atmosphere that brought all these cat-loving folk together. Since I started my brand, cats have appeared throughout my collections, from one of my first designs, ‘Precious Pussies’, to over 15 different cat-shaped cushions and all-over cat print shirts and cat cowboy shirts.
We do love your ‘Precious Pussies’ scarf. What’s the inspiration behind it?
Every style from my classic heart collection was about creating a design that people could fall in love with and relate to. It wasn’t about following fashion, it’s about following what you love. And I love cats even though I shouldn’t really touch them, plus they are my favourite animal to draw. I mean those eyes are just so beautiful.
What kind of (cat) lady do you imagine buying/wearing Silken Favours?
I imagine both men and ladies buying and wearing Silken Favours. The pieces I design have been created to bring joy and fun into your life. It’s not a brand that takes itself seriously, I must create pieces that I love and hope that there will be people out there that love them too.
If I had to close my eyes and picture someone wearing Silken Favours head to toe, I see a beautiful eccentric granny with Silken Favours shirts and scarves covering her, whilst lying on a bed of cushions and laughing manically. There would be loads of cats curled up around her, of course. That’s quite a good image, I should try and recreate it for a campaign one year.
Does your personal style and home decor reflect your designs?
I’m not a minimalist and neither are my designs. I love clutter, organised clutter, and I think my designs fit with that. They are busy and intricate but live harmoniously on the silk. I’m an enormous fan of the ’70s in personal style and the home. I’ve been told that my designs are quite retro and kitsch so they sit happily amongst my vintage pieces.
What would your ultimate project be?
I loved designing and building the world inside my ‘Catavan’ so something along those lines but on a much larger scale would be a dream come true!
Words by Alice Freeman