We had the pleasure of interviewing Knomo’s design and creative directors, and research and development manager at the V&A – to discuss the inspiration behind the Knomo and V&A collection and how the creative collaboration unfolded. We hope you enjoy reading the interviews below.
Eva Tsang: Design Director at Knomo
How did the journey with the V&A begin?
After 12 years we’d never previously discovered a print that we really loved and could envisage on our products. But the fact is that we really love the V&A, so we approached them and asked to take a peek in their archive!
They had this amazing print from the 1920s – Art Deco era – and we absolutely fell in love. I guess that was about 12 months ago (Summer 2016).
When I first looked at the print, I said to myself, “This is really what Knomo is about, it’s modern, it’s clean, it’s abstract and little bit edgy”.
I played around with the scale of the print and actually blew it right up. By enlarging the pattern it becomes really funky and cool. Something younger, more fun, bit more character and not just the classic Knomo bag.
Because the print is so big it makes each piece of the product different and quite unique in that sense, which is very cool.
Talking about prints, what is it that attracts you to prints and why are they so fun to work with?
You see the design and a whole different dimension when print is involved, because you need to consider where the print lands and how you mix it up with different materials. It’s a new thing for me to explore which is fun and I really enjoy the whole process of it.
It’s such an innovative print for back then considering it’s nearly 100 years old, but it’s so fresh.
Frances Scorah: Creative Director at Knomo
Tell us about how Knomo started working with the V&A and the journey to get us to the amazing print?
We thought it was a great idea to work with the V&A because they’re so forward thinking about fashion. They have over 2 million pieces of art of some form in their archive, so it’s a massive, rich resource.
The V&A licensing team started the design process by presenting their key themes to us that they were working on over the next 12 months. For example, the Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, currently on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is coming to the V&A in February 2018. They put forward a range of prints, posters and fashion from the 1920s and 30s that they’re presenting in the exhibition as examples of things that could inspire us.
We looked through all the documents that they sent, and saw some really beautiful things. But there was one print that stood out as being very modern and contemporary. Even though there were other incredible prints from that time, and felt from that era, the print we chose just felt as if it was timeless.
Then I worked with Eva, our design director to turn it into something that felt very modern, contemporary. Because the collection was for Autumn/Winter ‘17, we wanted to add in another colourway that was very seasonal and that’s how Eva came to work on the darker Night Forest colourway.
Can you talk us through the theme of the photoshoot?
It was very important that there was something very dark, rich, glamourous and metallic about it, but at the same time the shoot had to be modern, contemporary and have a fashion edge to it.
The oriental influence was so significant at that period of time, so it was very important for us to mirror that through the shoot and exhibit the range.
The whole feeling was very much about movement, about journeys and traveling. This is really important to the Knomo aesthetic and ethos of being organised and always on the move: a life on the go.
Amelia Calver: Research and Development Manager, V&A Licensing
How did the collaboration come to life?
About a year ago Knomo approached the V&A to ask whether it’d be interested in working together collaboratively on an accessories project, and if there was anything suitable in the archives.
We put our heads together and thought it would be a good opportunity to look at designs from the mid-20th century, as we both love the clean, sophisticated and undeniably chic look of the 1920s. It’s this collaborative approach that strikes such a chord with us here at the V&A. Knomo is about so much more than being a bag company, it’s an exciting and inspiring brand to work with.
Can you tell us a more about the print that was chosen?
The print chosen for the project dates from the1920s, an incredibly dynamic and exciting time. It’s by British artist, F. Gregory Brown (1887–1941) and was exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.
It’s got lovely undulating arches and a rhythm to it and seems a perfect balance between masculine and feminine. The original pattern is monochrome but we felt that we could experiment with the colours a bit more to make it more appropriate for the 21st century.
The print comes from a time when the skies were the limit: grand architectural projects such as the Chrysler Building, pioneering aviator Amy Johnson setting long-distance records, and British ocean liners holding the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossings. Designers of the period were working freely, and F. Gregory Brown’s design was fearlessly modern without any pastiche of the past. The time, overall, really was a ‘can-do’ moment.
I think the ‘Night Forest’ version of the print is quite a development. Its captivating and playful combination of colour is still in keeping with the original textile’s spirit. It’s incredible to think that this has now been transformed into accessories for the modern day.