Multi award winning fashion designer Natalie B Coleman creates enchanting clothing which inhabit a dreamy world of memory and storytelling. Since establishing her label in 2011, her designs have been sold and exhibited internationally, and worn by Angela Scanlon, Lily Cole, Suki Waterhouse, and Marina and The Diamonds. Totally Dublin sat down with Natalie in her design studio based in the heart of Dublin city on a hazy Friday afternoon to find out more.
Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
I did always really love clothes since I was small. I actually used to sleep in my wardrobe sometimes because we had a radiator in the wardrobe and the house was freezing! I was always drawing clothes. I just loved more the mood of people when they were dressed up, and everything was nicer. I wanted to do something related to that, something creative, but I didn’t know what. I really wanted to go to art college, but I didn’t think about fashion, it was more painting and sculpture that interested me. It was when I got older, I sort of fell into it rather than chose, so you could say it was natural progression.
Was style always important to you? Were there stylish women in your family?
Well, everybody says the same thing about their mother… but my mother was particularly flamboyant in her dress sense compared to people around where I lived. She was a bit more adventurous, she wore lots of really crazy prints, animal skins, but she looked really cool, everybody totally fancied her! I was always so mortified, but I think she definitely influenced me. I always liked the idea of women dressing up and going out and being in really good moods, how things could be transformed through a dress. That’s the bit about fashion I love – how it changes somebody, how differently they sit, how things have stories. Just even looking at old photo albums you can see different times and moods. It’s poetic.
You are well loved for your uplifting designs – what are you drawn to for inspiration?
I love the storytelling aspect, like a diary, [the inspiration] is always what’s going on. They’re clothes, you know? They’re not meant to be too heavy. I think it’s nice when you have nice thoughts while you’re making something, nice that it’s not mass produced, and there’s an energy. You hope that the idea or the mood that you’re trying to create, that whimsy or whatever it is, transports from the hanger onto somebody.
Day one of a new collection. What do you start with?
Emm… I procrastinate! That’s my main thing! The last two weeks I’ve been so distracted, I’ve had so much to do and I’ve been going to more openings and starting to read new books, like I went to Julie Feeney last night, going to movies… I’m useless! [Laughs]
I do always begin with a story, and I kind of almost write out a collection in a way. I really need to be in the studio in order to work. For a while there, when my label was getting bigger, we were making the all of the samples out at a factory, but it’s really nice to bring that process back in-house because most of the design actually takes place when we’re changing patterns, or sometimes something unexpected happens but then you find it really works well.
Also print is important, even though I didn’t mean to start out designing print. I didn’t do it in college but I did always have print on the inside of linings. I like those little surprises. So I start with a story of something and hope that it all comes together.
Would you say that print is your favourite part of making a collection?
It’s not my favourite part, but it’s probably where I’m trying to see where I am. Even though sometimes I think I’d like to do a collection all in black or whatever, I think that I’m kind of more known for the print. As a brand you kind of need to stick to those things and not deviate too much, as it can frighten your customer.
I think my favourite part is the storytelling idea. You think of something that makes you laugh – I try to write down things as I go – like little sayings that I come across or words of a song, it all feeds into the inspiration. Like last night I was googling The Coquettes at 2 o’clock in the morning – I don’t know what’s happening with SS16!
Could you tell us a bit about your SS15 collection, Be Still My Bleeding Heart?
Well it was my Mum’s anniversary, 21 years last year, when I stated designing it for this year. So I was feeling quite sad, as it was just on my mind. She always loved roses and I started drawing them thinking about the ink falling from them, and the lines coming out from behind, and I developed prints and ideas from that. I repeated the rose print, and changed the scale, and colours of it. It’s girlie, a little bit 1970s influenced, simple, and quite feminine. It has some pleating which I had done in the last traditional pleaters that exists in the UK and Ireland, they’re really amazing. So it’s got some lovely details.
What else are you working on?
I’m currently working on a collaboration with a high-street store, which I’m quite excited about! Also, the AW15 collection is currently in Shanghai for the Fashion Week there, the collection is called Make Believe inspired by a book by Enid Blyton called The Magic Faraway Tree. I loved it as a kid, and last year I was thinking a lot about childhood. I worked with Caroline Schofield on some hand-drawn illustrations for our prints. It started out as a project for the exhibition Second Skin, and I loved it so much I wanted to work on it more. There are all these little vortexes drawn on the light chiffon fabric that it ended up looking like a slightly hazy lace, like net curtains that you would have looked through as a child. It’s very dreamy and romantic. That will be stocked in Kalu boutique in Naas from September. The Second Skin exhibition with the Design and Crafts Council, is still on in London at the moment. I’m also going to be judging Future Makers, which I’m really looking forward to.
Natalie B Coleman is stocked at Dipili Boutique on Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin 1. You can see more of Natalie’s work online at www.nataliebcoleman.com
Words: Honor Fitzsimons
Images: Natalie B Coleman