Click on link below to read the interview that appeared in the most recent Textile Forum magazine .
How did you get started in the textile industry?
I graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1975 with an honours degree in Interior Design and Embroidery and Weaving. I had always been involve with the Art School fashion show although there was no fashion course at that time.
My love of fabrics, colour and texture could have found expression in either interiors or fashion but as luck would have it my first job which was advertised as a “creative designer ‘ was with an Marks and Spencer supplier and I have remained on the fashion side ever since.
Who has inspired you the most? And why?
The never ending positivity of my husband Maurice inspires me and gives me the confidence in myself to keep stretching and achieving my goals. This industry is not for the feint hearted and between us we have racked up 96 years in the textiles. We launched By Storm Ltd in 1993 and still enjoy the day to day running of the business and all that it entails. We have kept it manageable employing twenty people in our own purpose built manufacturing unit next door to our amazing new showroom in Glasgow and beautiful shop in Belsize Park in London. We deal directly with the customer with all our designs being individually made to measure in Glasgow.
Do you have a ritual for “getting creative”?
For me the inspiration always starts with looking at the fabrics. I see lots of collections of silks and laces. If the fabric really speaks to me straight away ,and I fall in love with it, then I will order sample lengths. When the lengths come into our design studios the new fabrics get stored in my room where they pile up and I live with them everyday. I always have an idea of the design that I will be creating when I order the fabric but it may not be made up until months later. I tend to have a mad creative burst just before our main wedding exhibitions in September and February. I lay out all the fabrics and trimmings in the design room. I put them into colours and categories and try to discipline myself to work methodically through the areas that we cover. This is hard as I naturally have a butterfly mind and find myself going off on all sorts of tangents while mulling over the endless possibilities. While starting with a pretty clear idea of end shape when it comes to sketching it out all the possibilities come flooding in and the most difficult thing is choosing THE best one . I have to say that nowadays with many years of experience behind me I do think commercially, there is no point in ‘designer indulgence’ if no one can wear your creation. My chosen field is Special Occasion outfits and after 24 years designing for Brides and Mothers of the Bride I have a pretty good idea of what colours and shapes will flatter our customers. I have a particular handwriting which is simple and elegant using high quality fabrics. I like to throw in a few wild cards each season even though I know they won’t be best sellers but I enjoy a bit of quirkiness !
I definitely do have a ritual for designing collections. It involves getting very messy with the fabrics spread around and hundreds of thumbnail sketches. I like to do this in the evening with music playing and a glass of wine. I prefer to be completely alone and indulge myself in my creative thoughts. These over time get narrowed down and the final sketches prepared with all the information for the pattern cutters. As each decision is made the fabric gets removed from the “mess” and put in a tidy queue along with the finish sketch.
The difficulty or beauty with designing is that there is no right or wrong. Its not like coming to the end of a row of figures and the answer is right or wrong. There are infinitesimal ways of combining shape ,fabric,colour and detail and the way we do it defines the handwriting of the designer.
What do you think the biggest fabric trends of 2017 will be?
Lace will always be around but I think it will become less popular for complete dresses. There has been so much lace over the past few years that I think there will be a move towards plainer fabrics and styles.
I don’t tend to follow fashion as I like to offer my customers a good choice of colours that I like and are flattering to the British complexion. Some seasons the trends that come from Europe are strong citrus colours which are beautiful on tanned skins but not so great on pale skins. It’s all about knowing your customer and giving them a considered good choice.
Faded vintage colours for mother of the bride have been popular for a few years and tend to be flattering. We will continue to offer these but also clear brights which suit ladies with stronger colouring.
Are there any differences between the designs you create for Scottish brides and the bridal party compared with those ‘south of the Border’?
We don’t see a lot of difference in taste between our London and Scottish customers. The best sellers are the same in both shops because they are the most flattering shapes and suit most figure types.
In Scotland we have a niche market for tartan themed weddings. In 2003 we introduced our Tartan Spirit collection which has proved very successful. In Scotland most grooms wear kilts which can be quite dominating in colour. Tartan Spirit has wedding dresses , mother of the bride outfits and bridesmaids with touches of tartan and colours that coordinate with the grooms tartan. It’s not for everyone but it creates a really spectacular look for the wedding party.
We also have lots of customers in London going to Scottish weddings who choose to wear a touch of tartan.
What are the main differences in the fabrics you use today than say 15 years ago when Textile Forum started?
We mainly use silk fabrics which are traditional and are pretty much the same excellent quality that we have always had over the past 15 years. However there are far more mixes now with a little elastic or poly that help with drape and don’t crease as much. The innovation mainly come from the blends and have a preference for soft draping fabrics rather than the more structured ones.
How important has it been to have Textile Forum as a sourcing option for fabrics, trimmings etc?
I make a point to be in London and visit Textile Forum each season. It’s great to see lots of our suppliers under one roof and apart from keeping up to date with new developments it’s a good social occasion to meet up with others in our industry.
I always come away having bought more fabrics than intended and feeling a fresh flush of enthusiasm.
Who are your favourite fabric suppliers?
We buy fabric from all British silk suppliers and have been dealing with them since we launched in 1993. We used to go to Premier Vision but recently its coincided with wedding exhibitions and I find my needs are fulfilled at Textile Forum plus the agents who come to see me on our premises.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before entering a career in textiles?
Its not an industry to go into if you want to make your fortune !! Seriously though I consider myself incredibly lucky to have spent my lifetime working with fabrics in a career that I enjoy so much. It is never a problem to go to work and along with my husband we virtually work 24/7 together in the business. I love all aspects of it from the designing to meeting all the wonderful brides and mothers who come on their journey with us. It’s a real privilege to play such an important part in such a special day in their lives.
You spend quite a lot of time on trains – how do you while away the time?
I always have lots of e mails to catch up on and very often e mail interviews for magazines. It takes just over 4 and a half hours so it’s a good time to get into a little bubble and concentrate. We travel back at night so a little wine always makes me feel more creative !
What is your favourite book?
What is your favourite film?
It’s got to be an romantic oldie
And your favourite TV show?
We don’t follow any programmes in particular. But I love seeing people winning so enjoy The Apprentice, Strictly and X factor if we are in on a Saturday night.
All the amazing costume dramas
What would be your “last supper”?
Well I guess I wouldn’t have to be worrying about calories !
What is the one item you can’t live without?
How or where do you relax?
We don’t do a lot of relaxing. Attempting to get a better work /life balance we joined Nuffield Health recently so INTEND to be in the gym and pool more often.
I do a bit of Ashtanga Yoga but I wouldn’t call that relaxing !
When we are in London we love to go to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead with comfy couches and cocktails we are right down there at the front – next best thing to being IN the film !
We also eat out a lot. That is our main pastime after work when its too late to think about cooking we like to have a glass of wine and a nice meal in one of our favourite restaurants and catch up on the days activities.
What has been the most surreal event in your life?
Without a doubt that would be receiving the letter offering me an OBE for services to textiles ! I thought it was a mistake or a wind up. The whole process was surreal from receiving the unexpected letter through to going to Buckingham Palace with my family to the investiture where Prince Charles presented me with the award. I was and still am, in shock to receive such prestigious recognition for something that I enjoy doing so much. I am also absolutely delighted and very honoured to have received it.