notjust Reveals LIBBY BOWLER - Fashion designer
notjust - Libby, your currently based in Stockholm, Sweden, what was the inspiration/ motivation behind this move?
Libby - I am currently working at the H&M head office and I was invited to interview for the roll after an industry day at university. The work ethic is completely different here to in the UK, a healthy work-life balance is so important to the company. I was really motivated to try something different after a stressful final year at university producing my graduate collection, and the pace of Stockholm has done wonders for my physical and mental state!
notjust - Please reference Three Menswear designers that really tickle your fancy at the moment, any era. Why them?
Libby - Bit of an obvious one first, but I think I’ll always be interested in Stone Island - more for their fabric development and technology advances than anything else! For example, their recent thermosensitive leather. I also continuously reference terrace culture in my own practice and the book, ‘Ideas From Massimo Osti’ is amazing for garment research.nSecondly, British designer Martine Rose. Combining sportswear references with tailoring techniques, each garment stands well on it’s own, but the look-book styling is really fresh and portrays the brand identity so well. Thirdly, CMMN SWDN. A sense of narrative is really apparent in their collection and so is their Scandinavian origin. It’s refreshing to see a relatively young brand smashing it and the majority of their collection is pretty wearable too.
notjust - Some of the work I come across looks quite outdoors/fishing inspired with waterproofing materials on the outer and bold lace up style connections on the sleeves. Please can you tell us a bit about this?
Libby - I initially began the research process by looking into mountaineering and naval expeditions, and then progressed into inuit hand craft techniques. I’m very much a functional designer and enjoyed exploring different coating processes. I’ve always been really inspired by technical brands such as Patagonia and The North Face. The bold lace-up stitching is a hand-stitch technique that I developed from images of inuit garment construction methods, and the stitch itself is done with climbing cord.
notjust - You mentioned in private messages that you are wanting to get back to the UK to study more pattern cutting, as your interest lay more in the technical and mathematical side of the process. Why is that?
Libby - Whilst I was definitely ready to begin working in industry post-university, I don’t think that I am done with education just yet. Pattern cutting is an area that I’ve really developed an interest in over the past two years - it’s the stage of taking a flat sketch and making a paper pattern that brings the garment design into a 3-D form. For that reason, to me it is the most fulfilling, satisfying part of the process of producing a collection. Nevertheless, I really love the job that I am in now and am just taking every day as it comes for a while!
notjust - With more and more designs being manufactured abroad, what do you predict will happen to true British made garments/brand/designers?
Libby - It’s pretty hard to ignore the over-whelming expansion of the fast-fashion industry which is produced almost entirely overseas. But within the luxury sector, British design is so exciting and promising. During my studies, I interned at two successful British menswear brands - Private White V.C and Christopher Raeburn, both of which use local production where possible. It’s a shame that it all comes down to money as it’s of course significantly cheaper to produce abroad, but as part of a generation that is becoming increasingly aware of sustainable fashion - I’d like to think that the demand for British design will continue to grow!
notjust - Expense for UK manufacturing is increasing, do you think this is due to people's paradigm shift in realising their time is worth more to them personally, or are wages just typically not that great do you think?
Libby - Garment factories in England, particularly in Manchester, used to be thriving and those who could use a sewing machine were never out of work but that’s just not the same now. Most likely because of the lack of factories and therefore money in this sector? The average age of a machinist in a British factory is increasing, which is really problematic for the future of the production industry - I can safely say that I’ve never met anyone that’s graduated with a fashion degree aspiring to be a sewing machinist.
notjust - Plastic. This is obviously quite a hot topic at the moment with the whole world trying to tackle Plastic in a better manner, with fast fashion and China mainly producing a lot of excessive Plastic too.. do you have anything you would love to do in regards to changing the way Plastic is produced, used and disposed of.
Libby - I think it’s important to be realistic about this issue and tackle it by kicking one bad habit at a time. I (nearly) always have a bag with me when I go to the shops now and I never ask for a straw in a bar. So I think it’s about finding more small things to do that help that planet that can become second nature. In relation to the fashion industry, It would be amazing to see sustainable fabrics such as SEQUAL, a polyester yarn made from recycled materials including plastic bottles used more widely in industry. Read more about that here:https://textilsantanderina.com/seaqual/