Known for her couture-driven sewing techniques and a pastel-friendly colour palette, Nottingham-based, UK independent womenswear designer Amber Louise Snow is back at the peak of her creative career, after having created two successful collections through her label’s eponymous line.
In her previous collections, she has explored interesting topics such as the human perception through the elements of sight and light in ‘Dimensional Perceptions’, her Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, as well as a study of identity amongst the youths of the British society in ‘No-Youths’, her Spring/Summer 2015 collection, through an analysis of the punk and gothic culture.
With ‘Virtues of Venus’, a completely new collection that she has produced under Bermuda, a casual apparel sub-brand that the designer has developed based on the demand for comfortable, fun and wearable clothing, Snow seeks to explore the grounds of soft, casual lounge wear while incorporating her iconic design aesthetics – a soft, dreamy vibe with a fantasy appeal – into her design creations.
We speak to the talented, young designer for some in-depth dibs on her new collection as well as to talk about her interesting design journey so far, after having shown her debut collection last year at the London Graduate Fashion Week 2014.
JY: Tell us about the ideation and concept behind this new collection.
AS: ‘Virtues Of Venus’ is a casual Spring/Summer 2015 womenswear line that is built with a direct intent to increase consideration towards our oceans and other eco-systems across the globe, thereby encouraging environmental conservation and protection.
The study of Greek mythology, more specifically Venus the god of love, introduces a delicate, classical Grecian element, giving structure to the storyline as well as communicating a refined elegant and feminine appearance.
Coupled with an increasing recognition towards environmental causes, ‘Virtues of Venus’ aims to celebrate and represent widely-recognised couture techniques and traditions, which I’ve respectfully interpreted within my own working style, mixed with a fresh, casual wear movement.
I wanted to design a collection that was very direct and completely dedicated to a cause, rather than being subtly exploring through a combination of subjects, which would then become diluted beyond recognition, understanding or appreciation.
I feel that Virtues demonstrates a strong balance between these causes in a positive and refreshing light, but still has the aesthetics and feeling of a playful and fresh, delicate capsule range.
The gentle, soft shapes and silhouettes across the capsule are structured around the foundations of practicality, ease and comfort, which together, creates a subtle but complimentary visual contrast with the featured embellishments of each piece.
The soft pastel colour palette stands as a clear canvas to boldly display the detailed, couture-style beadwork, giving an ethereal, summery feeling to the seasonal range.
JY: In your previous interview, you have described your approach as an ecological one that utilises intricate couture dressmaking techniques within the realm of Ready-to-Wear. How is that being applied to your Spring/Summer 2015 ‘Virtues of Venus’ collection?
AS: I’d say that for this collection, the approach has become even more refined. As this is the first range of mine that is solely ready-to-wear, meaning that couture silhouettes were not a dominate feature, I felt that the couture embellishment element within the range should really be made a bold a statement on each piece.
Because it was such an obvious feature, in terms of utilising and interpreting traditional couture techniques within my own design, I felt compelled to get it completely right until I was happy that it was a fair representation of my intent.
This is the reason why I’ve tried to look at this project with an ecological approach in as many ways as possible. First and foremost, in the most direct way, the concept, the designs and the general message of the range revolved around my intent in communicating environmental awareness and conservation.
Secondly, just like my previous collections, a number of items within the range have in fact been made from the remaining quantities of cloth I’d previously used in the construction of my A/W 2014 collection, ‘Dimensional Perceptions’. This in itself was very fulfilling as I was using materials I already had in my own stocks which were too small to be used for any larger projects, so I felt like it was a resourceful and productive use of these materials that I’d previously sourced.
Of course, as well as this, because a lot of it is the same fabric used within my Dimensional Perceptions collection, the cloth itself was already classed as ‘left-overs’ and ‘remnants’ which I’d purchased for that reason to salvage and make innovative use of the material within a eco-friendly clothing collection. I’d basically gather so much cloth, that after the manufacturing of the collection was completed, I still had huge quantities of leftover fabrics. It would have been completely hypocritical of me to discard it, so I wanted to continue making use of this material, and this stood as quite an encouraging motivation to follow the same manufacturing approach as before, and used it to produce the Virtues range.
JY: This collection is very different as compared to your previous collections. What made you decide to create casual-lounge wear (aka bralettes, slip dresses and smocks)?
AS: I think the sole influence that really swayed me to make a ready-to-wear range was that a number of people have previously contacted me via social media and email to ask if I had a shop for them to purchase some of my designs.
Unfortunately at that point in time, I wasn’t selling any of my stuff as I was still working a lot with my A/W range, which I decided I wasn’t going to sell for sentimental reasons.
As time progressed, more and more people were contacting me and showing an interest in my work. I still had a considerable amount of leftover fabric stocks, and there were many designs I’ve thought of exploring further. I thought that it was a good way to start off small, and perhaps develop my first collection, which I would make available for purchase. Therefore, the range would have a stronger casual, wearable aesthetic as compared to that of some of my previous ranges.
JY: You have mentioned that this is your first range that is fully available to purchase by the general public, did you have to tailor your way of thinking and process when it comes to creating design for commerce?
AS: This ended up becoming a hugely enjoyable project as I felt like I had a lot more freedom to create casual items that were more about their design and initial aesthetic, as compared to the sometimes-restrictive creative process I usually followed. It was really refreshing to just have fun and not feel a huge pressure to conform to what was being expected of me.
However, because this range was designed to be realistic and sellable, it instead introduced other requirements and restrictions that I needed to consider.
As a whole, I wanted it to be more realistic and casual compared to some of my previous works, but I didn’t want to lose the feeling of fun and playfulness within the designs as well, if the importance of comfort and wearability become too much of a priority. It was also important for me to continue reflecting on my own personal interests and incorporating my distinctive style into the range. People were showing interest in my design style, so I decided to use a quirky and unique Couture-style beadwork, paired with soft, simple RTW shapes that are inspired and influenced by a concept that I personally felt passionate about. In addition, I wanted people to understand and recognise the concept of the collection straight away and really enjoy the designs and embellishments of each garment, rather than being confused by it or trying to figure it out. I wanted to design something that was very direct, consistent, bold and wearable, which could just be appreciated and respected for what it is.
For the shapes and silhouettes, ease and comfort for the wearer were key factors. I wanted to go back to basics and completely remove all the fixtures and fastenings, and have the choice of cloth, the shape and fit of the garment and the embellishment design become the focus.
I liked the contrast between a soft silhouette and striking embellishments, and I feel that the shapes I have used cater for both comfort and simplicity, but are still playful and feminine at the same time. These include the choice of colour palette and subtle details such as the dropped back lines, and the slightly ‘flared-out’ classical shaping.
JY: Having embarked on your own label for a year with three collections under your belt, how do you think you have grown as a designer?
AS: Without sounding too cliché, this past year has been a big eyeopener. I’ve learnt more about myself, and really begun to truly understand the person I am; what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what makes me happy – which is something I wouldn’t have learnt in any sort of education.
I feel, in general, that I’ve become a much more stronger, confident and focused person, and I’m not worried about saying no to people in circumstances where I need to look at things realistically and put myself and my business first.
When I first started my own label, I promised myself that I wouldn’t say no to anything and would take every opportunity that was offered to me as I’ll never know where it may take me, which in the beginning was good, as it got the ball rolling.
Over time though, this unfortunately got quite tiring. I was beginning to feel more and more disappointed, used or even exploited on some occasions where I’d be offered something that initially sounded amazing which I’d be crazy to miss. I’d end up going 90% and the ‘requesting’ party only go 10%, and at the end of it all, I’d be very out of pocket. I’d not receive what was originally promised, and most of the time my garments would end up being damaged due to poor or careless handling. It has been a bitter sweet experience, I think.
In the beginning it was difficult to go through and have the same thing happen over and over again, but on the other hand, a part of me feels glad that it happened as I’m now fully aware of all sides of the industry.
From this I’ve learnt to be more analytical of opportunities that sound amazing, and I’m definitely less naïve and I am standing up for myself and my work a lot more. I’ve also taken the time to educate myself on the law and what my rights are as a designer and independent business, and I’ve written up a contract protecting my rights, designs, property and agreements, which I now present on all occasions that involve the use of my work. I’ve even battled copyright cases against designs of mine that have been exploited.
When I left Birmingham City University last year, having graduated with a degree in fashion, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be doing half of the stuff that I’m doing today, but I really enjoy it all. It’s great to be able to experience all sides of running a fashion label such as PR, communications and admin, law, copyright protection, contracts and outlet maintenance, instead of only focusing on the fashion design and manufacture element. Looking back, I can say that I’m so grateful for everything, all of the good and bad, as even though it’s been very challenging it’s also been very humbling and amazing to hear peoples kind words and support about my work. Overall, this experience has helped to shape me into the person I am today where I implement my experiences into all areas of my life.
JY: Were there any iconic/significant events that happened during the course of your career as a designer?
AS: The events that have happened during the past year that I feel have particular significance are, the first time my local newspaper interviewed and printed a feature on me. To some, this might not sound too exciting, but for me it was really great to be able to receive support from my local paper and it was lovely that they wanted to do a feature and spread the word about my work. That was a great experience and when it came out in print it was very encouraging, and from that, another newspaper from a neighboring council contacted me to also do a feature in their paper.
Another event that I was quite surprised by was when my old university in Nottingham asked to do a case study on me to promote their facility. Again, it might not sound too significant to others, but for me it was a big surprise that they wanted to use myself and my work to promote their facility as I never thought that people were looking at my work in such a positive way.
I feel that the launch of my new Virtues Of Venus ready-to-wear line stands as a welcome milestone for my growing brand as it continues to develop. It is also the first line that I’ve launched that is available for purchase by the public, and I think that I would be able to gain new experiences from this endeavour, where I can continue to learn while enjoying the design process.
Over the past year, I’ve been so lucky to have so many amazing things happen to me. I felt super blessed when American model and fashion blogger, Audrey Kitching, decided to use my entire graduate A/W2014 ‘Dimensional Perceptions’ collection for an exclusive fashion video and editorial for Ladygunn Magazine New York.
I’ve personally loved Audrey for many years after having discovered her when I was very young. I used to follow her blog and dressing style religiously, where I would dye my hair pink and wear the ‘Pinks have more fun’ top from her line just to match my hair. She has always been an iconic character of admiration and a point of inspiration for me, so much so that her distinguishable style and vibe even served as an influence for the aesthetics of the design and manufacturing of my ‘Dimensional Perceptions’ range.
It really came as a great shock to me that she spoke to me and even liked my clothing, let alone wanting to use the collection for her shoot in New York. To this day, it still feels so surreal, and when I look back at it, it’s difficult to make the connection that Audrey wore the clothes I’ve made. It’s just so strange yet amazing, and of course, I am so grateful for everything.
JY: How would you categorise your aesthetic and style?
AS: I think the factor that distinguishes my designs is the element of high quality fit and finishing paired with a bold and exciting visual appearance.
I use my work as a form of communication and expression to help draw attention to the things that I feel need addressing, such as social stigmas surrounding youth cultures, disabilities, eco-fashion, environmental awareness and conservation.
My designs have a serious and passionate side but I try to communicate these causes in a creative, carefree and interactive way. I hope that my designs are seen as interesting, fun and expressive, influenced by environmental or social movements and built around an innovative use of textiles and textures, creative pattern cutting and hand-sewn couture style beadwork, embellishments and finishing’s with a trendy, youthful street-wear twist.
I have a personal passion for pattern cutting, traditional tailoring, bespoke finishing and couture, and I strive to channel them throughout my own work as I want this traditional, diminishing way of attentive hand finishing to remain a part of today’s modern fashion.
In addition, I aim to assure the buyer/wearer that they are purchasing/wearing something of high quality and beautiful fit, which doesn’t have to be compromised or lost if they want to wear something that is fashion-forward and expressive.
JY: Who is currently the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?
AS: At this moment in time, I would say that there is no-one in particular. I try not to focus on what other people are doing, even if I’m looking at a person with admiration.
I prefer to look at other things rather then what other people are doing as I want my work to be a product of my imagination, instead of being a subconscious representation of something another person has already created.
Aside from that, I’ve actually been looking back on my old work and what I’ve achieved in the past year quite a lot, and that’s given me motivation to push myself further. I’ve been inspired to re-visit old ideas and explore them further so I guess in a way, you could say that I’ve been influencing myself, which has ultimately impacted the way I’ve been thinking across my newer projects.
JY: What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?
AS: I’m currently fascinated by 3D textures or textiles and designs that wearers can interact with. For me, I usually explore things by touching them and I love the idea of introducing a textured element onto a garment that can either complement the design and its concept, or create a contrast and act as a statement feature.
For example, in my most recent collection, a lot of my hand embellishments are very textured and 3D, and they have a special extra aspect about them that introduces a level of depth and visual stimulation, which helps to create a focal point and give a fun kinetic feeling to the design.
For other items, I’ve also introduced physical moving elements such as dangling beads and sequins that swing and reflect the light as the garment is worn. I even have a jellyfish design that has moving tentacle legs that would shake as the wearer moves. I thought that it could serve as a playful feature for the garment.
JY: What are you passionate about besides your work?
AS: My other passion which I feel really defines the person I am but is not seen as much, is that I love anything natural and organic and just all things nature. I’m not sure how you’d label it, something along the lines of environmental conservationist or environmental appreciation or maybe even a hippy? I love to experience and learn about the natural world and in my spare time, I try to completely detach myself from my work and enjoy the outdoors and focus my time on more basic, organic interests. For me this is a good escape from my work and it’s great to appreciate the things that occur naturally and that exist without any input from humanity.
It’s nice to take a break from materialistic or a superficial life that is very much normality in today’s modern society as I feel that the natural world has been forgotten about to an extent, and instead, exploited for the development of the modern world.
This is something I’m quite passionate about, and I try to live my life in a way that’s not hypocritical of my beliefs and interests, and therefore I try to be resourceful, innovative, considerate and quite ordinated around the natural world in all areas of my life.
JY: And lastly, what’s your personal motto?
AS: My personal motto is to trust yourself and ignore what others are doing, and go with your gut feeling! It’s a tough world and you need to look after yourself, so don’t concern yourself with others. Don’t stress about what they are doing as that will make you have doubts in yourself and would slow you down. Just focus on your end goals, and have faith in yourself. Most importantly, it’s also crucial to have a backbone!
Thanks Amber for the insightful answers!
To read our previous interview with her, click here
As part of our 3rd year anniversary illustration series, our deputy editor Zureena Wahap, who is also a visual artist, has created an animated illustration (below) based on Snow’s collection.
Check out Amber Louise Snow’s website for more of her splendid design collections!
To shop her ‘Virtues of Venus’ collection, click HERE.
Lookbook photo credits:
Deborah Selwood – Photographer
Amber L Snow – Stylist & Designer
Monica Montalvo – Makeup
Sarah Wright – Nails
Annette Grey – Hair
JoJo Pearson – Model
For more of Zureena Wahap’s quirky illustrations, visit her instagram page @zureena.doofusface