Vibrant Nature


Internationally renowned for her passion for colour, pattern and texture, L-J Andrew talks to Tricia Guild OBE about her life enhancing, contemporary take on design

Your first collection in 1970, was made by recolouring Indian hand-blocked printed textiles. Why did this design format catch your eye?

I have been travelling to India for many years and even now, I can still recall that very first trip and how everything about the subcontinent ignited my creativity – the colours, the patterns, the textures and of course the soulful dignity and respect for tradition that the country has. It’s a magical place, challenging to explore but certainly dynamic and life enhancing. India is also synonymous with the world of textiles and we are huge supporters of this grass-roots industry. We still weave collections and have wonderful relationships with our suppliers there.

For me, choosing and using colour is an instinctive process. I rarely act on the science of what colours go with what. Instead, I listen to my intuition and what feels right. The Indian way has taught me that point of view.

What was the initial vision behind Designers Guild?

I was working as an interior designer and I felt quite frustrated at the selection of fabrics and wallpapers available. Everything was either very traditional or of dubious quality. There was very little that felt creative, contemporary or distinctive. I had no idea if anybody else felt the same way, I just knew I wanted to explore other options and show people a different way of decorating.

The word ‘lifestyle’ didn’t really exist then either – fabric was sold in fabric shops, furniture in furniture shops and there were very few places, if any, that showcased rooms and interiors the way you would choose to live in them. Our first collection was called “Village” and it was made up of around30 small, brightly coloured Indian inspired block prints that were hand printed here in London. I re-covered a sofa, a few lampshades and a stool, painted a vintage cupboard and filled it with my Clarice Cliff collection. I suppose you could say, that from this seminal moment, my style template was born.

Your work is instantly recognisable. What drives you to keep creating stand out designs?

I don’t really set out to create designs that are ‘set apart’ as such, but I do like to break the odd diktat or rule. People are much more open to ideas today, but back in the 70sand even the 80s – there was a huge amount of reticence to express one’s personality in an interior. It was entirely normal to inherit curtains from parents or grandparents and there were ridiculous, conformist beliefs such as ‘blue and green should never be seen’, or ‘you shouldn’t use bright colours in a bedroom’. I always felt much freer than the times decreed, so felt compelled to push the boundaries my way. The by-product of that, is that some of those designs were rather momentous and became iconic.

You have collaborated with many leading name designers. Do you have a favourite?

From Kaffe Fassett in the early days to Jasper Conran, Christian Lacroix and John Derian – I have been fortunate to work with many creative geniuses over the years. Each one has taught me something and equally, I hope I have also shared something of myself and my knowledge with them too. I love collaborating – working with like-minded individuals is a wonderful gift and the fact that our styles or metiers are different is unimportant – it’s the journey as much as the end product, that makes for a hugely rewarding experience.

I love all collaborations but the highpoint for me has to be the two collections with the late, great Howard Hodgkin– one of my favourite artists and definitely one of Britain’s foremost contemporary painters. It really was a dream come true to work with my friend and idol.

From ‘The Royal Collection’ to an OBE, what does it mean to you for your work to receive the ‘royal seal of approval’?

It’s truly wonderful to be recognised in this way. Receiving my OBE in 2008 was an extraordinary moment – I suppose one just works away in one’s chosen field. To think that others have recognised those efforts and achievements is both surprising and flattering. Being chosen to manufacture fabrics and wallpapers on behalf of the Royal Collection was incredibly exciting – having access to unseen treasures and the private archive was a great privilege.

Last year marked 50 years of Designers Guild with an exhibition at The Fashion and Textile Museum. How did that feel?

As many of my team will tell you, I am not one for looking back. I prefer to look to the future and whilst not averse to acknowledging the ups and downs of life, tomorrow is a precious gift to treasure. The exhibition, which is about to move to a new home in the Winchester Discovery Centre from May 2022, forced me to really examine how far we had come. It was thought provoking, challenging and touching in equal measure and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences.

From creating your first book, Soft Furnishings, in 1982, to your latest release, Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild, how has the world of design evolved?

Our world of interiors, design and decoration has changed beyond measure and most certainly for the better. People are less nervous now of using colour and pattern in their homes. They embrace self-expression in a more personalised, meaningful way. People are also less reticent and scared of mixing styles and making their homes wonderful places to live in. It used to be frowned upon and considered frivolous to take interior design seriously, whereas now, the way we decorate our homes and live in them, is just as important as how we dress. It’s less about trends and more about different moods and styles that one can experiment with. I have always loved that idea – that you can adapt your style and keep it fresh and relevant.

What’s in store next for Designers Guild?

There’s always something exciting to look forward to. Right now, we’re emerging from the pandemic in good shape –our fantastic team have been incredible and worked hard to keep positive and stay creative. Our ‘Out of the Blue’ exhibition will have a new home at the Hampshire Cultural Trust Gallery, and I have just finished recording a series for Learning with Experts. We are also nearing completion of my latest book about flowers and decorating with nature, which we hope will publish this May. Plus, we’re working on several new collections for the autumn, so the next six months will be pretty busy.

Do you foresee a vanguard moment in the next decade for design and interiors?

Gosh that’s a tricky question – I hope there will be a time when everyone has the confidence to live with the colours, patterns and textures that they truly love, rather than just aspire to what they are told is fashionable and on trend. There will probably come a point at which we will be able to change our interiors at the flick of a switch and by a robot too, but hopefully, that’s a long way off.


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