I admire Heather Moore of Skinny LaMinx. She has a keen eye for design as well as a business brain that is taking her work from strength to strength. Heather has just released her latest fabric collection called Rough Cuts, and I was thrilled to get the low down from Heather herself.
patternbooth: Firstly can you tell me a bit about yourself and your design journey?
heather: I don't have any design or art training, but have always loved to draw and to make things. After studying Literature, Dramatic Arts and Direction, and Education at university, I fell into illustration after somebody spotted some of my theatre poster designs and other illustrations, and this kept me going over about 10 years, while I also wrote and edited educational materials.
After a while, I needed a change from this work, and started making things and blogging about them as a hobby - a sideline to my illustration and scriptwriting work. But it turned out that people wanted more, so eventually my hobby ended up turning into a business.
Now, five years later, I have a business partner called Pearl, a bunch of staff, a shop in Cape Town and a thriving wholesale business. Who would have guessed?
patternbooth: Of course I'm loving your new abstract prints. They are really quite different from your more illustrative designs. Tell us about the new patterns.
heather: My taste in design has always leaned towards the clean-edged, simple and graphic style associated with Scandinavian and Mid-Century Modern. This collection is no exception, exploring simple geometrics released from their strict geometry by using hand-cut shapes.
A geometric collection is capable of enormous
versatility in application, and the Rough
Cuts range is quite extensive - with 5 designs in 3 colourways each – which
allows the collection to be used in almost any context. My hope is for a collection that can work as well in a cool, restrained interior, as
in one that’s all about mad pattern on pattern.
patternbooth: What is the design scene like in South Africa for those who have never been?
heather: South Africa spent many years cut off from the rest of the world, due to the sanctions and cultural boycotts against Apartheid. Since achieving democracy in 1994, we've had a lot of catching up to do, both in becoming aware of what is out there, and gaining confidence in our own cultural and design identity. However, I really feel that in the last few years, we've found our mojo and we are taking it on!
Cape Town hosts an annual international design conference and expo called the Design Indaba, which is attended by designers worldwide, and has given us access to incredible work, as well as allowed us to showcase our own designers. And with Cape Town as World Design Capital in 2014, I'm sure this is only the start.
Keep an eye on local blogger Miss Moss to get an idea of what’s up in South Africa. She’s put together a Cape Town shopping guides that is a great window on our part of the world. See http://www.missmoss.co.za/ and http://www.missmoss.co.za/2012/10/11/cape-town-city-guide/
patternbooth: Having a beautiful shop, a strong web presence, international stockists and a great product range is the dream of most designers. Lots of people will be really interested in how you achieved it all?
heather: It's a long story, and largely an enjoyable one, but it does involve working awfully long hours (weekends too), putting in a lot of money, and not getting much back, and shedding lots of tears along the way. Of course, it's all a lot of fun too, and I think I'm hugely lucky to spend my days thinking up things I want to make!
There's a sweet animated video we made recently that tells some of the tale. See http://youtu.be/-QaGaXmlno4
patternbooth: How do you manage production of such a diverse range of products?
heather: Although I design everything myself, I don't make it all, and have wonderful people to work with. We work with local producers, most of whom are within 20 minute radius around the studio. We have a production manager, who has an assistant too, as there is a great deal of admin (costing, stock control, etc) and quality control involved.
patternbooth: How did you take the leap to having your own shop? and what are the pros and cons?
heather: As with most of the decisions we've made, this choice was made out of necessity and good timing: Our previous studio lease was up, we needed to find something new, and when I spotted a greasy scooter repair shop was to let, suddenly the notion of a shop with a working studio attached seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Turns out, it couldn’t have been a better decision to have made.
Having a shop means having to employ additional staff, there are five of us on the team full time, and one is part-time. My business partner Pearl and I are the joint boss, but we aim to see that our shop manager, production manager and assistants feel like they are bosses of their own departments, as it's much easier to be a boss of someone who is taking responsibility for what they do :)
It also requires a lot of time, as we must pay attention to keeping things fresh and interesting, and we have a cute little shop window that we try to change on a monthly basis. The major pro is that the shop has boosted the Skinny laMinx brand to another level.
patternbooth: How do you ever have time to design?
heather: I have a studio above the shop, where I work on all of my tasks, which are pretty varied. I manage our social media, and the design of all our branding and marketing material, including shop window displays. I photograph and edit all of our product shots, and do a lot of press release (and interview) writing too. It's intensely busy, but wonderfully varied and creative.
I try to reserve my Fridays as 'making days', where I work on things that are not business related, and just for fun, as I find that this undirected creative time often feeds back into things we produce for Skinny laMinx. See the results of my Making Fridays at http://skinnylaminx.com/category/making-friday/
patternbooth: What is next?
heather: We've just launched our Rough Cuts range of geometric-inspired furnishing fabrics, and watch this space for a release of the same prints at a much smaller scale later in the year. Apart from that, I'm hoping to do more limited edition prints and small runs of things during 2013.
patternbooth: If you were going to give advice to someone at the beginning of their design journey, what would you say?
heather: My own journey has been so unplanned, and has simply unfolded as opportunities have come up, I don't think I am qualified to give much more advice than to say that you should enjoy what you do, try your best to do it properly, and to be nice to people along the way.