Sunday, 19 November 2017

Interview with designer Caroline Duckett about her ethical brand Apolina

Apolina is a bohemian children's wear brand which also includes a line of adult clothing, which is "inspired by far-off places" and "designed whilst daydreaming". 
The detailed embroidered designs and attention to detail on each piece of clothing from Apolina, is amazing, and the smocking on the dresses is done by hand (see a picture below).
 It's not just the designs that make them so special; there are a limited number of each design and once they are sold, they are not re-stocked, adding to their uniqueness.
 It is inspiring to hear of Caroline Duckett's close relationship with the manufactures and how important this is to her brand. The factory in India which produces the designs employs an equal number or male and female tailors, which is unusual for this industry, and Caroline is also keen to support the traditional craftsmanship of the local area. After working in the fashion industry for about 10 years for companies like Topshop and Christopher Kane, Caroline decided to launch her own ethical brand, influenced by the handmade dresses her grand-mother made for her as a child.

1. Where are the clothes from Apolina produced and who made them?

They are produced in India. India is well known for its embroidery talent, it is such a precise skill and something that is passed on through generations. Our embroidery is 'hand-fed' machine embroidery, this means they are not set up, and done through a computer, as high street embroiderers would be, instead a skilled embroiderer is sitting, using the machine to 'draw'the designs onto the fabric. Our smoking is done completely by hand and also the finishes, such as the blanket stitch, are done by hand. I love that this adds a uniqueness to each piece.

2. What part of the design process do you enjoy most?

The research. I love looking into different cultures, sourcing vintage pieces, collecting colour swatches and then seeing it come together.

3. How can people be encouraged to take a more conscious approach to fashion?

A mantra I really live by is 'buy less, chose well'. I apply this for my children's clothing and also my own. I much prefer to invest in one or two pieces a season and make sure we get wear out of them. I am lucky with my children, as I have two girls and everything is passed down.

4. Why is it important to support artisan embroiderers?

The skill is a big part of Indian tradition and culture; by supporting the craft, it ensures that the skill set is passed on through future generations.

5. What made you want to create a brand with an ethical ethos?

I worked in the fashion industry for about a decade previously, and upon having children, it started to feel too fast-paced and too throw-away. I was keen to create something meaningful. Special pieces that would become part of treasured memories. I have a friend in India who runs a factory with his wife and father-in-law. I love supporting a family business and knowing that all their staff are treated as members of the extended family.

6.What are your priorities when designing?

I think about making sure the clothes are comfortable, easy to be worn while playing indoors and outdoors and I also think about maximising the wearer time, tending to go for slightly more oversized fits so that garments can be worn for longer.

7. How do you manage to design clothes that are timeless?

I am inspired by travel and the marriage of a number of different cultural inspiration. I think this helps to build a timeless aesthetic. I take something classic like a Mexican embroidered dress and giving it a different feel by looking at Scandinavian embroidery techniques with colours of traditional Welsh blankets. A lot of my inspiration comes from vintage handicraft pieces that I pick up on my travels.

8. When do you feel most creative?
I'm an evening worker, my mind seems to be most filled with ideas after I've put my kids to bed!

9. What projects are you currently working on?

I just finished our AW18 development and sent it off to the factory today! I am going over to visit in around 3 weeks time to oversee SS18 production and check in on the new developments. So I have a couple weeks of breathing space!

Thank you Caroline! You can see her latest beautiful and trans-seasonal collection over on her website here.

    Beccy x


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