Thursday, July 7, 2011

Laura Miles, WOVEN studio

(C) Laura Miles Tweed Collection

(C) Laura Miles Tweed Collection

(C) Laura Miles Tweed Collection
Brushed mohair floats. (C) Laura Miles WOVEN studio

Structural floats with slub yarn. (C) Laura Miles WOVEN studio

(C) Laura Miles WOVEN studio

(C) Laura Miles Tweed Collection
 Last week I had the pleasure conducting my first interview for this blog (well, more like had a good chat) with Laura Miles, founder of WOVEN Studio, a woven textile design consultancy for fashion fabrics.

Laura studied Fashion and Textile Design with Business Studies, specialising in weave at Brighton University, graduating in 1997. Laura then took full advantage of the various opportunities that exist for graduates to support ‘the next step’. Exhibiting at New Designers, Donna Karan purchased work from her final collection. She was then selected to exhibit with Texprint at Indigo, where she won the Weave Prize, and sold lots of designs to Italian mills, some of whom became long term clients.  Buoyed by this success, she applied for and was awarded a setting up grant from the Crafts Council; support from The Princes Trust; and a Clerkenwell Green Association Award which gave her a free studio for one year.
After purchasing a loom, Laura industriously wove a new body of design samples, and flew to Italy to visit the contacts she’d made through Texprint to sell more work and then on to New York to visit the Donna Karan studio and other fashion houses. And thus her business was firmly established.
Laura has had an interesting and varied career working with some the luminaries at the very top of the fashion sphere. Generally the focus is on producing hand woven swatches which are then put into commercial production, but she also produces handwoven meterage on occasion.
She has a  vital role acting as the conduit between the mills and the fashion designers. She translates, designs and articulates what fashion designers need, and then often liaises with mills for production. Indeed she has a number of long term consultancy roles with various mills, with UK silk mill Vanners being one of the most interesting and illustrious. Fabrics from her biannual collection for them have been sold to the likes of Balenciaga, Giles, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Roland Mouret, Ungaro, Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan and Christopher Kane. 
A new focus for her is her Laura Miles Tweed Collection, launched in 2010 and now into its third season.  Working with Marling and Evans, a mill in Huddersfield, Laura has created a collection of forty summer and winter weight tweeds that are all woven off the same warp using stock yarns. This approach gives flexibility to respond quickly to both small and large meterage orders as the dedicated mill loom is always ready with this set-up.
When I visited her studio which is currently in the basement of her beautiful house (a converted shop) in Islington, her assistant was busily working on the current project to produce inspirational hand woven fabrics (swatches and lengths) for the new biannual Spinexpo yarn fair in China working with the new seasons yarns from their exhibitors. In evidence on two of the three ARM looms, were some delicious samples exploring structural weft floats in fine mohair.
Accompanied by her lovely 3 month old daughter Maia, we had a great hour chatting not only about her career, but also the challenges facing the UK textile industry and our mutual dream of owning a mill one day!  Although I readily admit that my business brain wouldn’t be up to it! By contrast Laura has an in-depth understanding of the demands of the international fashion industry and her the idea of her being at the helm at a mill is truly exciting...... fingers crossed!

Laura stood in front of her 'moodboard' wall, with Maia

The studio