Interview with designer Frances Vivienne


We’re incredibly pleased to introduce up and coming fashion designer Frances Vivienne, a recent fashion and textile graduate from Bristol UWE who has a real passion for developing unique and interesting clothing designs. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with Frances via email…

Cat On The Wall: You sign your name as Frances Poulton but you use Frances Vivienne when showcasing your work. Why did you decide to use a different name (am I right in thinking it’s your middle name?)?

Frances Vivienne: Yes it is my middle name. Well when showing my work at University I used my full name Frances Vivienne Poulton. For my website and ‘brand’ I guess I just liked the sound of it – Poulton sounds quite ordinary.

COTW: When did you first realise that you wanted to become a fashion designer and where are you now on your journey into the fashion world?

FV: Well I sort of fell in to. I did home economics textiles at school. I don’t know if you have done home economics but I learnt about the education system, the NHS, how to be energy efficient as well as sticking to a household budget. Alongside this I have made children’s clothes and clothing for myself; however they were always ready made patterns. I have always drawn clothing from a young age and used to love ‘fashion wheel’ the wheel you could turn and change heads, bodies and feet then rub with a pencil and get a lady you could colour in. So I decided to go to university and study fashion textiles design. I did a HND at Thames Valley University and studied an additional two years at The University of the West of England to complete my BA. Since graduating I have done a couple of work experiences and am now looking for a job closer to Bristol as that is where I now live.

COTW: Are there any designers that you’d love to work with or that have inspired your work?

FV: I was a big fan of Luella when she was still designing. I liked the very British nature of her work and it is something I draw upon in my own work. I find Britain a very inspiring place with all the oddities we all have. I recently met Kirsty Ward and David Longshaw at London Fashion Week and I think they are very inspiring and I love their designs. I also love Mary Katrantzou’s work, in particular her most recent collection inspired by interiors. Trompe L’Oeil is something I am developing a real passion for.

COTW: What is your creative process as a designer? What do you look for in a textile? Are there any colours or textiles you prefer working with? What inspires you?

FV: My creative process… hmmm tricky one… at the moment I am really interested in photographing inspiring shapes and architecture, so what I am doing is just taking pictures of everything. Will then draw from and interpret the images and try and create textile prints – the print is what I like to work out first and then the form usually follows from that – for example my collection from university I explored draping fabric and photographing it to make a print but I didn’t want lots of seams so it was sensible to use jersey and work from one piece of fabric.
What do I look for in a textile? The quality and weight of a fabric, sometimes the colour – I love going to fabric shops – the ones that are rammed to the rafters with different textures and colours; I just love touching everything. But I do create my own prints and embroidery so I have to choose fabrics that are suitable for the technique I want to use.

I don’t have favourite colours to work in – or maybe I do it is hard to say really. The colours usually stem from the inspiration… my inspiration can come from a variety of things. I love historical references in particular the 18th century and how to combine photographic prints with more traditional techniques. I like there to be an element of humour and whimsy. I am also trying to explore how to make my garments more eco friendly as I am currently involved in organising an eco fashion show.

COTW: How long have you been running your blog ‘Fashion Fantasist’ and why did you start it?

FV: My blog was a year old on the 1st January and trust me I wasn’t expecting to be so disciplined about it! I started blogging because it was a good way to raise my online profile and showcase my work but it has turned into exploring things about fashion that I like and think that other people might find interesting. It has also helped me make connections in the fashion world which I also never expected. I just really enjoy it!

COTW: Have you taken part in any work experience yet? What’s your dream job?

FV: I have done work experience since I graduated. I worked for Puckoo Couture who is a local designer in Bristol who makes individual and different leggings and unitards. I did some blogging for her and helped to raise her online profile. I also did an internship with French Connection womenswear design team which was really beneficial – I feel like I learnt a lot and was able to utilise skills I had. Gosh my ideal job… at the moment I am job hunting but I think that I would enjoy being in the design studio starting from the bottom at first but working my way up. I am also still designing in my free time and would like to explore the options of making and selling myself… but watch this space!

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

FV: I am looking for a job, working on a new collection, planning a photo shoot of my university collection, meeting with an online boutique and helping to plan an eco fashion show – so I am busy, busy, busy. I just hope that I manage to find a job and continue to work in some way in the industry.

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