What were you doing before you formed Thom Neal?
I have done a bit of everything to be honest. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for ages and left school at 17, and went from hairdressing to shop work. I have worked in banking and as a caravan assistant fitter, all sorts, but nothing actually felt right and I didn’t have the passion for any of them, but eventually I fell into the right career path, though it took time.
Aside from designing, what other interest’s do you have?
I like everything really. Music and gigs are a big thing for me, but shopping, meals , cars, travelling to new cities … the theatre is really good too, all sorts, people seem to categorise you, just because you dress a certain way, but I like things that everyone else does.
What projects are you currently working on?
Well, at the moment I am working as an accessories designer for a few of the major high street brands, so that is taking up a lot of my time, but I have a few bespoke pieces In the pipeline too. Also, I am trying to work on the technical side of things a lot more now, as I think there is a real shortage of the technical skills in the UK. Developing skills into new areas.
Do you have anything exciting coming up in the near future in terms of development and expansion of Thom Neal?
I have got an online retailer in Japan trialling some limited edition pieces, going on sale in January. Along with some limited edition pieces coming to my website too. Then, I am currently developing the graduate collection – ready for sampling in January to look at retailing towards September/October 2012, all UK manufactured of course. So they are the next steps really, oh and my online shop will hopefully be up and running early next year too, its all just a time thing, so much to do, with not much time.
In your own opinion, what is unique about Thom Neal?
Although more and more people are catching onto the whole ‘Made in the United Kingdom’ thing, I still think Thom Neal, England has a design edge and it is important for me and these other small brands to keep going, to grow and develop to keep the British economy going and to promote British values and manufacturing. We have a lot of skill sets here that need utilising and promoting. My way of doing this is through Thom Neal, England.
In business terms, what advice would you give to aspiring designers?
It’s hard, very hard and tiring and some times you think is it worth it. But If you have the passion you will succeed and grow. The hardest thing is getting noticed and with bloggers such as yourself, I think it helps not only designers, but all artists become noticed. Promotion and marketing is definately an area where I am no expert, and will need to get some help – but at the end of the day, that costs money and when you are a one man band, with little funding, that isn’t always a viable option. The key thing to remember is research – who is your customer, who will you promote and sell too, which shop do you want to stock it, price ranges, market points, suppliers, fabrics, factories … the list is endless.
I think that we need to adapt a lot more as designers and not just be able to sketch. With all of the ‘behind the scenes’ jobs filling up and Universities failing to teach you half of the stuff – it’s not helping the future of the development and production side of things in the United Kingdom. With Universities not teaching it, you are required to teach yourself and go out and find the expertise from elsewhere. Internships are a good start, apprenticeships would be even better if there were any. But looking at garment technology, production and pattern cutting are all good areas to look at. They are all very important parts of the design process, yet we have very few courses that actually specialize in these areas. They’re areas that are over looked and we have far too many design graduates and not enough of these, so from my point of view, if you can master a specialism such as the above, then designing would come naturally and you would understand everything about the design and development process, rather than just the sketch on a piece of paper or a CAD you create.
Lastly, would you say that Thom Neal is successful?
It depends how or what you see as successful really, as I would still class it as ‘developing’. I think once the brand has developed a little, gone to retail and starts selling and getting seen – it will be a lot easier to gauge it from an outsiders point of view. It was hard to see how things would turn out 5 or 6 years ago, and if I am completely honest I probably didn’t see myself being where I am now, but my personal goals have been reached and exceeded, and the next set of goals have been set for the next chapter of Thom Neal, England.
Images courtesy of Thom Neal, England
Since my discovery of visual and performance artist Linder Sterling a number of months ago, I have been somewhat obsessed with the use of collage in every sense of the word, from modern art to an item of clothing. Yet not to worry, this obsession is a continuous one, since I have been interested in the use of collage since my research into pop artist Robert Rauschenberg around a year ago, as part of my Art & Design coursework back in high-school.
My most recent collage-orientated discovery is this ‘Smile’ Top by Bernhard Willhelm, which is currently retailing via Farfetch. I’ve always been intrigued by the use of facial features when it comes to collage and various interpretations of the phrase “modern art”, and with this print being the epitome of everything I admire when it comes to art and how both the term fashion and art are manipulated to slide alongside each other in an appropriate manner, I would have considered me not admiring this item a near impossibility.
You can currently purchase the ‘Smile’ Top via Farfetch for £144.00, alongside the ‘Lalita’ Dress which incorporates an identical graphic print and concept, yet with an increased retail price of £439.00.
Images courtesy of Farfetch
It’s not too often that I get myself genuinely excited about a forthcoming collection, yet since the announcement of the scheduled Alex & Chloe for Forever 21 collaboration a number of months ago, I have been taking hourly glances at my calender in the hope that the days were passing faster than usual. Although I didn’t have bundles of luck or satisfaction in my endeavours, the day of the Alex & Chloe for Forever 21 collaboration collection release has finally appeared in its oh so delightful, black matte finished or alternatively polished, and rhinestone detailed glory.
The collection is made up of a seemingly generous nineteen pieces, with the incorporation of a number of items which offer either a matte or polished finish. As expected, all of the items have Alex & Chloe written all over them, with the labels signature use of geometric design and the outburst of triangles and crosses, alongside a shape which we have not seen a great deal of before – the hexagon, in the form of an admirable rhinestone detailed bangle.
An aspect which completes this collaboration is the fact that Alex & Chloe have managed to stick to what seems to be one of the main concepts behind Forever 21 – with that being the seemingly ridiculous affordability of each and every item on offer, from jewelry to dresses and jackets.
It’s extremely rare that I bump up affordable brands when it comes to quality, yet Forever 21 is one brand which manages to provide admirable products which are also reliable when questioning quality. This means that unlike hundreds of brands which leave you keeping your fingers crossed that the sweater you purchased from them last week isn’t going to obtain a hole after you’ve thrown it on once or twice, you can simply wear and continue wearing without a worry. On that note, I have full trust in the fact that these Alex & Chloe for Forever 21 items would have gone through vigorous testing when it comes to quality assurance and are not your stereotypical, flimsy pieces of plastic.
Images courtesy of Alex & Chloe and Forever 21
Currently playing: Marina and the Diamonds – Starring Role (Demo)
Just in case those of you who do not obsess over Marina Diamandis of Marina and the Diamonds on a daily basis are unsure as to what this song actually means, let me outline my interpretation. As this song is demo rather than an official release, that does mean that this is seemingly the next song which will be grabbing an official release. This will presumably take place as we head into the new year as part of Marina’s soon to be released album which she has titled Electra Heart, after a fictional yet corrupt character named Electra Heart.
This means that I’m anxiously awaiting something along the lines of an official tweet from Marina to her fans, so I can begin jotting “must stay off of college and listen to Marina’s new album over and over” days onto my calender.
Is it sad that I let the music of a single vocalist take over my life? I think not.
Even though I consider myself to be ‘in the know’ when it comes to the Alex and Chloe Trinity collection, as it’s one of the first collections I came across when I discovered Alex and Chloe, and the same collection which originally drew me to the label, alongside the Forever and Never collection which included a delightful array of abstract and acrylic items, I have only recently began paying attention to the collection once again.
One item which I find particularly admirable is the Crown of Thorns Ring and the Ant. Silver with Turquoise style in-particular, even though there are alternative styles of the ring. For reference, the alternative styles include:
• Ant. Brass with Black Onyx
• Ant. Brass with Blue Sodalite
• Ant. Brass with Epidote Marble
• Ant. Silver with Pink Quartz
• Ant. Silver with Red Cornelian
• Ant. Silver with Snowflake Obsidian
• Gunmetal with Pyrite
With a continuous price-tag of $120.00, you can’t exactly complain, right?
It seems that for some reason I find the mix of minerals and spiked, silver or brass insets admirable – and even though the Crown of Thorns Ring is considered to be an item targeted towards your alternative female demographic, I can honestly admit that I wouldn’t mind grabbing one of these for myself. Perhaps the Gunmetal and Pyrite style would be fittingly masculine?
If you feel a twinge of admiration towards the Crown of Thorns Ring and would like to sit gawking at the rest of the Trinity collection, including an array of necklaces, rings and earrings, you can do so via the Alex and Chloe store.
Images courtesy of Alex and Chloe
Once again, I have the delightful invention that is the e-newsletter to thank for the discovery of London-based designer James Hock. I have recently began taking an interest in not just the unique and slightly odd, but also the outright bizarre, which brings me back to the work of James Hock. James is what I would describe as the epitome of alternative design, as his fascination with fringing and what seems to be a form of shredding techniques is beyond astonishing, but when thrown together in such an artistically structural way, my mind seems to float away from the words bizarre and strange, and instead head on over to a slightly more subtle vocabulary of clever, intriguing and outright attractive.
This was meant as more of a notification than full-blown James Hock convention, as I simply wanted to inform you all that James recently released his online e-commerce store, which he has titled 3000 horses. That’s right, the name of the store is just as bizarre and unexpectedly irrelevant as the store founder.
3000 horses is possibly one of the smallest e-commerce stores I’ve graced in a while, as it currently holds the work of just two designers, including James Hock and British jewellery and accessories designer Dominique Lucas. Although the store is still small, it is a work in progress and a project I will be following without doubt over the course of the next year or so. Also, I appreciate that the store may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but then again who needs fancy layouts, headers and borders when you have a store which is packed with intriguing items?
Lastly, James has stated on his blog that there are more London based designers and designer collaborations coming soon to the store. What this means is that I’m now checking my inbox on a daily, if not hourly basis, as I await the arrival of numerous additional designers!
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Images courtesy of 3000 horses