Jersey and me have never worked. I have tried to explore the varied issues, but they really aren't forthcoming, except for Nancy Dee's pieces. Not being too much of a dress/skirt girl, I haven't dipped into the collection recently, but the new autumn/winter collection includes some fabulous blouses and pants and I am already there. It was definitely time for a catch up with the ever busy, Seraphina.
From the outset Seraphina, you were adamant that your clothing should enhance and work well with women's curvy figures. I love it. Is it something you still continue to take into account in your design remit?
Yes it absolutely is. To be honest though, I think that in reality whether you're curvy or skinny, all women tend to have some sort of hang-ups about their figures! I try to design a good mix of styles that may not be suitable for all women, but certainly there is something for everyone. For example, the Nancy Dee Eliza wrap dress is one of our best sellers. There is pleating detail on the bodice front and back, and a scoop pleated skirt front panel. All these small details mean the dress is not a clingy fit, but drapes around the body, while the tie at the waist cinches you in. It's a popular style with curvy women and skinny alike - giving a great silhouette whilst being really comfortable to wear.
I am conscious not to alienate women. I always feel that comfort should be of utmost importance, and believe that if you're not, it's hard to pull off an outfit with confidence. That's one of the great things about working with such luxurious jersey fabrics (bamboo, modal and organic cotton) - the fabrics feel gorgeous against the skin and are inherently beautiful when creating drape.
Another thing, which is really fab is that Nancy Dee designs graphics. Do you still design them all yourself?
When we first started we collaborated with design students and professionals, but soon after Tamsin and I found we had such a passion for the prints ourselves that we decided to create our own in-house designs. It's something we had to teach ourselves how to do though, as neither of us have any training in print/textile design. We have very different approaches and so the results are always really interesting. Going forward with the prints, I am now sourcing from vintage screens as well. We have now moved a lot of fabric sourcing and production to the UK and the printing costs for in-house designed prints are very high and not feasible at the moment. However I still consider the prints we'll be using to be very unique as they are hand picked from a vintage selection and all the colours are chosen by us.
Nancy Dee is one of those amazing sister collaborations. How do you work it out?
Tamsin and I set up the company six years ago and I don't think either of us had any clue whatsoever that it would be such a huge challenge. And I think we can both say without a doubt that we would not have been able to get to where we are had it not been for each other.
We have very different approaches to things. You could say we are almost polar opposites! But we learned quickly to utilise this. Where my strengths are in design and making, Tamsin's strengths are of actually running the business and making it function. We have crossed over though, as only a two-person company, you have to learn to do EVERYTHING! Tamsin is a very good photographer. I've had to learn some serious organisational skills in order to manage all the paperwork!
Earlier this year Tamsin decided to take a backseat in the company after giving birth to her son. So now it's me running the show...with a lot of help from my dad! He's a computer wizard and helps me manage things like the website and any of the tricky admin stuff.
I've had to implement a lot of changes to the company in order to be able to manage the workload. We are no longer producing two seasonal collections a year, but producing as we go and when we want to bring something new out. This is far better from a design and production management point of view. It was also brought about by the fact that a lot of our wholesalers now only buy in-season (instead of forward ordering) and the demand for trans-seasonal design is higher then ever, something we feel Nancy Dee does rather well.
The label has a strong ethical policy. How do you combine demand and ethics?
Nancy Dee is not a fast fashion brand. Instead we aim to create pieces that are designed to be versatile and classic - day-to-night styles that can be dressed up or dressed down, and we hope we will be worn for many years by the customer. In a world where fast fashion has become the norm, it can be very challenging no doubt!
We are very lucky to work with fantastic small manufacturers in the UK whose quality is exceptional and with whom we have an excellent working relationship. We only use sustainable fabrics in or designs, ranging from organic cotton and bamboo to silky woven modal.
We are also introducing the concept of upcycling into our new designs with the use of specially selected end-of-line fabrics in our designs. A lot of our fabric production is now being done in the UK, which we are really proud of - making the product entirely British made.
We aim to use local suppliers wherever possible from our swing tags to logo labels and garment trims. Any packaging we use is recyclable, and where we have to print things like look books and such we use recycled paper. Though recently with everything being online now, we try to avoid unnecessary printing and instead create digital booklets.
With my 'travelling the world' status, I might be in need of a dress or two...Nancy Dee is having a DESIGNER SAMPLE SALE on Friday, November 1 at 12:00pm in UTC: Atelier Tammam, 5 Hastings Street, WC1H - Catch you there!