Interview: The Design Studio

Cherwell Fashion has been delighted and honoured to work with the up and-coming fashion label TDS (The Design Studio, Hawarden) who came especially down to Oxford to shoot with us (check out the incredible pictures in this week’s fashion photoshoot) this Autumn. TDS was launched online just over a year ago and is run by the mother-daughter duo Sally and Lettie Pattinson, based in the small village of Hawarden, just outside of Chester. Their trade-mark faux-fur bomber jackets are each uniquely designed by media graduate Lettie and textile lecturer Sally, who then skilfully hand-make every single one of them individually at their home studio. One of the first TDS label bomber jackets sold last year was purchased by model-turned actress Suki Waterhouse who eagerly turned to Instagram to boast about the latest addition to her wardrobe. Since then, their clients have included British actress Ellie Bamber, model Joanna Halpin, fashion blogger Aimee-Rose Francis and Topshop model Emma Knight. Although originally only available to purchase exclusively through Instagram, TDS have now expanded online and to stores in Belgium, including the luxurious Atelier d’Anvers, Pixie Market in New York, and soon, Selfridges in London. Their success doesn’t stop here, however. Their latest collection sold out online in less than ten minutes. Last month their Instagram account, run by intelligent and media-savvy Lettie, not only reached twenty thousand followers, but was also on the ‘Top 15 Instagrams To Follow’ worldwide. Their jackets have been featured in America’s Teen Vogue, and they received a rush of online media-attention, including with Elle and ASOS magazine; not to mention interest from Kanye West.

So who are the people behind TDS and what is their story? After twenty years of lecturing in textiles, Sally Pattinson decided to open a small TDS store in her local village Hawarden, selling an interesting array of antique objects, including satchel bags made up of old books. Not long after, Sally, along with daughter Lettie, decided to close their Hawarden store and launch their brand on Instagram. The rest, as they say, is history. Lettie, who graduated this year, and who wrote her dissertation on social media and Instagram, gives her followers a special insight into the behind-the-scenes of TDS studio. Their photos reveal glimpses of preliminary sketches, fabrics and textiles, with a beautiful array of colours on soft beige backdrops. There is a distinctly personal touch that many other Instagram fashion pages lack, as the inner workings of the studio are revealed and snapshots of both Lettie and Sally at work make the occasional appearance.

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Talking with Lettie makes me realise just how well she understands the importance and the influence of Instagram on their increasing success. “Without social media we’d be nothing”, she tells me modestly. And certainly, social media may have helped them gain universal recognition at such a fast pace, but the quality and beauty of their work would certainly not have gone on unnoticed for long. “The demand in the UK is huge,” Lettie says, “We’ve recently had offers to mass-produce from China.” But the idea of mass production does not fi t well with the ethos of TDS brand, which prides itself on its unique, individual, homemade designs. I ask Lettie what she envisions for the future of TDS and she shrugs optimistically; “To keep doing what we’re doing”, she replies. She briefly mentions the possibility of moving on to other items of clothing or accessories, but admits that the success of the bomber jacket doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. “We thought the hype would die down over the summer as the weather improves. But it didn’t at all. We even had clients ordering from Dubai!”

At the start of the summer, Cherwell Fashion were in contact with TDS about the possibility of an autumn shoot in Oxford. Almost four months down the line, after intensive preparations, model selections, masses of photographer portfolios, location collaboration and two entire new ranges of jackets designed especially for the shoot, the images are finally here! TDS’ Instagram can be found at @thedesignstudiohawarden