styleisle archive – August 2010

This month we have a chat with the uber talented Tim Ryan to learn about the world of knitwear design, how to go about designing a selection, and life in London….

I read that you are a self taught designer, tell us about your journey in fashion?

It started really with some Dresses I had made from Vintage Yarns in 1994, I then aproached SeSi in Temple Bar and they stocked them and sold out really quickly, since then really I’ve just kept doing the same thing with different stores, we started showing Seasonal collections though in 2007 after relocating to London.

Tell us about your typical day when designing a new collection.

Well my assistant arrives at 10 and she’ll start straight away making up some of the pattern pieces I might have worked on the night before, interns might be working on finishing or trims, we’ll stop to do fittings and see where things need to be changed and make notes and I might do some scribbles to remind myself of ideas but really it’s only when everyone is gone again that I can settle on my own to see whether things are working or not and try some things out and maybe work on some new drawings based on what did or didn’t work during the day.

Your designs being a whole new interpretation of knitwear to the world of fashion, what kind of things inspire your designs?

Really although it’s all knit I’m not on any knit crusade, I just adore the sensuality and flexibility of it, it’s easy to construct any shape you need from it witout complicated seaming, really the inspiration is always about a charachter in the world and whether they accept or reject the influence the broader world has, so inspiration can be from anywhere but it’s always based on a percieved personality and additude to life.

Tell us about how you make your pieces?

All the pieces are either totally hand-knit or crocheted or else made on domestic knitting machines and then hand sewn so therefore it’s difficult for us to produce in vast numbers as it’s not exactly suited to factory production but we have a very talented team of outworkers who make the pieces beautifully.

Sourcing materials must be a difficult process, and the raw material is the key to quality! Tell us about how you source your materials?

Well we work with established yarn agents who source the best yarns from mills all over the world and we have used yarns from Italy and Cashmere from Scotland but recently in the aftermath of the financial crisis we’ve noticed that the large Italian mills are becoming more and more conservative in their output so we’ve turned to some UK producers and have started to develop our own yarns with them, this gives us huge exclusivity and it’s great to support smaller industry here. We’ve had some very exciting results so far so it’s something I look forward to continuing in the future.

Have you ever been asked to design a one off piece for someone? If you could choose, who would be your muse?

Well I work a lot with Sonya Lennon and adore making pieces for her, she’ll tell me she has an event coming up and basically more or less leaves it up to me to make something that will work, she’s the perfect client in that regard, we don’t have to talk too much about it, we just kind of understand where we’re both coming from.

Have you got a favourite piece?

There are pieces every season that I love but the Ribbon Fringed Jackets we’ve been doing are a favourite at the moment simply because they just do so well, customers love them and seem to collect them, Browns must have re-ordered them 20 times in different colours by now, they continue to sell out and seem to pop up in press all the time, so they are my favourite in terms of pure hardworking value for money..

Do you find yourself checking out the competition from time to time?

Of course, Im totally nosey about what everone else is up to, you can’t live in a bubble, I’d like to be more discerning but I read rubbish like anyone else, it’s around you 24/7 it would take more discipline than I have to ignore it all.

Tell us about any up coming projects you have and about London Fashion Week?

Well we were due to show on the catwalk for the first time in London Fashion week this season but last minute sponsor panic means it’s still up in the air right now, if it doesn’t happen this season it will for next, I feel very nearly ready to take it to the next level.

Do you feel that now women have become more cost conscious than ever before that the world of design has suffered?

This season I took a risk and used a very expensive Silk Yarn covered in tiny sequins, it was 3 times the price of Cashmere but looked amazing , I though we’d maybe sell a few pieces but it has proved to be the most popular part of the collection and Cardigans at over a thousand euro have sold out as soon as they hit the shops, so I’d say yes people are more cost concious but only in the fact that they care more that what they buy must be beautiful and beautifully made and flatter them, This is where it’s so important to support smaller labels who offer quality and value for money no matter what the price is, it’s the big companies that are concerned about being conservative to look after their profits and in difficult times may offer cheaper things but no real choice, where smaller ones who are more able to respond to what their customers really want and can still offer excitement innovation and quality.

Have you had to change your approach to what you do to adapt to a less affluent market?

I have had to remember to be more fearless really in terms of what I design and to remember to do what feels right, there may be fewer mid range customers out there but really the ones who appreciate what we do are still coming back and still are buying the most exciting things, maybe a piece or to less a season, but they are still responding and buying for the reasons they always did, they have a passion for design and quality.

You now base yourself from London, how do you think Ireland is progressing in terms with competing with a style capital like London?

I don’t really believe in that sort of comparison, Ireland has so much going for it that London never will have. There are stylish people everywhere as much as there are people who couldn’t care less. Saying that I choose to be here as it’s more central for work and I’m so used to the size of London now that it might be hard to live somewhere smaller but I love both places for very different reasons and simply because they are actually so different to each other.