Domestic Glory – A Conversation With Erica Toogood
Toogood launched collection 008 with humour and splendour, revelling in everyday chores to bring familiar shapes back to life. Reemé Idris joins co-founder Erica Toogood for warm herbal tea at House of Toogood to learn about a fresh take on utility wear.
Also read: Brand to Watch: Toogood
The tinker and the tailor are how sisters Faye and Erica Toogood are affectionately known, but they are also two characters belonging to a wider cast of Toogood shapes. Trade and labour unite the Carpenter, the Blacksmith and of course the Housekeeper, whose mop and toothpaste stripe are celebrated this time around. Erica gestures to a rail behind me and explains that they don’t reinvent patterns every single season, “We carry our patterns as an archive. Some of the trousers have been there since the first collection, evolved and made in many different fabrics. As with garments like the Photographer Jacket or the Beekeeper Coat, some seasons they will maybe go for a rest and then they come back out again.”
Toogood has grown with the makers behind it, as the in-house team move from their twenties to their thirties and domestic life takes a firmer hold. “We started with the rag rugging, which was actually the skill one of our designers obtained in her own time, to work out how to rag rug using a traditional tapestry rugging. She was able to work with one of our most basic fabrics, which is calico, and sort of pull it through. Then it goes through a wash process to produce this really beautiful tapestry collage of calico on those garments. It really evolved into something quite unusual,” Erica says.
A footwear collaboration with FEIT sits on the table, handcrafted from a single piece of cloth with a single seam down the back. “Truly, truly beautiful craftsmen make these, we’re super-proud to be collaborating with them”. The toothpaste stripe is screen printed, “We work with a London based screen printing company on a regular basis for our print, they are fantastic makers. They use their various techniques to show us how we can potentially screen print something to give it more life. To make it look like somebody’s just come along and hand painted it.”
“We carry our patterns as an archive. Some of the trousers have been there since the first collection, evolved and made in many different fabrics”.
Pattern cutting for collection 008 took place whilst builders were still working on House of Toogood, the new home for the design universe of Faye Toogood in the heart of East London, which also houses the Toogood collections. They’ve chosen four shapes to begin a denim line with, including the Tinker and the Carpenter; better left unwashed, they will adapt gracefully to the wearer’s body over time. It’s the first British selvedge denim to be woven in the UK, in Lancashire. Whereas in China it might take 13 minutes to make a pair of jeans, these certainly take a lot longer, involving up to 24 people across the entire process.
Erica tells me, “I will never forget my teacher saying, ‘You never want to make patterns contrived’ and that’s always stuck with me. So it feels like it’s entirely from an instinct, it has a kind of primal feeling to it.” We’ve moved upstairs on the fashion floor where I get an early peek of (just launched) collection 009 as Erica pulls out an experimentation box. There is one on the design floor too, in addition to Faye’s material library of natural found objects, resins and fibreglass. She will grab material from this floor and take it down to the design floor with the furniture and vice versa. Her scattering of thoughts and materials, pulses throughout the studio like a heartbeat. The integration in projects, all the way through materiality reveals the wider cross pollination of disciplines that shapes the House of Toogood and moulds the Toogood collections.
As Faye is often quoted, almost all her team are like the misfits that turned up on her doorstep, who don’t want to be shoehorned into one particular trade. Erica elaborates, “An architect that doesn’t want to necessarily sit in an architect’s office all day every day, he actually wants to dabble with a bit of a furniture, totally interested in fashion and doing materials. In that same way, I think we hopefully attract and draw, are drawn to, other people that feel the same.”
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