Innovative fashion designer Caitlin Charles-Jones has made her mark on the London fashion scene with her unique style of luxury knitwear. We talked to her about her start in the industry and her latest collection.
Hi Caitlin, What inspired you to create Caitlin Charles-Jones?
When I graduated from my MA I was all set to go after the ‘dream job.’ I even moved to Italy and began work at a major luxury fashion house. There wasn’t anything wrong with it but I didn’t love it like I’d expected to. I also had this nagging feeling that what I really wanted was to work for myself. I have a strong creative vision that I really wanted to express and I felt I couldn’t truly do this unless I was working on my own brand.
There are also a lot of things about the culture of major fashion brands that I just don’t agree with and I wanted to cultivate a working philosophy within my own brand that was in line with my values.
Can you run us through your latest collection GIRL UNDER CONSTRUCTION? What was the inspiration for it?
This latest collection I felt was a bit of a turning point for me. I was feeling the pressure to determine my customer and know her inside out and I felt like this was blurring my creativity a bit. So I decided to embrace the fact that I’m still learning about my ‘woman,’ that with every season I know a little bit more about Her.
I’m always inspired by landscapes so I decided to look at mountain ranges and relief maps of mountainous areas, which is what inspired my colour palette and textile techniques. I kept the shapes that I felt were becoming my signature and then worked a bit more freely with the rest of the collection.
I was aiming to really get across a feeling of exploration within the garments.
Why did you choose to specialize in knitwear?
I learned to knit in my second year at university. It hadn’t really been something I had considered before but as soon as I tried it I fell in love with the process. It became very clear that the making was really important to me and I loved the feeling of creating every stitch. It’s such a versatile construction and the possibilities are endless; it’s constantly inspiring.
What is the design process like for creating garments like this?
I start by researching a theme, an idea or an object; I very rarely use fashion references for inspiration at the early stage. From this I’ll work out a colour palette and start knitting, working out techniques and stripes. At the same time I will start sketching, so the textiles inform the designs and vice versa and it doesn’t feel disjointed. I have to sample every technique and finish before I knit the final fabric as there are a lot of variables in knitwear – and a lot of maths!
Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve created?
My favourite piece has to be my Showstopper Dress from this collection. I began it initially as a show piece but actually it’s super wearable. It can be full on glamour with killer heels or also effortless with a sweatshirt and trainers.
If you could only wear one garment everyday what would it be?
I think it would be my intarsia jumper. It’s such a flattering, easy shape and goes with pretty much anything.
Did you always know you would be a designer?
I honestly don’t remember wanting to do anything else! My mum makes curtains so I always used to sew with her growing up and all the women in my family love clothes. I remember drawing outfits for my friends in the playground!
Can you remember your first exposure to fashion and the design industry?
My dad is an interior designer so I’ve always been exposed to design and creativity. My first proper exposure to the fashion industry was when I was 15 and I did a weeks work experience with Aquascutum. It was a really small team then and I loved every minute!
How would you describe your style/aesthetic to someone who hasn’t seen your work?
Classics with a twist. Pieces that work alone or mixed into a person’s unique style. Easy, wearable shapes with lots of colour blocking and intriguing textiles.
Interview by Chris Smith
Photos courtesy of Caitlin Charles-Jones