Designer Interview: Organically creative Shauna

Clean cottons and the `Amelie top´ are what drew my eye to Quails designs. Simple and wholesome, they speak of clean country living. Find out more about the inspiration for these and her passion for ethical fashion in the interview.

1. Hi, would you give us an introduction to yourself and where you are from?

Hi! My name is Shauna Chapman and I operate my own ethical/eco fashion label called Quail in England. I’ve been living in the UK for 13 years but I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada. I have a huge passion for creativity, travel, culture, food and for the environment and nature.

2. How did you get into design/art, did you have a key-experience, like in the Alchemist?

I got into design/art from an early age. I’d always be mucking around with paints as a child and I liked to consider how good something looked from an early age. Where I grew up near Vancouver there was a perfect, wild forest about 50ft from our house so my brothers and I would spend time in the forest, seeing things grow, amazing bugs, huge trees, mushrooms and orchids.

I was also really into National Geographic magazines which were stacked in the basement and I’d flick through them looking at amazing places and people. I had a teacher when I was 12 who introduced me to Art History, the importance of it, the richness of things that people created. I started to travel as soon as I got some money of my own. The first place outside Vancouver I visited was Rome! I studied Art History, kept travelling, worked as a graphic designer for awhile and then moved to London!

3. Great! Sounds ideal. Tell us more about your project and the inspiration for it.

Quail is the name of my clothing label and I specialise in organic and fairtrade cotton which has been handloomed by a co-operative in K.V.Kuppam, in southern India.

I also use genuine Indonesian batiks, some of which is antique batik up to 40 years old, and Ahimsa peace silk where the moth is free to escape his cocoon before being processed into silk (unlike commercial silk production!). I love the provenance of fabrics–where they’ve come from, where the cotton or fibre was grown, who wove it and by which method. I think the supply chain of fashion really needs to be examined and considered by consumers as growing commercial cotton is a nasty affair with the heavy use of pesticides and unfair labour practices. There needs to be a redefinition of what makes quality, original, funky clothing. I manufacture in the south west of England, within 40kms of the Quail studio.

I use South African shweshwe and was the first label in the UK to retail ladies shweshwe shirts and dresses in that famous blue!!! I still think Quail is the only label in love with shweshwe in the UK. Quail was featured on the front page of the South African times newspaper in Europe for using South African shweshwe and for my innovation of eco and ethical fashion which is designed and made in England. Since the company that produces the shweshwe is owned by 45% of the workforce themselves and the cotton is grown locally, I think that is a sustainable and ethical solution for them on the Eastern Cape. The fact that shweshwe is a national heritage item is a lovely thing. If shweshwe can be organic one day–I’ll be in heaven!

4. What is it like being an artist in your country?

Creative people the world over always have to struggle to get recognition for their creative productivity and I don’t think any country is known for artists automatically being successful if they create something amazing. But it is this struggle that makes an artist stronger!!! Art is a mystery to consumers at times, many shoppers are naive about how long it takes to create a thing of beauty! But still, there is a market for unique things and ‘Made in England’ still resonates with quality, innovation and something fine.

I used to live in central London where there are a million and one different lifestyles to choose from. I love the way that Londoners have a distinct Londoness about them no matter which trend comes and goes. There is an appreciation of heritage that is uniquely London but there is still acceptance of every other world idea or culture coming in. Where I live now, in England’s south west, things are not much different. There’s an energy, a vibe, a drive except in a traditional Devon fishing village. Across the road from the Quail studio is Stan Bolt’s Architects which design and build cutting edge million pound James Bond-style homes which overlook the stunning coastline. But Stan’s office is an century old sardine-packing shed with pigeons in the rafters and since I share a studio with a cartographer–we all go to the pub together (though not with the pigeons!). That’s England!

5. What´s projects are coming up next?

Since I import fabric direct from my supply contacts in India, Indonesia and South Africa I’m expecting a shipment of textiles which I will utilise and put to manufacture this Autumn. It’s kind of like Christmas. I make order decisions months previously based on small swatches so seeing hundreds of metres of my fabric purchases just brings out the creativity in me. Happiness is bolts of eco/ethical fabric in the stockroom!

6. How do we get in touch with you?

Shauna Chapman
Quail
56 Higher Street, Brixham, Devon, TQ5 8HW, England
www.quailbymail.co.uk
www.quailbymail.blogspot.com
contact@quailbymail.co.uk
Quail welcomes international orders.

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