A stunner of a jacket floats down the runway of an haute couture show
in Paris. No ordinary garment, this adeptly tailored piece has been
invested with an exquisite patch of embroidery, applied with an
inspired and skillful hand, and all eyes are upon it. It's this very
kind of adornment – the fruits of superior craftsmanship - that
elevates mere apparel to a coveted and exclusive artisanal creation and
sustains the reputation of the most prestigious fashion houses.
who are these gifted individuals who make fashion so beautiful and
endlessly intriguing, just the way we like it? Many are trained to work
for Lesage and Lemarié for example - the Paris embroidery and
plummasier maisons, respectively. And then there are the others, passionate
individuals who hone their craft through self direction and
One of these extraordinary talents is Anita Quansah,
a British fashion designer who uses vintage and recycled fabrics with
hand and machine embroidery to create gorgeous textures for clothing,
jewellery and interiors.
I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Anita about her work:Your
work is so lushly textured, built up with layers upon layers of rich
fabrics, colour and various levels of opacity - it's not hard to see
the influence Monet and Klimt's paintings have leant to your
techniques. Did your style evolve to become this through
experimentation or experience, for example; or is this approach your
natural inclination and so you were drawn to their work which guided
you further in that direction?
I love to paint, I
love art and painting of different genres, but I was particularly drawn
to these painters because of the way colour, texture and nature played
a vital role in their work. I sought inspiration from nature and looked
for artists that used this theme and how this was conveyed in their
When I first started experimenting with this technique I
was very much guided by nature and the ever changing beauty that
surrounds it, the colour, texture, the shapes, patterns, tone,
placements and proportion, then as time went on every aspect of that
change was depicted in my work. I tried to emulate and capture that
essence of beauty in my designs by combining the unexpected with
various textile techniques such as fabric manipulation, appliqué, hand
and machine embroidery to create undulating raised floral textures that
seem to float on the fabric. I would say this happened naturally, as
each placement of fabric was not planned, neither is the colour nor the
build up of texture, so natural inclination took over. Isn't
the unconscious the most intriguing part of creativity? It's
interesting you say that nature is such an influence on your work; some
of your textures remind me of newly fallen autumn leaves after the
rain, when they're wet and kind of fused together in richly coloured
layers and really beautiful.
You create your textures using mostly recycled fabrics - what lead you to forsake the new for the abandoned?
Whilst at university in London, I started to gather and experiment with recylced, vintage and reclaimed textiles. There were too many discarded textiles that needed to be reused and reworked on. Once I graduated, my love of transforming found textiles increased. Some of my finds were damaged, worn out pieces from the vintage and charity shops and flea markets which I mixed with the new to create rare treasures which are totally one of a kind, innovative, colourful and abstract work of art which can be worn as a garment or used in an interior space.
Also, I believe that by working with recycled and reclaimed cloths and materials, I am doing my bit for the planet.
My use of felt stems from my time at university, too. Whilst there I was taught how to hand make felt. Because some of my pieces require a lot of felt, I couldn't make my own any more, so I resorted to using ethically handmade felt by a company here in England. It's that kind of fearless
indulgence with texture that makes Christian Lacroix such a beloved
designer. You created an haute couture jacket for his Spring/Summer
2004 collection. Can you tell us more about that piece and your
experience collaborating with such a highly regarded Paris fashion
Designing the jacket for Christian Lacroix
was a joyful experience. It came about when I took part in Indigo Paris
and was selected as a winner of an exhibition stand at Premiere Vision
and Indigo, a big textile show in Paris. At the show, one of the buyers
from Christian Lacroix visited my stand, loved the collection and on
the spot scheduled an appointment for me to come back to their Paris
design house to show them my collection. On the day I showed my
collection they took quite a few design swatches, which they finally
narrowed down to one that they really wanted to use. This design was
then sold to them and became an exclusive piece, which shall not be
repeated and then sold to anyone else. Then a cut of the jacket was
sent to me in my studio, for me to apply my design. Once that was
completed, I was then told that I shall be reproducing that same design
again, for a client who saw the design on the runway and wanted it.
whole experience was fun. They were good clients to work with, they
were precise with what they wanted and how they wanted it. You are made
to feel welcomed when in the design house. The people are lovely. I was
mesmerised by the beautiful creations in the showroom in Paris. The
colours, details, and most amazingly the final piece which I worked on
was right there amongst other beautiful creations. Monsieur Lacroix
himself was very kind and understanding. I occasionally visit them with
my new collections in Paris.What
a dream experience. Christian Lacroix is my favourite couturier and I'm
so happy to hear the fantasy doesn't begin and end on the runway. It
must have been such a validation of your talent to be considered on par
with the Houses's extremely high standards – Lesage, even - and to
contribute a piece that was sold to a Lacroix client. How did this
change your perspective of your own work?
changed a lot. I learnt to appreciate my work a lot more. It made me
realise that my designs can also be appreciated by high end couturiers.
If buyers from Carven and Lacroix and other textile design houses can
approach my stand at the trade show and love and appreciate my work,
then I am very happy and delighted. I have always feared people’s
reactions to my work and getting very positive feedback has encouraged
me to work harder to develop my technique. Working on this piece for
Lacroix allowed me to push my creative level to the extreme, it allowed
me to be freer, yet structured in my design style creating a sumptuous
piece for him that is textural with a contemporary edge.
seems to be a rule that self-doubt must be in inverse proportion to
talent. Now that you're free to create as you wish, do you have a
particular path in mind in terms of what you want to achieve?
want to continue developing my technique to make my designs even
better. Currently I am developing a jewellery line as well as a fashion
line. I have in the past experimented with the idea of having my
designs applied to interiors, but I think I shall be focusing on these
projects for now. Of course you want to reach that certain goal which
is to have your designs in high end boutiques and stores across the
world, but people are becoming more aware of me now and in time I shall
be approaching the big stores. So watch out!swelle.
Watch out indeed! You can view a selection of Anita's work at her website and buy her jewellery via her Etsy shop and her fashion collection at Shrimpton Couture.
The following dresses and tops can be purchased from Shrimpton Couture, as can that dreamy concoction in the header photo: