Our Oobi Designer & Founder Alexandra Riggs has written a fascinating and insightful reflection on her behind-the-scenes thought processes. Giving us an even deeper look into the world of Oobi and the creative development she undertakes when designing the Oobi range. What a treat !!
I want to talk about something that many people have been curious to find out: my creative process. We are pretty unique at Oobi in that I design almost all the fabrics that we print and we also reprint vintage prints. It’s something that makes us a little bit different, and it means I get to use my screen printing degree!
The way I work is that I collect colours, buttons, swatches, tear pieces out of magazines and I ‘storyboard’ them. I look at this over and over, adding things and removing things, changing colours or adding something a bit quirky to give it an edge. I’m basically inspired by the things that I see and by my imagination.
I start each range by collecting vintage fabrics and printing swatches of my own designed fabric so that I can see if they fit in with the range and colour palette. Sometimes I’ll find an amazing classic print and want to put that into the range too, or something sweet like a Liberty floral – or even what’s now known as “Oobi Classic” fabrics. Maybe it’s Tulip or Pink Candy or some piece from our archives that I’m happy to reprint. But generally speaking I think of colours first and then start sketching animals or flowers or thinking about graphic shapes. That’s not always the rule, but I think that I ‘think’ in colour.
Here’s a photo from one of my many, many inspiration books. This one is about 3 or 4 years old. You can see here that there are germs of ideas that I did and didn’t go ahead with. So for example, you can see that originally I had decided to do the Swing Coat in pink and navy – I ended up doing it in red and purple. You can see, too, that the Kiko dress was going to have a sort of teal ribbon on it, but I ended up changing it to a pale blue velvet. Teal was going to feature in that range and I didn’t use it at all in the end.
I’m so glad I keep my swatch books, it’s been so much fun going through them again after all these years!!! Some of my swatch books are 10 years old. And yes, my swatch books run from clean white paper to Miffy books to weird Japanese characters – I’m kind of a stationery hoarder and whatever takes my mood is what I use for the season – it’s quite an eclectic collection.
Below you can see the teal that didn’t make it, and also me playing with pom-poms – what if I make a pom-pom crown? Playing with colours and fabrics, and editing them down to core palette, is a big part of my creative process; it’s basically play, and I love it!
A lot of designers create single pieces and some designers create ‘stories’; I’m in the latter category . It’s called a story when there are complementary colours and ideas that can be then mixed-and-matched really easily by someone who wants to create their own look within our ‘story’. I try to do this every season and then make a nod to the last season each following season so that if you have a piece from last year or even 2 years ago you can probably fit it into your current Oobi range. I think that this is important for mums who don’t want to have to completely overhaul a wardrobe every year and also it’s ridiculous to have to keep buying garments, why not use what you already have and just add a few things to make it fresh?
So if I create the green and navy Sienna dress then I make sure that there’s a Rosebud cape in green and one in navy. But the navy has red on it, so I make sure that we put a little red velvet ribbon on the green and navy dress. That way you can go either way. But if you don’t like green, you can put the navy Rosebud cape with the red dress – because of that little pop of red that makes it complementary.
It’s a big job and it means that I’m forever making samples upon samples upon samples with slight changes or slight differences that mean that everything works together cohesively and can also be broken down into smaller capsules.
I love the unexpected. A bright blue lining in a grey coat, the red sole of a Louboutin (I wish!) – those dramatic and unexpected flourishes is what makes fashion fun and exciting.
Part Two of this amazing insight into the creative process of Oobi’s founder and designer Alexandra Riggs is coming next week… how exciting!!!