In Conversation with Hannah Cawley

We spoke to Hannah from Cawley Studio about our pattern collaboration and the makings of the brand. You can see the Cawley dress here – it is available in sizes UK 6 – 28 in PDF and Paper format.
Photographs by Sophie Davidson  (@sophieedavidson)

How did your brand come to be?  Did you always want to be a designer?

After graduating from Kingston, I worked for a British brand called YMC. This is where I was actually first introduced to Merchant and Mills. It was a great position and it enabled me to build up my knowledge of what went into running a fashion brand. After working there for 3 and a half years I decided to start Cawley.

I’m not sure when I realised I wanted to be a designer but I liked the idea of working in fashion from a young age. I was always sewing, making, and cooking. I remember feeling like I continuously needed to be working on a new project, I have very much carried that way of being into adulthood, it is both a blessing and a curse!

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Cawley’s focus is on using beautiful, natural fabrics and British manufacturing and celebrating the wonderful manufacturer’s we have pretty much on our doorstep (one of our London factories is a 10 minute walk from my house). We are creating garments that will last and be treasured, garments that are timeless. 

Where do you draw inspiration from for your brand?

From films, exhibitions, and sourcing vintage garments. I love focusing on unusual details and menswear shapes. We often carry over a lot of styles from season to season, so the fabric is very important for us, to give the garment that newness.

Tell us about the fabrics you gravitate towards? 

My favourite type of fabric is a dry cotton poplin, we usually source special qualities from Japan. I like the crunchy and paper-y feel of these cottons and the life they give to a garment. I have started to use more textured fabrics, to give more depth to a garment, we love using Merchant and Mills Indian jacquard fabrics, they are so soft.

Talk to us about the inspiration behind the pattern collaboration, and why Merchant and Mills?

The smock garment that Cawley has designed for Merchant and Mills is based on a farmer’s smock. The pleats at the neck give the dress a beautiful volume and the pockets on the chest add a utilitarian feel. I always want our garments to feel practical and easy to wear and I think this dress is a great all rounder. 

 I have used Merchant and Mills fabrics since starting the brand 5 years ago. The fabrics from M&M elevate a garment. Not only are the fabrics really special, I have found M&M to be the most helpful and supportive fabric suppliers since starting Cawley and to now be working on this project together is very special to me.

Are there any of our fabrics that you envisage your dress being made up in?

I have one of the dresses made up in a ‘9oz Organic Half Panama’, I received it a month or so ago and haven’t taken it off since. It is the right kind of weighty, it feels durable. I can see it working really well in the Otti greys Japanese cotton and wool mix and also the Blue Violet Triple Wash Japanese cotton, I like the way this fabric is meant to look lived in, the belted dress would be great in this.

What’s coming up next for you and Cawley the brand? 

We have just completed our first bridal collection which I am very excited about. The collection has given me a boost of energy and has opened up this new world. I decided to do the bridal collection as an experiment and research project but it has become more than I could have hoped for and has left me feeling inspired. 

Hannah in the Cawley dress made in 9oz Organic Half Panama