1. Can you tell us about your role at Merchant & Mills and what a typical day looks like?
My role at Merchant & Mills is a hybrid buying and merchandising role – from sourcing and developing ranges to planning and forward strategy of stock. My week usually consists of analysing trade on a Monday, then presenting this back to the team at HQ and the Tower Street shop, where we talk about what’s selling well, what’s new and what we are all working on. Then the rest of the week can be a varied mix of fabric swatches, spreadsheet analysis and sharing of inspiration via whatsapp!
2. What is your working background?
I’m a retail fashion buyer by trade, having previously worked for two of the giants of the fast fashion world. It was such a refreshing and much needed change to come to a company like Merchant & Mills.
3. All M&M employees get a pattern and cloth each month to make something. What’s next on your list?
Well I’ve always got at least 2 projects on the go at once and about another 4 in planning at any one time…Currently working on a couple of things I know will become my autumn uniform – an Etta dress in Everyday Chambray, and a vest taken from the Foreman jacket in Dew/Cara quilted block print. I’m also currently testing an upcoming secret menswear pattern in one of my favourite fabrics to sew with – 8oz Organic Sanded Twill in the colour Canopy.
4. Do you have any other creative pursuits?
Knitting, baking, silversmithing… I think creating something tangible with your hands is fundamentally what it means to be human. This extends to creating a living space that reflects your life and personality.
5. How do you plan your projects? Does it start with the pattern or the fabric?
It really depends! The Etta was all about the shape and proportions of the pattern, but sometimes you see a beautiful check linen and you just know you need it in your life in some way or another.
6. Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
The slow fashion movement has been a huge source of inspiration for myself and a lot of sewists (and a lot of those brands that align aesthetically are also wholesale customers of M&M!) Instagram, despite its flaws, has been an amazing shared collective space for the sewing community, made up of an incredibly inspirational bunch of people.
7. Favourite and least favourite sewing task?
My favourite sewing task is that very final stage, probably a hem, when all the seams are finished and pressed and the fabric is transformed from floppy and fraying to something that feels robust and neat. Magic.
My least favourite is assembling PDF patterns – so dull. My colleague Daisy introduced me to the pritstick method of assembling A4 PDF’s which makes it ever so slightly less painful.
8. How does sustainability play a part in your sewing practice?
I definitely have a instinctive preference towards natural fibres, and knowing the mill where your fabric was woven and the conditions under which the fibre was grown gives an additional layer of reassurance. I try to use my scraps, and recycle those that are too small to keep. I also adhere to Margaret Howells’ mantra of fewer, better things. Starting with better quality cloth makes an elevated hand-made garment that you’ll take your time making and cherish and wear forever.
9. What is your favourite me made?
This is like asking me to choose my favourite child! I love them all equally, but if the gauge is my most worn item then it has to be my Wiksten Unfolding Jacket in Rushes Jacquard and lined with a simple calico. It’s so cosy and warm, and looks good with everything.
10. Tell us about your fabric stash!
Well its 90% Merchant & Mills – what can I say, I’m a fangirl. It’s also predictably sludgy and rusty in tone.