Five Go Mad

Sunday 5 September 2010

Q and A with Tulip and Nettle

Amynta Warde-Aldam, owner of clothing company Tulip and Nettle, taught Fashion at Central St Martins and worked on collections throughout Europe before starting her own business. Tulip and Nettle make unique and traditional clothing for children, their mothers, and occasional pieces for men. The children's range features relaxed pieces suitable for every day wear, while the adult range, which includes pretty tops for women and gorgeous cotton shirts for men, will complement any modern wardrobe

What made you decide to set up Tulip and Nettle?
I set up Tulip And Nettle by degrees, a very slow process that started with clothes for my children and their friends. My son was not keen on football but very obsessed by vintage army clothes as a small boy. I started by developing the trouser that we now sell as Hero Breeches for him. The Yum Yum Dress we include in every collection was dreamt up for my daughter.

We moved to Northumberland from London where I taught at Central St Martins on the fashion course. I felt very out of touch with my old world, I felt children’s clothes would be a good thing to concentrate on, they depend far less on seasonal looks. I wanted to create timeless things people would cherish, that become the hand me downs of tomorrow.

Who is behind the business?
The business is still quite small. Here in the studio I work on the range and my assistant Helen runs the office. We work closely with three machinists and two small local factories.

How important do you think independent businesses are to the market?
So important. There has to be a place where individual ideas can flourish and develop without the constraints of the high street. It's also terribly important that choice exists. It would all be so dull without little niche retailers.

What are you working on at the moment? 
Putting the finishing touches to the Summer 2011 collection and making the most of the last of summer to get it all photographed. We are also working on the Christmas mini collection photographs.

How and where are your garments made?
We make the first samples for each style here in the studio. Our shirts and trousers get made in a local factory and the fleece and T shirts in another one. Our dresses are made by our own machinists.

Does your beautiful location influence and inspire your designs
Northumberland has had a huge influence on the look of the range. Soft country colours, a relaxed romantic mood and a sense of heritage. Our favourite accessories are gum boots! We do all our shoots here so the surroundings are key to the look.

What are your favourite materials to work with for your pieces?
We work with natural fibres wherever possible. Obviously the fleeces are an exception. Otherwise we use cotton poplins, cords, linens, classic cotton and wool mix flannels and lovely wool coatings milled in Yorkshire.

Any British designers you would most like to work with?
We would love to work with Barbour, the most significant local clothing company. It would also be lovely to do a little collection for Liberty. Another nice project would be with Harris Tweed.

What has been your career highlight with Tulip and Nettle so far? 
Hard to pinpoint one highlight, we seem to lurch from crisis to triumph at some point every day. I would say the press coverage we have received is a source of real pride. Nothing beats walking past a child dressed in Tulip & Nettle in the street though. 

FiveGoMad is a "Quintessentially British" website, what does that conjure up for you?
Britishness for me is the colours of old faded Kodak stock, a nice cup of tea in a china cup, chilly bucket and spade holidays. Nostalgic things that contrast with, but contribute to, the cutting edge brave innovation that is also very much a part of the culture. 

What do you think sets apart British style?
British style suggests a slightly wonky approach to grooming! An ancient cardi with a beautiful dress, bare feet with a ballgown. We always have a problem on our shoots trying to stop the mothers from cleaning the children up and brushing their hair!

Who is your favourite British icon and why?
I would say the Tulip and Nettle look has emerged from a mixture of Mabel Lucie Attwell, Swallows and Amazons, Mary Poppins and Commando War Library. I like a kind of Brief Encounter mood, a little bit worn, a little bit sad.

What's next for Tulip and Nettle?
The exciting new project here at Tulip & Nettle involves our first pieces of knitwear. We have a team of grannies on the case and we are loving the classic cardi's and fair isle's available for the first time this season.

Liz Appleby


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