In conversation with: Emily Carter

6 min read

Emily Carter | Men's accessories made in England


Emily Carter

Est. 2014 - London

"I think consumers these days are becoming far more conscious of what they buy. We are in an age where people want to know where their products have been made, and who exactly made them. I believe fast fashion will begin to slow as more and more people choose quality over quantity, less inclined to buy into unethical brands. [...] My aim is to inspire a new age of designers to create sustainable and original products that will last not only for a season, but for a lifetime."
- Emily Carter



From her love for the natural world to Matisse, Emily Carter talks to us about the inspiration behind her original illustrations as well as the importance for businesses to lead the way and support local, sustainable manufacturing.

 
Jeya Narrative: You studied fashion textiles and specialised in mixed-media knitwear, yet became (for now at least) primarily an illustrator. Have you always been interested in drawing, and how did you make the transition from one discipline to the other?

Emily Carter: I have been drawing since I was two, so I have always been interested in illustration and print design. The reason I chose to study mixed media textiles and knitwear was because it added an extra skill and furthered my understanding of materials.


Can you tell us a little more about your drawing style and why you decided to focus on freehand illustration?

The process of drawing has always been therapeutic and enjoyable for me. My style derived from scientific illustration and natural history books, which have been my primary source of inspiration since I was a child.

Emily Carter | Poker black silk pocket square
Your illustrations are simply beautiful but also incredibly intricate. How do you work on your illustrations and how long do they, on average, take you to do?

My drawing style and skill has taken me years to perfect. Each design can sometimes take weeks, if not months. I generally can visualise the image in my head; I then sketch the shapes roughly with pencil and then cover with intricate pen detail. 
 

Your designs are inspired by the British countryside you grew up in as well as your lifelong interest in natural history and science (such as entomology and taxonomy). What message are you trying to convey through each of your designs?

The beauty of the natural world.

Most of your designs are symmetrical, which of course is a huge (and to some extent yet-to-be-explained) phenomenon in natural studies. Was this on purpose to link the subject matter of your illustrations to their living form?

It wasn’t a conscious link, however I am hugely attracted to symmetry, hence my love for insects; butterflies in particular.

You mentioned when we met that Matisse was your favourite artist. Did he have an influence on yourself and your work? What do you like most about his art, and are there any elements of his art that we can find in yours?

Matisse’s abstract cut outs, paintings and even his sketches fill me with joy, I find them a pleasure to look at. Art is powerful and emotive, and Matisse’s work really appeals to me and inspires the colours in my work. I took influences from his Cut Outs Exhibition and created my abstract series: The Prism, Geometric and Spectrum Scarves.

Emily Carter hand-drawing
Designers usually find it hard to let go of their designs and decide they are finished, always wishing to make small further amendments. Do you experience this too? How do you know when one of your design is ready and ‘as it should be’?

It’s difficult to stop adding, especially with print design. I save files continuously and I let myself add everything I feel I need to, even if it’s too much, and then I tend to go back to a design I’ve saved previously. I think a deadline is always helpful; if you’re on a tight schedule you have to make decision quickly, and more often than not, your first choice tends to be the right one. 
 

Alongside running your brand, you currently work in couture tailoring at Harrods (primarily to finance the growth of your brand). How does working in such a luxury fashion environment influences your desire not only to grow but to refine your own brand?

It’s wonderful and inspiring to be surrounded by beautiful things, I couldn’t ask for a more luxurious working environment. I think it’s important to immerse yourself in this industry – there’s so much to learn and everything can be translated to your business. I now have a thorough understanding of men’s tailoring and the luxury market which I wouldn’t have previously had, which has undoubtedly had a positive influence on my design process and business direction.

You originally focused on ladies’ scarves only and have now expanded your range to include pocket squares, bow ties and ties. Why did you decide to extend into men’s accessories?

I launched men’s pocket squares a few months after women’s – I actually had a request from one of my stockists to do so, and it’s transformed my business. My men’s does equally as well as my women’s range and I think it’s added a more unique element to the brand.

Emily Carter | Hemming
Emily Carter | Handmade in the UK.
Your products are all proudly made in England. Why is this so important to you, and what makes your designs very British from an artistic point of view?

I am proudly British and grew up in a beautiful Georgian town in the country, so many of my designs are inspired by the countryside and my garden. As soon as I considered launching the business, I knew I wanted to use an English manufacturer. I wanted to prove that you can create an honest and successful brand through local manufacturing; I think new brands should be leading the way with sustainability. It does take longer to grow, which I anticipated, however in the long run I believe your company will be worth so much more as a result. 

Sustainability is now more important than ever before, especially in the fashion industry. What is your take on it and how do you think it will influence not only consumers’ but also businesses’ (including your own) behaviours in the next few years?

I think consumers these days are becoming far more conscious of what they buy. We are in an age where people want to know where their products have been made, and who exactly made them. I believe fast fashion will begin to slow as more and more people choose quality over quantity, less inclined to buy into unethical brands. I am excited, as this is already creating more room and exposure for more sustainable brands. It doesn’t take much to make a difference, but to do things differently is always going to be more of a challenge. My values and behaviours are unchanging; I will continue to produce my products ethically, in England, where I personally know the manufacturers and the workers. My aim is to inspire a new age of designers to create sustainable and original products that will last not only for a season, but for a lifetime. 

Emily Carter | Silk ties made in Egland 

What does the concept ‘individuality’ mean to you?

Unique and authentic. Someone who doesn’t have to question who they are, as they are completely true to themselves.

What are the golden rules to a man’s etiquette (in your opinion)?

True gentlemen are hard to come by. Impeccable dress sense, perfect manners and intelligent yet quietly confident sums up my idea of a gentleman.

Lastly…

Place you call home: Countryside - Lincolnshire
A colour: Magenta

A movie or book: Lord of the Rings
A sound: The sea
A place: Mountains (Peru, Alps)  
Favourite designer: 
Alexander McQueen
Go-to accessory to dress to impress:
Chanel earrings  
Favourite tool to work with:
Pen
Favourite inspirational quotes: 
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” – J R R Tolkien
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Gabrielle Chanel
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticised anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle” Christian D. Larson
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why” Mark Twain
“The most important investment you can make is in yourself” Warren Buffet  





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