One to Watch… Holly Spencer

When did you first realize you had a passion/talent for fashion and design? Who/what has been your main source of inspiration?


I first realized my passion for art and design art a very early age of about 10. My Grandad was a passionate and incredible artist and he inspired me at this young age. In the war he used his art to survive when captured by the Japanese by exchanging artwork such as making birthday cards etc then exchanging them for food. Without these exchanges for food I doubt he would have survived the extremely harsh conditions of the camps. He then later worked for ITV in the early years of television painting backdrops etc. It was him that brought me my first professional artist kit of drawing paper, pencils, oil paints and canvas. So this is when it started.

After filling sketchbook after sketchbook at the age of about 13 I later discovered in the cob-webbed attic an old singer hand sewing machine. Messing about with the machine and working out how to thread it up I started to sew random bits of fabrics together. I one day decided to make a hat and figured out a way to produce fleece hats really quickly. I made them all for my friends and then started selling them making custom made fleecey hats for everyone.

Once people realized I could sew hats then turned to clothing alterations. My brother was always very unique never and never liked wearing the same clothes as everyone else. He would make me adjust every pair of his jeans, customizing them to his style and personality. I then had orders from his friends to customize their clothing. My poor little singer hand sewing machine could hack it so I then upgraded to electric. It was at this moment I decided I wanted to design clothes but also the textile for the garment.

My whole family are very creative and have always supported me throughout the years but I have also gain inspiration from designers, artists, musicians and what I see everyday around me.

What were the themes behind your final collection?

Before I started to design my collection I visited Malaysia noting down what was around me by drawing and taking photographs. I decided to use my trip as part of the theme for my collection.

The major theme behind my collection came from the inspiration of dried flowers. I started collecting flowers and pressed them. I mixed the delicate pressed flowers with colourful inks creating collages. These gave a perfect canvas to design my textiles and also portrayed intricate detail and an array of elegance, which inspired me to how to design the shapes and style of my garments.


How does the design process go for you, does it start with an idea.. then sketches (describe)

You can kind of see how my design process as I stated above. I see what around me is inspiring and I take it to the next level artistically producing collages, sketches and photoshop. From these design I produce textile and garment designs, and then finish it off with some sort of embellishment/ applique twist.

What are the main things that features on your mood boards ( films, music, celebrities, art, fabric)

My mood boards usually contain images of inspiration, colour, outcome and sometimes a forecast of future colour and trends.

What did you find the hardest part of the process from start to finish?

I found I had done so much research and development I have a real tough time deciding what textile designs to use for what garment designs. Designing the textiles and garment was brilliant however for the time scale we had for the show it was hard to cram both designs in. We were pushed to do very simple garment designs to make it easier however I wanted to try and gain just as much knowledge of garment construction as I i did textiles design. I made more work for myself and it was a real challenge but I managed to pull it off with in the deadline.

A real hard part of the process of this collection was the funding. I only had the funding from Uni bursaries and loans to fund this collection and this was by far not enough. We have to pay for absolutely all materials from digital print to paper. It was very expensive from the very beginning to finish. I really think art and design related courses should get more funding for these more hands on courses.

On the day of your final catwalk show was it chaos behind the scenes, any nightmares happen backstage??

The stories I had heard of the past shows gave me some tips on not what to do, however it was chaos with all the designers nervous for the show. It all went smoothly though, no nightmares or dramas.

Who are your favourite designers?

There are so many designers these days and so many have produced some outstanding pieces that have been an inspiration, however the main designers that I have really taken a liking to I would have to say are Christian Lacroix and Vivienne Westwood. I really like Jean Paul Gaultier for some of his more Costume related designs. And There have been a few pieces that Alexander McQueen has produced that I have loved.

Your designs appear to be extremely feminine, would you ever dare go down the androgynous/masculine route?

Yes I would definitely go down the masculine route. In this collection I have aimed to produced garments to make women feel elegant and beautiful and would love to go down the male route in the future, and produce a collection for males. I have all brothers and no sisters and grew up with my brothers friends, adjusting there trousers etc to make them unique. I really think there is a big market out there for male design and many sides of the masculine design in which I could portray a collection.


Do you have a muse?

I cant say I do have a muse. I guess I am inspired by women such as Vivienne Westwood etc who back in those days when she first started out, when it was men who thought they ruled and she shined through and started quirky revolutions of there own through fashion, for example her punk era.

If you could choose anyone to wear your designs who would it be?

Hmmm I think I would be honed if any well known celeb wore one of my dresses down a red carpet. The garments I produce are made to make someone feel beautiful and in the spotlight so would be perfect for these kind of events. I would want just any celeb to wear my garments though I would want them to really have a talent, an amazing actress or singer perhaps.

The structure of your pieces would work very well on the red carpet, do you see this being the main draw of your work?

This is the main draw of my work yes, My pieces are couture and individual and they are perfect for red carpet events. However I would also like to design some ready to wear collections which could be worn at other events.

Would you ever consider bridal wear?

Yes of course in fact I have an order for a wedding already. I can provide Unique bridal dresses which just have a little more quirk than the bog standard wedding dress. I find that most bridal dresses are all the same kind of style, a woman’s wedding day is the spotlight for her, her red carpet day so finding the best dress to suit the bride is crucial.

The fashion world can be notoriously cut throat, does anything worry you about a career within it?

It is very notoriously cut throat yes and very competitive. I have had a huge response from my designs already and am designing some more for an upcoming show at the Hilton Metropole. The design/producing part of this business is no problem, its having financial backing that worries me the most. I am totally solo and have no support which has been the tough part of my extending collection which I am currently producing. This has been by far the hardest and most worrying thing about this career so far.

What are your plans for 2011?

I am currently extending my current collection for the Fashion event Top Model UK/ Fashion international, which is being held at the Hilton Metropole the 26th March 2011. I am showing along side established UK and international designers so this is a huge step for me and real learning curve.

I recently worked in India on a work placement designing so have made some good contacts in which I have made use of for the extension of my collection. I am having my new pieced produced in India as they have the skills to produce my designs with the use of more detailed embellishment, thread, bead and sequin work.

For my new jacket designs I have designed the complete textile and had the design woven with silks and cottons at the Design Bureau which is based with in the University College of Falmouth. I have then sent this fabric to India where I am combing the woven fabric with designs I have produced for interesting embellishment/applique work.

Their will be a lot of useful people attending this show from buyers, merchandise, spotters etc so I hope to gain some good contacts and hope to have some orders of my garments for shops. I would not produce anymore than about 10 of each garment though as I want to keep a unique and limited addition to my designs.

From this show the best thing that could happen is a job offer so I could gain some experience of the business side of fashion and textile design. I feel I have skipped a few spaces in my career by producing garments internationally and showing at big shows. Therefore I think it would be good to step back and work within a company to learn more about the ins and out of the industry.

However going into a company to work does not mean I will stop designing my own stuff, I will continue to produce collections every year until I become established in the design world.

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