Meet the Maker behind Clare Louise Frost
(Brian J. McCarthy Interior Design, featuring Meander fabric in drapery)
MEET CLARE LOUISE FROST
A designer, actor and filmmaker who isn’t afraid to follow her curiosities and interests rather than seasons and fashion. Her unique, quirky and colourful collection of hand block printed, hand woven and hand embroidered fabrics are made by creative and expert hands in Turkey, India and Afghanistan.
We chat with Clare to dive further into her passions, inspiration and outlooks behind her craft.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BRAND AND WHAT YOU DO
“I design and produce block printed, handwoven, and hand-embroidered fabrics to-the-trade, mostly. I also love designing and producing clothing inspired by traditional and vintage garments, and I love finding antique treasures to keep and to sell.
All of my blockprinted designs are hand-drawn or painted, then these original artworks are used by the block carvers to make the printable design. I love pushing what a blockprint can be – there is no reason it has to be small motifs, or even a regular pattern. I like the off-kilter.
I am always excited to learn something new, see something new. A color, a type of embroidery, a cut of a garment.. these can stay in my mind for a long time and come out as a fabric design at some point. I love experts who know how to do things I could never dream of being able to do – intricate and artistic embroidery, hand-weaving, carving wooden blocks, printing, tailoring … Their expertise inspires me.
I love color and I don’t understand people who seem to be afraid of color. I think color is really sophisticated, an important part of the natural world, it has a lot of power.”
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT YOUR CRAFT?
“I started with my first collection of Black Domino and Blue Chain kimonos in 2009, I think.”
HOW DID YOU FIND THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS?
“I am lucky enough to know and have worked for Elizabeth Hewitt, of Tulu Textiles for some years now. She was the one who showed me that my love for design and hand-techniques could be a business and a way of life. Most days I’m very grateful for her encouragement to create my own line.
I also worked with Zardozi Aid to Artisans in Kabul for a number of years, which was so lucky. I was brought on to teach design and product development to their clientele of women working from home to supply clothing and other products to the local market. Their most marketable advantage was their expertise in traditional forms of Afghan embroidery. I showed them figure drawing and color theory, they inspired me for life with their incredible handwork. It was never a cakewalk to be a woman in Afghanistan, and their jokes and sass and kindness were also ever-inspiring.
I am very lucky. I have somehow always been able to follow my ambition to make my own work.”
DESCRIBE YOUR PROCESS, HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE FIELD?
“I do everything by hand, there are no computers involved except to send the WhatsApps and emails that make the world go round! I draw or paint my designs, and work out the repeats by hand. I sew the original (basic) mock-ups of my garments. There is really something about the work of the hand and the eye. Technology is useful and valuable but it cannot replace the hand, it really can’t. I really admire designers who take time to hand stitch hems, those little details that you will always feel. It’s more about touch and the power of touch than being luxury or high-end or silliness like that. We all exist because someone else does – I see you, you see me, and all that. I think objects we make do the same thing, can give us a feeling of not being alone, too. We’re looking for meaning – there must be meaning, right? I think handwork is an answer to that question – handwork chooses that yes, there is meaning, there’s time, there’s touch, there’s more to all this.
Also, I have no clue how to use design software. Never had to/the chance to/ learn it.”
“There is really something about the work of the hand and the eye. Technology is useful and valuable but it cannot replace the hand, it really can’t.”
WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN THIS METHODOLOGY?
“What I make is a piece of me and I’m sending it out to someone, anyone. I know no one knows me, but when someone chooses my fabric or a garment I’ve designed, I’m floored, I’m touched. Love letters and diary entries, all, on my end, but once they’re out there, they are your love letter or pleasure or quirky joy or color blast. I don’t know what you make of what I make, but there’s a chain there that we’re all involved in.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE FROM OTHERS IN THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY?
“I really don’t like mass production, as an idea or as a practice, it really rubs me the wrong way, and we know the world is awash is the plastic garbage that we churn out every season to feed the coffers of the already-rich, while perpetuating a labor system that is deeply unfair and often inhumane. I’m not into it, and really have nothing to do with it, happily. Since I produce handwork, the people with those hands and everything attached to them are very very important. I know the people who I work with. I know how they live and work. I want everyone everywhere to be well. Nothing is more important. At the end of the day, even at the beginning, it’s just fabric. Human life is more important than making anything.
I am one person who gets to partner with talented experts in Turkey, India and Afghanistan who know the magical art and technique of craft, to produce tiny amounts of fabrics and pillows and a few skirts and kimonos.
My aim is to make handmade products that last and to make future antiques that will be saved until it falls to scraps. That’s important to me. I’m in the buy less, buy better camp. I don’t believe in perfection, really. The hand will always do something different. Look at the hand stitch work on a couture garment – not perfect, but truly excellent.
I don’t believe in fashion – I mean, I love fashion and fashion is fun, but the rigamarole of production and seasons (how many seasons are there now??) is for me such a turn-off, what a marketing spectacle. The idea of hundreds of thousands of spandex leggings terrifies me. But, we all live in this world and I have my AirMaxes and everything else. But I am glad as a profession this is not what I have to do.
I hope that design is becoming like food – that we want it to be produced with fair labor practices, and not mass-produced. It’s healthier for everyone. And more delicious!”
“Since I produce handwork, the people with those hands and everything attached to them are very very important. I know the people who I work with. I know how they live and work. I want everyone everywhere to be well. Nothing is more important. At the end of the day, even at the beginning, it’s just fabric. Human life is more important than making anything.”
CAN YOU SHARE WITH US A STORY OR USAGE OF YOUR PRODUCTS THAT IS A LITTLE OUT OF THE ORDINARY?
“I saw a client use a fabric of mine as drapes ‘upside down’ from how I had made it. I thought that was really fresh, and something I had never thought of, since I had made it, I thought, to be used in a particular orientation. I love when people take something and make it theirs.”
WHO WOULD YOUR DREAM JOB BE FOR (DEAD OR ALIVE)?
“Oh! I have never thought of this at all. I rarely know where my fabrics end up, or who the final client is. Every client is my dream client!
Some of my products – fabrics, pillows, kimonos – have been used in TV and film, and it is always a delight to see them in a fictional context, giving life to a character’s space and a writer’s story. In my other life, I am an actor and a filmmaker, so I am always really honored when a production designer chooses something of mine to enhance the visual storytelling that is such a high and broad and necessary craft in our world.”
We are so grateful to represent Clare’s quirky, eccentric and elegantly curated collection of fabrics which place such high value on the hands of the makers.
Check out her full collection of handmade fabrics here!.