IN THE STUDIO WITH ARTIST AND DESIGNER LEANNE CLAXTON
Originally from Lancashire, England, Leanne Claxton moved to London in 2002 to study textile design, and since then she has worked for a slew of global brands as an in-house and freelance print designer. Leanne now lives between England and Hong Kong where she merges fashion with art by reproducing her gorgeous floral oil paintings onto bespoke silk scarves and other accessories. Here she tells us all about her vision, process and evolution as a creative entrepreneur and owner of a luxury lifestyle brand.
IN THE STUDIO WITH ARTIST & DESIGNER LEANNE CLAXTON
Leanne, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to study textile design?
No problem, I am delighted to be having an interview with Creative Founders. This is a great question because actually, I feel like textile design chose me! I have always been a fine artist, I studied two fine art A-Levels and a Foundation Diploma (specialising in painting) before applying to University. It was a very tough decision not to study Fine Art at University but in the end, I decided that I wanted to go into the fashion industry. I applied to do Fashion Design at St Martins. I went to the interview with many rolled up oil paintings, a portfolio mainly of drawings, some sculptural body adornments and they told me right away that they could see me as a print designer! I wondered what they meant at first but it was during the first term of St Martins that I quickly swapped from a Fashion Design degree to a Textile Design degree specialising in print design.
I believe I was very lucky to have had the flexibility at the time to change degree courses without losing any time. I had never studied textile design before going to university because I always associated it with home economics, sewing aprons and oven gloves. But actually, it is all about making fabric, be that printed, knitted or woven. It is extremely creative.
Since graduating, you’ve worked with some pretty impressive brands. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from them that helped you to develop your own brand?
Thanks, I was extremely determined to work with my favourite brand Christian Lacroix because I thought if I want to learn about print design, I better try to work for free for who I consider the best print designer in the world! After a lot of cold calls and waiting, I finally showed up in Paris with my portfolio and they accepted my plea to work with them during my work placement year. I think the biggest lesson I learnt from Lacroix in terms of helping me develop my own brand is to stay true to your own style and don’t follow trends. I also learnt a lot of skills in terms of working as part of a creative team which I believe has helped me develop my own creative team.
We absolutely love your beautiful bespoke scarves and umbrellas. What sparked the idea to transform your paintings into accessories?
I am so pleased you like my work, thank you. In answer to your question, I believe that art is for everyone so I simply want to share my artwork. Applying my artwork onto products makes it more accessible to everybody. Not many people can afford to buy my original oil paintings but my umbrella’s for example, are a very reasonable price for everybody!
Also, I love to make real brush strokes come to life on products; I find it very exciting.
Can you tell us about the process behind creating your bespoke scarves?
My bespoke scarves are very different to my digital scarves. Mainly because they are completely hand painted, washed and finished by hand using the same screen-printing processes I learnt during my degree at St Martins. I am extremely lucky that I have a screen-printing facility in the UK, which is where I create my hand painted bespoke scarves.
For a special event, memoir or gift a client can commission a unique one-off luxury scarf designed to their individual specifications.
My digital scarf collections are my oil paintings that have been transformed digitally and printed onto luxury fabrics.
How easy was it to break into the retail market, and were there any specific hurdles that you had to overcome?
I would say that has not been easy and still every day I face different challenges. Once you gain a new retail stockist that is only really the first step, it is essential that you have good sales to continue a good relationship with a retailer.
What methods have you found to be most successful in marketing your products and brand?
I find that exhibiting at London Fashion Week and London Fashion Festival has been a great platform to connect with buyers/press and directly with my customers.
If there was one area of your business that you could improve on, what would it be?
I would like to improve on the admin side of the business.
In your opinion, what are some of the keys to success in turning your creative passion into a viable business?
Relentless drive and motivation. Never giving up, believing in your brand and keeping true to your style. And to make sure you have the right support around you whether it be your family or friends.
Do you have any exciting new projects on the horizon?
Yes, I am working on some exciting new products with K11 Art Mall that should be in their stores in Hong Kong and China this September.
We love chatting with inspiring artists and creative business owners like yourself. Can you tell us about another female creative entrepreneur in your community who inspires you and why?
A few spring to mind immediately and it is hard to choose one! Johanna Ho is an incredible female creative entrepreneur who inspires me a great deal. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with Johanna a few times. One of my most loved projects was a printed suit design that we worked on for the Canto Popstar Eason Chan! Johanna is not only a very talented designer, she is also a good business woman as well as a mother of two beautiful girls. I really admire her balance between business and family.
Check out more of Leanne Claxton’s work and please show your support!