LONGSHAW Ward is the eclectic, vibrant and thoroughly modern new womenswear and accessories label founded by husband-and-wife duo Kirsty Ward and David Longshaw. Central Saint Martins alumni who first met in Italy while working for Alberta Ferretti’s design studio, both Kirsty and David are celebrated designers in their own right who have, up until now, received international acclaim from their individual eponymous labels – pieces of which have featured in Vogue, Elle, Grazia and Nylon to name but a few.
Prospects for the pair’s collaborative enterprise – which benefits from their combined expertise and design experience, and which reflects their idiosyncrasies, individual characters and sartorial specialties – certainly look promising therefore.
The brand’s aesthetic is contemporary, the basis for which is the juxtaposition between a masculine silhouette and the more feminine draping of fabric, throughout which David’s distinctly illustrative style, with hand-drawn-like lines and shapes features heavily – the fluidity and spontaneity of which contrasts with the structured, somewhat industrial statement jewellery that has always been at the forefront of Kirsty’s brand.
For their debut SS17 collection, the couple returned to Central Saint Martins where they rifled through library materials in search of inspiration for the season. Vogue archives from the 30s and 40s – in which peplum and nipped-in waists featured heavily – in addition to the artworks of Salvador Dali and Thomas Vach, as well as Vicent Darre’s Alice-in-Wonderland-like interiors determined the starting point for their design process.
The distortion of shapes, lines and the creation of unusual silhouettes thus became the defining element of the collection. The asymmetric profile, created from the layering of voluminous fabrics, is exaggerated by the overlaying of materials – crepe, neoprene and denim – cut into irregular shapes, which protrude from the garments and create futuristic forms.
The result is almost surrealist, enhanced by the clashing of colours and contrasting of textures. Beads and sequins feature alongside denim items overlayed with netting and gold stitch detailing. Print adorned with flora and fauna contrast with block reds and oranges as well as grey, blacks and whites. The mood is youthful, playful and animated.
Jewellery is likewise striking –aluminum wire and gold paracord buckles contrast with silk ties and floral detail crafted from Swarovski crystals, which add a touch of delicacy and slight daintiness to the pieces, without reducing their impact.
Every item from Longshaw and Ward’s collection is hand-crafted in the couple’s London studio, allowing the designers to exhibit their craftsmanship, fully explore their art and further develop their vision for the brand.
The Purpose of It recently interviewed David, and received an exclusive insight into the pair’s musings and creative process.
What defines the Longshaw Ward brand? What makes the label’s aesthetic unique in today’s global fashion market?
The global market is over crowded with generic over produced product that has been churned out by big labels in a desperate attempt to stop ailing sales, made in cheap factories pretending to be high end. Longshaw Ward is made and designed in England with fun and passion. We pattern cut and sample everything in our London studio keep the process creative. The prints are all hand illustrated by us and digitally printed in England.
Do you have any particular muses? Do you design with a particular woman in mind?
We don’t design with one person in mind – she’s not an age, a face, a body, she’s more of an idea. She likes to have fun with fashion, doesn’t take herself too seriously, she’s interested in what’s going on in the world and appreciates fine design and luxury details. She wants to wear something unique and appreciates that all our pieces are designed and made in the UK.
Do you have any brands or designers that you particularly admire or that have inspired your own work in any way?
There are lots of brands and designers we admire. We try not to be too influenced by any particular brand – we want to forge our own path and create our own unique style – but we do love the work of Miuccia Prada, Nicolas Ghesquiere and are excited to see what Raf does at Calvin Klein.
Your studio is based in London – does working in the British capital have an impact upon your work? Do you derive inspiration from London life, culture and style?
Though we weren’t born in London it feels like home – particularly creatively. We both studied fashion design in London, Kirsty went to Central Saint Martins for her MA whereas I got my BA there, going on to the Royal College of Art for my MA. We met designing for Alberta Ferretti in Italy – then returned to England to start our own labels – now based in London. From the people, to the galleries and theatre, to the amazing architecture London is constantly inspiring.
This is you and Kirsty’s first collaborative collection – in what ways has the transition from a solo to a joint enterprise been a challenge for you? And in what ways has it been rewarding?
At first Kirsty was a little bossy but she’s chilled out now and it is brilliant to work together. So much more fun than when we worked separately and quicker – the collection was ready and photographer a month and a half early. And we feel that Longshaw Ward is stronger creatively and commercially and with more potential than either of our past labels.
This may be a little personal but, how do you and Kirsty make the professional partnership work? How do you discuss ideas, deliberate and come to make decisions for the brand as a pair?
We work on everything together from designing the concept, to selecting the fabrics, to the designing the jewellery and designing the prints.
Are you able to give us an insight into what the future holds for the brand? Where do you hope to be in five years or so?
The future is exciting – the industry is changing rapidly, but we want to continue to grow and continue to have fun with what we are doing. There are a lot of very stressed, and confused people in the fashion industry, scared of the future, fashion is supposed to be enjoyable and creative, other wise it’s just about creating generic uniforms for the masses and becomes a pointless task.
by Hannah Bergin
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