An interview with Faye and Erica Toogood of Toogood, London, November 2020
Toogood, a British design duo - consisting of sisters Faye and Erica – is a multi-disciplinary design practice, that encompasses the trades of; fashion designer, interior designer and furniture designer - that is to name only a few that they envelop.
Here at TIINA the STORE, clothing collections by Toogood and other brands are displayed on custom Toogood designed and fabricated fixtures of wood, felt and metal mesh with Toogood furniture scattered throughout the space – a Roly Poly Chair to recline and consider The Engineer Trouser or The Draughtsman Dress, to the Spade Chair to perch and try a pair of shoes.
A design practice – that breaks the stereotype of a ‘Jack of all Trades’ to be a ‘Jack of all trades and a master of all!’. This mastering of disciplines forms a synchronicity between their furniture and clothing – an all-encompassing Toogood environment.
Speaking to Faye and Erica, we find out a little more about Toogood’s multidisciplinary approach and celebration of learning that fuels the approach to making and collections.
Toogood is a multi-brand creative hub of varying disciplines – what is the seed of inspiration? Are the seeds of inspiration the same for the furniture and clothing that develop from the same root or different roots?
Faye Toogood: The root is the same for all disciplines within the studio, we play with themes that come intuitively such as landscape. This theme is then associated with materials in the different disciplines which create smaller stories within different collections and projects.
Erica Toogood: The singular root or language provides a shared approach that feeds the wider output.
Working alongside each other, the cross-pollination of ideas has also resulted in some important material innovations for the studio. For example, our clothing textile manipulation archive has provided artworks for interiors and surface designs for rugs, alongside the techniques that we apply to our apparel.
With the furniture there is almost a trompe-l’oeil effect in the unique use of materials to form the shape and structure – the Roly Poly Chair uses fiber glass and master ship builders to create its shape and materials such as metal and concrete are used to emulate materials like cardboard. A creation that is a collaboration between your design vision and the craft people worked with. What does your design process look like, how does the synchronicity between you and the makers evolve and crossover throughout the object’s creation?
FT: You’re right there is a trompe-l’oeil effect within the furniture as we play with materials and often shift the traditional use. We look for honesty and an element of flux, for this you have to make a long-standing connection with your makers and craftsmen. Once they understand your intentions, they play a vital role and we work hand in hand with them experimenting within their methods.
ET: Within the clothing, we work directly with manufacturers and specialists to develop each piece. Often half draped toiles, safety pinned, scribbled on with black marker, and patched, alongside a design intention give that crucial starting point for the maker to take it to it’s next stage. Barriers such as distance and language are overcome by developing a design language together over time. With this nurturing conversation, our makers are able to understand when we break a construction rule, it’s because we intend to, and it’s not a mistake. Pushing any craftsperson’s skill as well as our own is a constant driver for us and the teams, and an integral part of our work.
A playfulness and instinctiveness seem to be part of your DNA. How does working with your children and making with them influence your approach, vison and trajectory for Toogood, both the furniture and the clothing?
FT: I love their direct, intuitive approach to life - anything can inspire to create something new. Sticks, stones and mud are often better than sophisticated toys. I love going with them on foraging walks and try to bring their fascination for the everyday into the studio - anything goes.
ET: In terms of our DNA - both our parents are extremely creative - as children our mum made all our breakfast cereals, jams, breads etc (which was more unusual in those days) - whole afternoons seemed to be taken up with trawling around the Health Food shop - which always smelt 'funny’. At home she would give us a large glass mixing bowl and a wooden spoon and leave us to create our own imaginative play. We come from that paired-back approach, which has manifested in Faye’s obsession with objects (every one being exceptionally precious) and my preoccupation with shape making (i.e. giant sculptural jigsaws puzzles).
In turn, we have taken those individual responses towards our own children. It’s magical to watch my son de-construct and reconstruct the objects around him, question their usage and mix them all up. His inquisitive brain and uninhibited approach is utterly addictive. Children teach you to be free, and spontaneous - as much as we want to understand our future, we also must maintain that primal audacious approach.
The concept of trades used as titles is a celebration of learning and education of that craft and work. This celebration is seen in the clothing articles named after trades master makers. This feels a very English approach, celebration and outlook. How was this concept born?
ET: Faye launched the project 7x7 - London Design Festival project for Seven Dials in London - it consisted of 49 oversized hand-painted metal coats that we made, celebrating the rich history of trades that had been and gone in this area. At the same time Faye and I had begun working on the launch of a collection of garments and linked the two together. We wanted a uniform, and therefore it made complete sense to look back at uniforms that have been worn by different trades in history, then take that essence and apply our own modern sculptural approach to it. It also interestingly allowed us to naturally stumble upon the unisex aspect of the clothing - this was never explicitly decided in the beginning - but came about organically during the design process. The trade names give a transparency of product - The Photographer Jacket and The Oilrigger Coat have been with us since the first collection and remain the collection - we’re not pretending to re-invent each season - it’s simply applied to a new materiality.
FT: The trades inspired us to create unique shapes and details. They provide a narrative element to each garment - we imagine how this tradesperson would wear the garments in their respective name.
The Toogood clothing collections have a strong relationship to the change in your personal lives and how you feel about the world we and you live in. This makes your work very biographical. What’s the next chapter in Toogood?
FT: I’m refocusing on the home, in my case the countryside home. I just moved out of the city to the edge of a village, surrounded by farmland and forests.
ET: It’s been really interesting to see how our clothing and objects have integrated into our lives in the past year. More so than ever we are requiring comfort and flexibility. I am a cook, a cleaner, a mother, a pattern cutter, a hair-dresser, a baker, a teacher, a plumber …. in no particular order. If ever there was a moment to be inspired by trades this is the time. Unisex also remains very key in my mind - COVID has taken its toll on the work-life balance and parenting structure, and working women I fear have largely suffered for this - along with mental health across all ages and sexes. Balanced sculptural clothing that empowers, protects and mirrors the mood of the wearer will be my main focus.