House of Toogood is a TAN­GI­BLE, at­mo­spheric show­case of the de­signer’s WORK and VISION

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - The Brit List -

would drive her mad. ‘Plus, mag­a­zine bud­gets were al­ways re­ally low, so I picked up how to use pa­per and card­board rather than gold and mar­ble to make a set look great.’ Surely cost re­stric­tions must have changed now she’s work­ing with high-end brands? ‘I do now have clients who can, and want to, use gold and mar­ble… but I’ll still throw in card­board, be­cause I like the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the util­i­tar­ian and the lux­ury.’

Her aca­demic knowl­edge of art and its his­tory means Toogood’s men­tal li­brary of vis­ual and cul­tural ref­er­ences, span­ning cen­turies and con­ti­nents, is vast – and it shows in her work. ‘ When I’m de­sign­ing, el­e­ments of art, ar­chi­tec­ture, na­ture and dec­o­ra­tion tend to tran­scend their re­spec­tive ge­ogra­phies and his­to­ries in my mind, and come into play to­gether – some­times con­sciously, some­times not,’ she says. ‘For ex­am­ple, with the “Roly Poly” chair, some peo­ple say “Gosh, that looks re­ally prim­i­tive”, but oth­ers think it looks to­tally 1960s and bub­ble-ish, or tell me how Art Deco it feels to them.’

Born and bred in the rugged Rut­land coun­try­side, and ob­sessed with gath­er­ing stones, bones and branches as a child, Toogood’s peren­nial pri­mary source of in­spi­ra­tion is na­ture. In fact, she is so pas­sion­ate about all things agri­cul­tural and earthen that she launched her de­but fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion, ‘As­sem­blage 1’, with the help of Bri­tish mush­room for­ager Mrs Tee. Yet her de­sign ethos can’t be pi­geon­holed, and her sig­na­ture style is elu­sive – Toogood is also the go-to name when it comes to fu­tur­is­tic in­stal­la­tions for avant-garde brands such as Comme Des Garçons. Her man­i­festo for her cloth­ing line is to cre­ate pieces ‘fash­ioned for in­dus­try, not the fash­ion in­dus­try’ – and yet, she was asked by the staff of Vogue Italia to give their Mi­lan of­fices a makeover this year.

Th­ese con­tra­dic­tions don’t mean that Toogood’s phi­los­o­phy is er­ratic. ‘There is ➤

a thread that runs through all my work: our process is con­sis­tent, our em­pha­sis on ma­te­ri­als is con­sis­tent, our sto­ry­telling is al­ways con­sis­tent.’ Equally, there is a con­sis­tent sense of fun in ev­ery­thing she does. ‘De­sign shouldn’t be too se­ri­ous. Some­thing needs to make you smile in or­der to con­nect with it.’ Hence the name ‘Roly Poly’ for her 2014 col­lec­tion. ‘I think it’s quite Bri­tish, and is about want­ing to keep the con­nec­tion to the child within me, and within oth­ers,’ she says. ‘That qual­ity of play and naivety is im­por­tant.’

Part of a close-knit group of de­signer friends – in­clud­ing Bethan Laura Wood, Max Lamb and Martino Gam­per – Toogood be­lieves there is a free­dom of ex­pres­sion al­lowed in the Bri­tish de­sign scene that is unique to the UK. ‘There’s no set of rules here, and be­cause of our her­itage, there’s a cer­tain depth. Lon­don used to be the be all and end all: you had to be there. I don’t think that’s true any­more, which is great for the rest of the coun­try.’

Bri­tish craft is a cause close to her heart. ‘The New Crafts­men and Lon­don Craft Week are re­ally sup­port­ing mak­ers across the UK and giv­ing them a voice,’ she says, point­ing out that ten years ago, most crafts­peo­ple didn’t have web­sites, let alone a so­cial me­dia pres­ence, mean­ing few ar­ti­sans would be known out­side of their home towns. Craft is get­ting cool – which is in no small part due to Toogood’s stu­dio and the way it em­ploys tra­di­tional tech­niques, from weav­ing to clay­work, to form cut­ting-edge de­signs.

Her loy­alty to the UK has its draw­backs, how­ever. As far as pos­si­ble, all of Stu­dio Toogood’s fur­ni­ture and cloth­ing de­signs are fab­ri­cated in Bri­tish fac­to­ries or made by Bri­tish ar­ti­sans. This is good for UK man­u­fac­tur­ing, but bad for price points – a cot­ton Toogood coat costs £1,670. She re­alises that while we have got our heads (and wal­lets) around pay­ing more for, say, an or­ganic Bri­tish chicken from a farmer’s mar­ket over a shipped-in su­per­mar­ket one, it’s a harder sell when the ‘ lo­cally sourced’ levy sees prices hit four fig­ures. ‘I’d love to make a more af­ford­ably priced prod­uct. But in or­der to do so, I’d have to take my man­u­fac­tur­ing out of the UK, which would mean go­ing against my prin­ci­ples,’ she says. ‘It’s some­thing I wres­tle with con­stantly.’

As for what’s to come next, there is talk of an on­line store, and you can now go and visit the House of Toogood, the ground floor of her stu­dio, which has be­come a gallery and shop. Pass through a court­yard with grapevines over­head to a se­ries of spa­ces where white­washed walls and an­tiques ➤

‘De­sign shouldn’t be too

SE­RI­OUS – some­thing needs to make you SMILE in or­der to con­nect with it’

Toogood’s ‘Spade’ chair stands in the serene space on the ground floor at House of Toogood, the shop-gallery below her stu­dio in east Lon­don’s Red­church Street, which is now open to the pub­lic

Paper­weights, book­ends and art­works by Lon­don­based artist Mał­gorzata Bany stand on the ‘Roly Poly’ ta­ble and hang above the fire­place at House of Toogood’s evolv­ing shop and ex­hi­bi­tion space

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.