'a' conversation with Rosemary Goodenough

July 17, 2015

Art and fashion have long been intertwined, informing and challenging each other in terms of both medium and design. After meeting Rosemary Goodenough at LC:M, and viewing her beautiful collection of scarves and ties, Alice Made This was keen to learn more about her background, her processes and her collection.

Accessories for men | Alice Made This | Rosemary Goodenough

“Norfolk is the perfect place as far as we are concerned”, Rosemary tells me as we discuss her hometown and her creative base. Like Alice, Rosemary is a woman working in menswear in partnership with her husband, the photographer Michael Waller-Bridge. 

“It has a stunning coast with wonderful sandy beaches”, she continues as I drift off into the image of rolling countryside and a gentle summer breeze. “I think if you’re an artist there is something within you that drives you to make marks so I don’t think I need a particular environment, however we know a lot of very creative people in Norfolk. I think it’s a kind place and we are very happy here in our ancient house.”

“Working with my husband is marvellous as I believe fine artists see an unframed world and photographers see a framed world. We do find it a fascinating process. We work together on my brand and on his photo-shoots and post-production but we also work separately which is terribly important. We both bring fresh thoughts to our lives.”

Rosemary is an artist first and foremost, with her private teacher assuming that she had graduated from Glasgow School of Art before hosting her first exhibition shortly afterwards and going on to exhibit in the Biennale in Florence. It was at one of her exhibitions that her move into fashion began.

“I overhead someone at one of my exhibitions say ‘if that painting was a scarf I would wear it”, Rosemary recalls. “I was intrigued by the idea of seeing my oil paintings translated onto a moveable foldable surface so taught myself to use Photoshop in order to make colour variations. At that time I was thinking purely as an artist as my curiosity had been piqued about working with a different surface and not as someone about to launch a luxury fashion accessories brand!" 

“I didn’t want to merely replicate work I had already made”, she continues. “I love the opportunities offered by the digital world. My husband photographs my original oil painting before I do my Photoshopping and we send the file to one of the great silk printers in Lake Como.”

“Unlike most digitally printed scarves, which are printed on satin, my silk scarves and pocket squares are printed onto wonderful heavy silk twill which is technically very challenging and they have a black handrolled hem to denote the frame of the painting.”

“My ties and long silk cashmere scarves are woven and made in England”, she tells me. “There is a very long tradition of luxury weaving here and I like to do as much manufacturing in Britain as possible. I’ve found a wonderful manufacturer to make our packaging here so we’re slowing replacing all our presentation boxes with those made in England.”

One of the main things that stood out to me from Rosemary’s collection at LC:M was her unique take on and reinvention of the tie. Paul Alger from the UK Fashion and Textile Association told her that she was the first person for 150 years to redesign the tie and, eager to hear about her inspiration, I ask her more about the innovation.

“I was asked to design a tie by a man with a large wardrobe”, she explains. “He felt his ties were lovely, but merely variations on a standard theme. It was quite a challenge as it’s a small surface with limited use, but I eventually came up with the idea of having separate ‘knots’ made for my ties in different colourways of the same fabric so they are quite subtle but add an element of interest not available with a traditional tie.”

“I also have my ties made with the seams at the sides instead of down the back” she continues. “Ties rather fell out of fashion and a lot of young men have no idea how to tie a tie so now, if they have a Rosemary Goodenough tie, they don’t need to worry and only have to decide which colour ‘knot’ to choose. My ties can of course be tied like a conventional tie, but they can have a bit of fun too!”

Accessories for men | Alice Made This | Rosemary Goodenough

Being an artist, I wonder how the transition to fashion and wearable art has altered Rosemary’s attachment to her paintings. Does a shift in medium mean a shift in emotion or does it open a whole new set of possibilities and creative options? 

“I do believe that great art has an intellectual element and that an understanding and attachment to the medium, whatever that may be, is critically important. It’s fascinating working on new colourways but also being constrained by the original painting. For example, something with wild extreme colours can become very subtle and soft and something gentle can become very extreme.” 

“I don’t know why I paint the things I do in the way that I do, and of course am always developing. Historically I have always painted, drawn and sculpted to music. The rhythm and key of which had enormous impact on me. I am increasingly working in silence though which in a way is harder as there is no such thing as silence and I focus on the sounds that come from my charcoal or paint.” 

The more Rosemary speaks, the clearer it becomes that her work is always evolving. A new technique, a new innovation, a new work environment or medium. Where Norfolk and her collaboration with her husband remain constant, her creative output and methodology weave and flow with her artistic inspiration and her customers. I ask what’s next for Rosemary Goodenough, the artist and the brand. 

“I have just completed the design for our garden in Norfolk. I gave myself the brief ‘sophisticated and romantic’, which was very interesting, and I hope will be lovely. I’m also working on a sculpture for another garden so the visual adventure continues on lots of levels.”

“I’m very much looking forward to expanding my ‘Hot City’ range of silk/ cashmere scarves into more colourways as I’m thrilled by seeing my work in the woven form – particularly with that painting. I’m currently working on developing another of my paintings for use as a woven product and have just completed the designs for some suit linings for a bespoke tailor. We’re also collaborating with some other brands using my paintings on their products – all will be revealed in due course!”

“I think intelligent designs with a story are more important than generic menswear”, Rosemary concludes. “The wearer then has the confidence that the designer has thought about them, not just indulged themselves in the design process without consideration as to its purpose.”

Learn more about Rosemary Goodenough here