October 20, 2016

The Peckham Patterns | A Morning with The Pattern Guild

FILED IN: The Interviews

It was love at first glance for myself and The Patten Guild – a platonic relationship of course. Years have now gone by since our first meeting and finally, I feel like the time is right to share the geometric goodness of the independent brand that has stolen my heart and looked after my make-up for a good while now. Thankfully, they are a friendly bunch so I popped by their studio in Peckham to admire their prints and talk the pattern business.

The brainchild of creatives, Amber James and Fergus McDonnell, The Pattern Guild is more than just a decorative brand. The honest approach to design by Amber and Fergus is unbelievable and for once you’re guaranteed not to hear of any shortcuts, tiptoeing around certain topics or the erasing of an ‘ethos’. These two stay true to their word and I have no doubt they’ll continue to stand their ground in the harsh world of design, where we all know sometimes profit margins can compromise certain values.
Photo by Sarah Lloyd courtesy of The Pattern Guild

Having first met on the buzzing markets of Brick Lane, it actually took a year for the duo to get in touch with each other again, after various pleas from other friends that they should be working together. They were both creating similar designs so ultimately the work drew them together and the collaborative process began. Interestingly, they sent old designs to each other via email to rework. You know like those little concertina images that leave you with like a little wacky, disfigured person? I would kill to see The Pattern Guild versions as one can only imagine the creative juices flowing from their fingertips at the time.

Britishness remains at the core of the brand, namely for their ability to actually create the items themselves.
‘It’s trying to support the skills and crafts here, and value them. There’s nothing bad quality about what’s made in China, it’s the fact that it’s made at a fraction of what it should be,’ states Amber. ‘It’s trying to not be fake as well because we’ve always had that as, well, not the main ethos but a core part of what we do’.

For Amber and Fergus, it’s about offering the opposite to the approach taken by a fair few other designers and making sure that they don’t end up frustrating their own customer-base. ‘The advantage of making our own stuff is that we can do whatever we want,’ explains Fergus. ‘We can create stuff we want to put our name to,’ and yes, this does translate to brands to if you’ve come across their range in collaboration with Islington lifestyle store Smug.

Coming from fairly different backgrounds, Amber always wanted to create from a young age and unfortunately, when growing up she quickly learnt this wasn’t an easy feat and that making wasn’t in demand. Losing the initial dream of costume design, she studied Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Arts and became part of the digital era of website design that we now rely on today. Luckily the maker in her never lost hope and after years of freelance work in both graphics and textile design, she decided to go back to her roots but in her own way – culminating all of her skills of design, textiles and her ability to make.
‘Having the desire to use those skills and earn money from those skills, combined with there being a lack of opportunities gave me the idea for my business,’ she explains.
Photo by Sarah Lloyd courtesy of The Pattern Guild
Matched with Fergus’ own Northampton heritage (the home of incredibly made shoes such as Cheaney and Dr Martens), the twosome understand the importance of a well-made product and this translates into their own designs. When I first came across The Pattern Guild I remarked at the high-quality material (organic cotton if you’re wondering), the considered branding and of course the pattern itself – for me they are the whole package when it comes to accessory design and no doubt these have all initiated from the pairs shared values and the bespoke nature of how they work.

Moving on to where the brand will be going in the future, there are plenty of things on the go at the moment including a project I am VERY excited about. I won’t talk about it too much as I’ll probably want to feature it when it comes to light but – a few hints for you – it involves bringing a new pair of eyes to the team, a little bit of code and some embroidery to start the process. They’re looking for a little more substance behind the designs. They’re not scared of an objective viewpoint and it’s this openness that will undoubtedly give them the edge in the future.
It keeps it interesting for us to work with other people,’ mentions Fergus. ‘That’s what it’s about. Working with the right people.’

From the get-go of our conversation we hit it off talking about everything from collaborations, frustrations of a 9-5 studio job and a tiny bit of moaning about worker exploitation. It’s refreshing to come across people who are so conscious of their own future and how they can make a change.

‘We know there’s a value in what we do,’ they say, ‘and hopefully we can project that by getting other people on board with that by doing it.’ Well, I’m certainly down with that and hopefully now you are too.
Thanks so much to Amber and Fergus for having me be nosy. For further information and upcoming markets visit: www.thepatternguild.co.uk


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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