Sunday, May 8, 2011

Interview with designer Bonzie Crotty

Bonzie is an independent Irish fashion label with romantic vintage appeal. Scouring for thrifted trinkets and vintage inspired fabric, aunt and niece design duo, Bonzie and Ger, infuse each piece with an artful blend of tattered chic, Victoriana and faded romance. And with a celebrity following that includes the likes of Courtney Love - this is one Irish label that's going really places. I caught up with fashion designer Bonzie Crotty to find out what makes her tick.

GH: Do you work on your own or as part of a team?

BC: We work as a pair, an aunt and niece design duo. We are very close, bit like a married couple and literally finish each others sentences at this stage. Our skills compliment each other nicely. It's a perfect fit.

GH: In your earlier years, how did you decide that you eventually wanted to become a designer?

BC: We were both always fanatical about arts and crafts when we were younger. I studied Art and Design in N.C.A.D and knew within the first term that fashion was the way to go for me! Ger studied Fashion in Cork and we both worked separately on our passion for years until we decided to fuse our talents and independent Irish design label "Bonzie" was born. We eat sleep and breathe our artisan label.

GH: What did your friends when they saw your designs and original creations?

BC: We are incredibly lucky to have so much support and no shortage of gorgeous pals to model or help out with a show or two. Our friends love our creations, many of them collect trinkets and thrifted gems for us, as we use a lot of frippery and fancy in our clothing range. It's great to have a team of pals that are always on the hunt for unusual bits and pieces for us.

GH: Who is your inspiration?

BC: My father is also an artist (photographer) and his work ethic and passion for creativity inspires me each and every day. Ger has 3 young boys who are extremely proud of their fashion mama and they inspire her each and every day!
In terms of a muse, we are especially drawn to quirky folk who are unashamedly eccentric. Vivienne Westwood, Imogen Heap and Courtney Love are all incredibly inspiring and fashion forward. Experimental in their approach to self style but confidant and edgy enough to pull it off.

GH: Speaking of Courtney, I've heard that she is a fan, how did she discover your work?

BC: Courtney is so supportive of handmade design. She is a huge fashion fan has bought many of our designs through , the US based site that we sell our work from. She has a genuine passion for vintage clothing and vintage inspired design and regularly mentions fabulous artisan brands she discovers on etsy. Courtney got in touch with us through etsy and emailed back and forth discussing designers, fashion and Ireland!

GH: The recession has been particularly hard for many young fashion labels, how have you streamlined your business to make it more cost effective?

BC: Yes, sadly fashion is not recession proof and many Irish fashion designers have been feeling the pinch since the downturn first started. It was a great thing in many regards as it forced us to sit down and take a proper look at what we were doing - and where we were going. We decided to streamline the business and created mini collections of pieces that we could repeat on demand, prior to that we had been making most of our items as custom orders and it was a labour of love process and not very economical. Once the custom orders were cut we found the production approach a lot more time efficient and profitable overall. So the recession has thought us valuable lessons and gave us a sharper focus on our business.

GH: Many of your garments have a vintage or Victorian feel to them - how did this unique look come about?

BC: We are both really drawn to the Victorian era, for us its one of the most romantic eras for dressing and adornment. Lace, ruffles, beading, craftsmanship were all highly respected elements of dress and it's a theme that supports our love of embellishment and intricate detailing. There is also a lovely storyteller nostalgic feel to the theme which lends character to our range!

GH: How do you put your chosen colours together?

BC: Because we work in an antiquated aesthetic we are particularly drawn to muted and older shades. Gold's, creams, silvers, greys and black are all regular colours within our design palette. It's important to us to make the aged look of the clothing believable so we tend to keep the colour theme neutral and rich as opposed to bright and new.

GH: When you create something, what goes through your mind?

BC: How much we love doing it! The creative process is therapeutic for a designer once you're in the zone. Its incredibly peaceful and a wonderful escapism. We are always trying to inject our signature stamp into each piece, that our client leaves with something and it's recognisable as a brand; that's the ultimate creative motivation.

GH: Does the preparation of a season's collection take time?

BC: As we are an artisan brand we tend to work on pieces as we see a need for them within our collection. Often our clients and market will dictate what shade/style will come next. We listen to our customers as they are on the ground wearing our pieces; it's especially important to listen to their direction as they support our brand and make it what it is today. It helps that we are not a huge commercial brand as we can allow the seasons collections to happen organically, we work on a more personal basis and create items that are more in keeping with our signature style as opposed to seasonal trends in the mainstream market place.

GH: How do you intend women to feel when wearing Bonzie labelled clothing?

BC: Unique, special, confidant, stylish, elegant - all of the above. Most importantly it would be nice to think that each customer can feel the love and workmanship that was imparted on their item of clothing before it was packaged up and shipped out to them across the world.

GH: What do you have to say to the next generation of fashion designers, particularly for those hoping to follow in your footsteps?

BC: I'm going to say the same thing to them that my tutor said to me in college. "Eat, sleep and breathe fashion!" It's a tough road and always hard work but the passionate few will keep it up, creativity is driven by passion so if it's in abundance in the designer there will never be a shortage of drive!

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