Kin by John Lewis

In conversation with Laura Slater

We collaborated with textile designer Laura Slater to create 6 exclusive prints for the SS17 Kin by John Lewis collection. The 19-piece range is inspired by modernist architecture and Scandinavian aesthetics.
Here, we get her insight into the limited edition collection.

As the designer behind the limited edition print pieces from the Kin by John Lewis collection: Tell us about your brand.

I started developing my brand after graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2007. I launched my first pattern-centred interiors products in 2010, and have been designing under my own name ever since. I have launched new collections each year at London Design Festival, and lately I’ve started working on larger-scale projects, such as my collaboration with John Lewis.

This is your first foray into fashion – what attracted you to work with John Lewis?

John Lewis is such a quality British retailer with great history, but it has a real understanding of contemporary design. On meeting the Kin by John Lewis womenswear team for the first time, we had such a shared vision of the collection and it felt right. It’s been a real creative collaboration and they have been amazing to work with.

Tell us about your design aesthetic…

Contemporary, pattern, print, mark-making, texture, collage, colour, cut out, playful, statement: these are all words I’d use to describe the aesthetic of my work. For me, it is all about drawing and colour, and how the two work together. I am obsessed with process, collage and printmaking. My work is most often abstract in nature and I look at lots of painters’ work to inspire my own: people like Betty Woodman, Jean Arp, Robert Motherwell and Ellsworth Kelly. There aren’t any restrictions on my inspiration. Fashion and architecture play a huge role, too.

Why did you choose to launch your own brand instead of working for another design house?

I quickly realised how important colour, drawing and the connection I had with my working processes were to me. I felt I wouldn’t be able to push this through working under another company’s design ‘handwriting’. I thought that as I was starting out in the industry I wanted to give my best shot at establishing something for myself. It’s been incredibly hard work but so very worthwhile.

"There’s something supremely stylish about the liberated British spirit that international fashion designers are channelling as inspiration."

Why is Kin by John Lewis a good fit for your textile designs?

When I imagined the type of garment shapes I would love for a womenswear collection, it would be everything Kin by John Lewis stands for: beautiful quality fabrics, tailored and wearable directional garment shapes, and it’s informed by high-end fashion. I am hugely excited and one of the things I feel most proud of is the bravery in the Kin by John lewis collection: taking on statement pattern and colour for the high street. Something I personally struggle with is finding exciting print in accessible stores and I feel we have readdressed the balance with this collection.

What inspired your textile design in the
Kin by John Lewis SS17 collection?

But it’s the mix of clothes that keeps the whole feeling fresh and vibrant and, practically, that’s how it can translate into your wardrobe. It doesn’t necessarily mean slinging a Barbour over your swimming trunks, or wearing Hunter wellingtons with shorts (although if you’re frequenting a music festival this summer, either could be an option). Rather, it’s about blending together styles, old and new, to make something that feels idiosyncratic and unique.

What is your favourite piece from the collection?

I am really proud of the shirt dress and shirt, mainly because of the bravery of the print, colour, placement and scale. I got to wear one of these at the press launch and it felt like a really special, unique garment.

"My mum used to make my clothes when I was young...I have always loved combining colour and print and having something that no-one else has"

Which piece do you think customers will love most?

The monochrome, white and black top and twinned skirt will be an amazing look this summer – whether you wear it together, as single pieces, formal or casual, it’s really wearable in lots of different ways. The quality of the fabric is beautiful and the back detailing on the top with the cross-over and statement fastening is really special.

What’s your earliest fashion memory?

My mum used to make my clothes when I was young and that fed my passion for wearing and having unique garments. I have always loved combining colour and print and having something that no-one else has.

What’s next for you?

I am currently developing a range for the new Tate Modern Switch House Gallery Shop, which is super exciting. I will also be developing this year’s interior collections, launching in the autumn at London Design Festival.

Shop the collection

*This interview appeared in the John Lewis Gazette 21 April 2017. Interview by Kirsty Bennett.
Image of Laura by Ash Holdsworth.