A major highlight of being a fashion editor is the opportunity to tap inspiring women in the industry for career insight. Our latest discussion with M.i.h Jeans Creative Director Chloe Lonsdale proved to be especially fascinating as she clued us in on the brand’s design process of choosing muses to inspire the season’s offerings. Scroll down for our Q&A with Lonsdale!
Describe your design process for each season.
"We are disciplined about using primary sources for our research: books and original magazines; vintage samples, textiles and references. We’ll research at the libraries attached to Central St. Martins, LCF, and the RCA, looking at original photography and fashion books and old issues of i-D, Sport & Street, Purple Magazine, etc., and we also visit vintage garment and textile archives. I think this initial authenticity really feeds through into the final collection, in the way we will focus on a detail or a technique and build it through the collection, and the quality and touch of our fabrics and washes. To tie all our research and ideas together we’ll focus on a muse for the season, and everything needs to come from that same place, that particular energy of how to dress, how to be."
Do you choose a different muse each time?
"Yes, we’ll choose a new muse as the season changes, so once every six months or so. That means that we’ll have the same reference points for designing our pre-collections and our main collection, and we’ll follow her through the season."
How do you go about choosing a muse?
"It’s a pretty loose, organic process. Sometimes we’ll find someone in the course of our research who encapsulates the energy perfectly; sometimes we’ll see an exhibition and be inspired, or read about someone and start to research them."
Who are some muses you’ve had in the past, and can you explain why you chose each of them?
"We were really inspired by Linda McCartney and her photography for A/W 15, and for S/S 16 we have the artist Niki de Saint Phalle as our muse. We are drawn to women (or places) that have a distinct creative energy and an inspiring way of living and dressing. What they all have in common is that they wear denim, they’re independent, they keep us interested."
In the context of what you do, how do you define a muse?
"A person or place that inspires and defines the energy of the season. They’ll inspire everything from how we define the silhouettes and put together the outfits to what buttons and zips we use on the collection."
Would you ever choose a male as a muse for the season? What about someone who is present day?
"We had a place rather than a person for S/S 15—the futuristic '70s commune of Arcosanti, built in the Arizona desert. We’d definitely have a man if he had good denim style, but someone from the present day feels like they would have too many associations and it would be hard to get distance."
When did the process of having a design muse start for you?
"We’ve always worked with the idea of capturing a bit of vintage attitude with our jeans, but we’ve only really had full ready to wear collections since S/S 15, so I guess that’s when we became more explicit about who and what we were referencing."
Can you tell us a little bit about the S/S 16 collection? Is there one specific piece you’re especially in love with?
"Using Niki de Saint Phalle as our muse for the season allowed us to really explore quite surreal, feminine influences along with the practical cool clothes of an artist. We’ve got a beautiful white shirt that we made from Japanese cotton and used a pintuck appliqué to attach embroidered scalloped strips of the voile: It’s a really beautiful white shirt but it has a bit of Niki’s spirit with the curvy lines and bib-shape panels, simple and special.
I love the Saint All-in-One: a perfect 9 oz chambray jumpsuit, and the details of a zip front (with a ring zipper pull), round neck, short sleeves and belted wide-leg shape please me so much—it's vintage yet really current and clearly made for a very cool girl."
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If you were a designer, who would you pick as your muse? Tell us in the comments!