Way Too Good by Eva Steidl | 16th September, 2014 | Personalities
Interior design objects, furniture, fashion: Faye Toogood refuses to be pigeonholed. The British designer changes disciplines, as confidently as she changes styles. She is so consistent and compelling in all she does, that her powerful, creative designs are much in demand internationally.
Faye Toogood’s workshop n North London looks like a large living room: exposed wooden roof beams; a large wooden table with freshly cut greenery in the middle of the room; next to that a sofa; lots of light and views of the surrounding brick buildings and Regent’s Canal. In 2008, the designer opened her own studio in her home. Six years later, she has twelve employees working on projects for clients such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Hermès. Faye Toogood has long since made a name for herself in the design world. However, her workspace still exudes the warm, personal atmosphere of the company’s founding days. The fact that meetings are held on a sofa seems casual only at first glance, because the room is a hive of activity and brimming with concentrated energy: “I have neither an office nor a desk, otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.” Faye Toogood much prefers circling around the large worktable and sitting down next to some of the creatives, in order to try out ideas and designs with them. She needs and appreciates the skills and tools of the trade her employees bring with them. They are trained designers, architects, and photographers. She herself has never studied design.
At 21, while working as an art historian, she was discovered by the editor-in-chief of World of Interiors magazine, who hired her as an interior stylist. Her application documents: a carrying case full of finds like scraps of wallpaper, woodcuttings, stones and sketches. For ten years she created home environments and stylish spaces, acquired a wealth of experience and, above all, collected a great many objects: “I then founded my own business, because I didn’t just want to work two-dimensionally, but actually design objects,” remembers Toogood. “I did not even know that I wanted to be a designer.” Today she has no doubts about this, even though many consider her to be an artist. “I am a designer, because I like having a brief, working with clients, and working within constraints and limitations. More than anything else, I want to design objects and spaces that people can use.”
“I became a designer to create objects and spaces people can use.” Faye Toogood
Two years ago, the 36-year-old embarked on an experiment together with her younger sister Erica, who is a qualified tailor. She presented the results of this venture at Paris Fashion Week last year – with great success. “Making fashion was a new thing for me, but my approach to any subject and the process in which I work are always the same,” says Faye Toogood and points at a large number of dressmaking patterns and fabric samples hanging from the studio’s ceiling. The sisters’ first collection comprises seven coats – all of them unisex and “made in Britain.” Their melodious names, including “beekeeper,” “milkman,” or “chemist” describe the concept behind each eccentric item of clothing, whose cut was inspired by the work outfit worn in each trade or profession. “We want to create contemporary, flattering shapes, and generally erase the dividing line between female and male clothing.” The designer explains that she primarily brings imagination and vision to the project, while her sister uses the ideas to transform two-dimensional fabrics into three-dimensional items of clothing. “I am not a craftswoman. My strength lies in editing, and when doing this I completely trust my intuition,” she says, summarizing her approach. With her own fashion label “Toogood,” Faye Toogood has added a third field to her studio’s range of activities. Incidentally, her sister is the only one who has her own workspace – the tailoring room. All the other workers are in the spacious main area, where two objects are currently being produced. These are scheduled to form part of a new interior design project. Meticulously and by hand, an employee weaves a winter-white throw, while next to her, 17,000 nails are being hammered
into the “Armour Bench,” a buoy-shaped seating solution.
Very often, furniture designs by Faye Toogood are created as part of an interior design project or an installation, although sometimes it is the other way around: a gallery object may spark an idea for an interior design item. But whether it is seating furniture, the interior of a shop or a fashion show, Faye Toogood’s designs always clearly aspire to be more than mere spaces or objects. They often tell incredible stories, giving a stylistic nod to the world of hippie chic at one point, and to a universe of dots shortly thereafter. The designer likes extreme contrasts, images from the art world and above all letting nature be her inspiration. “I am a country girl and spend a lot of time outdoors, so my projects usually start off by me observing landscapes and shapes in nature.” As she says this, a thunderstorm causes the heavens to open, but the sun soon reappears. “I also always look for polar opposites.” It is mostly by employing materials and manufacturing techniques used in industry that she creates these marked contrasts. But Faye Toogood also uses much more general concepts, which she puts in context in her very own way: urban and rural, masculine and feminine, untreated and refined, hard and soft.
Her latest range of furniture is characterized by her use of fiberglass and natural wool. Toogood found herself surprised by her daughter’s effect on the designs. “Indigo is now almost two years old and influences my work more than I ever thought she would,” Toogood says laughing. “The shapes of the furniture have become more curved, more compact and more well-balanced.” But that’s not all: Toogood says she has also become more productive, “although I had assumed the opposite. I was going to slow down a bit.”
At present, she is definitely not doing that: Faye Toogood designs and edits, leads and supervises several projects at a time. She manages her enormous workload with the aid of an acute sense of her employees’ creative potentials, while always keeping an eye on the organizational set-up of her studio. “In the beginning, I hadn’t thought that I would become an entrepreneur, but management is now a large part of my daily work. It is by no means a burden, though. Quite the contrary – it’s enormous fun.” Faye Toogood combines being a mother, businesswoman and designer. You can only marvel at the relish, spontaneity and thoughtfulness with which she switches between these different roles and disciplines. For example giving a coat a dynamic spin before enveloping a wall in fabric. She also is not bothered by the fact that, as a woman, she has to hold her own in a design world dominated by men. “I use this fact to my advantage. Be that in the way I communicate, or by means of the motifs I use in my work.” Incidentally, her last name is so apt that you could almost suspect that it was a pseudonym – she is just too good. ES