It's always a pleasure to come across another entrepreneur manufacturing in the UK. The regularity with which this happens suggests a real vitality and creativity in this country - a good thing given the possible horrors around Brexit.
I met textile designer Millie Bridget Henry at The Rake Summer Party a few weeks ago and she told me about her silk pocket squares. While this is a crowded sector, it's good to see an individual being inspired by the world around her to design squares that should grace every stylish breast pocket. Her products have quickly found a market and are stocked by several leading stores (links below).
I asked Bridget to tell me more about her background, her inspiration and her work:
GF: What is your background and how did you come to start Millie Bridget Henry?
MBH: I studied Textile, Fashion & Fibre at the Winchester School of Art and I specialised in Textiles Print Design.
After graduating in 2010, I was selected by the university to exhibit at New Designers in Islington, where I show cased my work to industry leaders. I interned at various fashion companies building my experience and portfolio and then decided to take time out to travel in 2012. I travelled and worked for 15 months around New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and South East Asia. I took lots of inspiration from the beautiful countries I travelled, documenting the experience through photography and my sketchbook.
I came back to England in 2013 and moved to Hackney, London the following year to pursue my career as a Textile Designer. I worked freelance as a decorative artist with a restoration team transforming private and public spaces alongside various other creative roles, before being employed by Huntsman on Savile Row as a Product Development Assistant. This is where I found my love for men’s accessories and gained valuable insight & knowledge of the industry.
I left Huntsman in March 2016 with the intention of setting up my own business and started a part time role working at Buckingham Palace with an incredible team of conservators, providing a conservation service to the Royal Collection, which enabled me to have time to develop my business concept.
I had an interesting year taking small steps to develop my business idea and gain as much insight into all elements of the business & design process. I interned at Zandra Rhodes as she has always been an icon to me and I wanted to work alongside her to see how her studio works. To be given the opportunity to screen print some of her famous designs and to look through her archive collection made me more determined to set up my own studio.
I contacted The Princes Trust to take part in the Enterprise programme and they have been an incredible source of information and support providing me with a mentor to help make the business successful.
GF: Take us through where you find inspiration for your work and the design process.
MBH: I take inspiration from nature and all the wonderful colours, textures & markings it has to offer. I like to take a closer look at the details of organic structures and then incorporate this within the drawing to blend the design together.
The Enchanted Forest Collection was inspired by the great British landscape and the flora and fauna, which make it so beautiful. At first glance you can see a pattern, or your eye may be drawn to a stag or pheasant, but the more you study the print the more of the detail is revealed. The design has been considered so that the pocket square has the option to be styled in different ways revealing different elements of the print. This collection has significance as it is inspired by, designed and made in England by a British designer.
The Labyrinth Collection was initially inspired from my time working on Savile row. The paisley pattern is a very popular print, which is used across a range of accessories. I decided to create a print inspired by the paisley pattern which is a more contemporised version, with some colourways being more traditional and others very bright, always ensuring that they will complement a gentleman’s jacket.
I also take huge inspiration form the countries I travel, last year I travelled around North India for 5 weeks and I always take my camera and sketchbook on any trips. From the ornate architecture and palatial grounds to the street markets or dense and vibrant city environments you can always draw pattern, colour and design inspiration from everywhere.
I like to create a print that makes you inquisitive, because initially you can see a pattern but the more you study the ornate markings and shapes it begins to tell a story.
All of my designs start off in my sketchbook taking inspiration from my photography, archive, mood-boards and research that have inspired the collection. I then bring all the drawings together creating a linear motif. These are then scanned in and finished using Photoshop, which enables me to create different colour ways. They are then digitally printed onto silk and finished with a hand rolled edge.
GF: Tell us about the products and collections you sell.
MBH: All of my designs are meticulously hand drawn to create beautiful & intricate artwork to be worn on handmade products that are printed/made in the UK. Next month I will have ties, cravats and bow ties available in the Labyrinth print and I'm currently working on a new range of pocket squares.
I believe it’s important to create something that will last a long time. I live by the quote by William Morris “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
GF: How do you see the future of MBH?
MBH: I see the future of Millie Bridget Henry being an established British brand that will continue to design beautiful prints and develop high quality products which can be passed onto the next generations across menswear and womenswear.
GF: Where can we buy your products?
Online at Millie Bridget Henry
Online at The Rake
With many thanks to Bridget. Her squares are a perfect size at around 41cm square and made of good quality British-printed silk that sits well in the pocket and with hand-rolled edges.
This is an unsponsored post. I was sent a pocket square for evaluation.