‘Paisley Make’ with Scotland Re:Designed for Paisley 2021

Did you know that the town of Paisley is entering the bid to become UK City of Culture 2021? Despite having lived in Scotland all my life, I had never, until yesterday ever been to Paisley – only ninety minutes from my home in Edinburgh (and around fifteen minutes by train from Glasgow). And this is what I found. Pretty impressive, yes?


Paisley Abbey and Town Hall.

You will however, like me, be familiar with Paisley Pattern and as Dan Coughlan, Paisley Pattern Shawl Curator at Paisley Museum said, “during the 18th and 19th centuries, Paisley was one of the leading towns in Europe for the manufacture of high quality fashion fabrics…and much of the legacy of this great textile tradition is now preserved in Paisley Museum“. In fact the museums textile collection holds “what is thought to be the largest collection of shawls in the world, together with many pattern books containing an enormous variety of original Paisley designs”. 

Cotton Street

Street names reflecting Paisley’s textile heritage

So, a town famed for its patterns (not to mention the incredible history associated with its Abbey which was founded in 1163) asked Scotland Re:Designed to curate an exhibition showcasing contemporary Scottish textile designers as part of Paisley Make , a festival celebrating its pattern heritage under the umbrella of the Paisley 2021 bid.

When I was invited to be part of the showcase, I have to admit, I was more than delighted. I immediately researched the history of Paisley Pattern and looked at several examples of the print. I could see that over the decades, Paisley Pattern had inspired swathes of designers and there are literally millions of examples from across the world – lush and supremely detailed forms of Paisley to simplified and psychedelic examples from the 1960’s to contemporary companies such a Sweden’s Happy Socks who are still celebrating the lure of the Paisley Pattern.


Paisley Knits for the Cloisters at Paisley Abbey by Dyane Lanez of Tout Petit

If you know the kind of patterns I normally design, you will know that Paisley Print is miles from my usual stable. However, a pattern has emerged from this whole Paisley project and is currently being printed by the BeFabBeCreative sisters in Leith, Edinburgh. Warning though…you will not look at it and say, ‘Paisley Print’!  – it is a heavily distilled unifiedspace version of Paisley Pattern – images coming soon 🙂

So back to Paisley Make and the pattern showcase which runs until Saturday 3rd September in Paisley Abbey. Work from twenty seven designers is on display and there are talks by speakers such as the enviable and effervescent Penny Martin, Editor in Chief of The Gentlewoman magazine.


Fashion bloggers at Paisley Make

Penny Martin

Penny Martin of The Gentlewoman magazine talking about the magazine’s creation.

Fennel Tangle

unifiedspace stand at Paisley Make. Picture of ‘Fennel Tangle’ wool scarf.


unifiedspace at Paisley Make

So if you would like to see some beautiful Paisley lace from the legendary Scottish lace mill MYB Textiles or a very contemporary collection from emerging designers from The Fashion Foundry or indeed patterns and prints from any of the other twenty seven designers, I would urge you to take a trip into the magnificent Paisley Abbey before 4pm this Saturday – I certainly wish I hadn’t left it this long before visiting the Abbey.

Good luck Paisley 2021 in your bid and thank you for asking me to show my prints in such an important textile town.

Notes From Premiere Vision, Paris

Having immersed myself in the vast textile trade show, Premiere Vision last week, I can report back on some key trends – but without images – photography is strictly forbidden (taking notes is not even allowed near the stands – stands being white pens with frustratingly high walls with a humid murmur leaking out from within, akin to a set from a Margaret Attwood novel) as the textiles and designs being sold are for 2017 collections and are therefore not even launched.


If colour trend forecasting leaves you cold and you put it on par with reading ones horoscope, you just need to attend a seminar at a trade fair and you will find a frenzied atmosphere, a room bursting at the seams with the worlds top decision makers in fashion and interiors – as we know colour can kill or cure a business so they need time to gear up their production to get their pieces out in time to feed our every whim.

Of course there are several trend ‘stories’ which gives a platform for a variety of colours to shine but they were mostly underpinned by a juicy, meaty red. Red, we are told is in gutsy opposition to our move towards a plant based diet (although I’m sure the food writers have this covered by giving us lots of other juicy reds from pomegranates to beetroots 😉) It’s quite an impertinent colour trend really as it celebrates  fake shiny food, artificial substances, think plastic sushi cartons, rubber cups, and bright synthetic palettes. The colours may seem a touch violent and frantic, but it works because only two or a max of three are used together.

The theme is really all about contrast, sweet and sour, rough with smooth, futuristic mashed with antique. It is designed to shock, invoke a reaction, look odd and unbalanced. In fact the stranger the better. Individualism is key. Wonky prevails.

As for patterns, designs are asymmetric, off balance, and shaky. Patterns are ‘placed’ rather than repeated and ‘colouring in’ is imperfect. Registration is ‘off’. Trusty old stripes are back (and so is gingham) but think huge, spectacular and sometimes flawed. No subtleties, no mush, just dynamism.

But then I look at my notepad and see I have written ‘epidermal pales’ and ‘angel skins’, ‘palpable paleness’ with ‘chalky finish’, ‘grating simplicity’ and ‘vapours of powdery, sage, ash and clover’ …mmm, perhaps not all red then…but then I did mention contrasts 😗

So like anything, frame your colour and design choices around the story of its creation, that’s what is important, it’s your individualism that gives your designs integrity and provenance – we all like a good story after all, and trend forecasters are brilliant at doing just that.


The Clothes Our Parents Wore

Having recently embarked upon designing my own textiles, I asked Mum and Dad to look through their photo albums and send me any snaps they had of Mum’s dresses in the late 1950’s. Well I wasn’t disappointed. Mum and Dad appeared looking out of the vintage, slightly crushed photos looking massively stylish…and look at the printed textiles.

These photos were all taken before I was born but I clearly remember the colours, designs and even textures of the cloth Mum and Dad both wore while I was growing up. It made me think how we all subliminally influence our children. The designs Mum and Dad chose are imprinted in my mind and have certainly affected my own taste as an adult (interestingly my eldest teenage son has just bought spectacles which are exactly the same as the ones my Dad, his Grand Father, wore in the late 1950’s).

How clearly I remember interior textiles that surrounded me too. The curtains that hung in our houses tended to be flat blocks of colour in varying but simplistic shapes, something I still crave and indeed base my own designs around. They favoured Danish furniture, something I do too. And then I started thinking a bit harder about my childhood interior and I remember a cylindrical copper suspension lamp shade that Dad (who is a scientist, not a designer) made for the dining room – all before Tom Dixon was even born!

The 1950’s and 1960’s were of course extremely creative decades where people had the confidence to experiment, customise and have fun with clothes and interiors. A time before the dominant big huge brands  that many seem to crave now. However, a wave of bespoke and individual designers which have global platforms like etsy and t.v programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee have shown the public a glimpse of how much talent is out their and believe me, if you have any spare time, surf through etsy and be prepared to be amazed.

Do you remember the textiles your parents wore? If so, do you think they have influenced your choices as an adult?

Dyslexia and Interiors

I recently came across a photograph of my Great Grand Father taken around 1904. He was an artist and the photo is taken in his studio in London. But something jarred with me right away.

I live in a house with no pattern at all, no  pattered cushions or pattered curtains or bed linen. I dress in plain blocks of colour and actually feel quite unwell if I try to wear patterns. I’ve never really given it much thought, despite people often mentioning my ‘minimal’ or ‘ordered’ taste.

Looking at the vintage photo all I see is the wallpaper jumping out at me, confusing my mind into a chaotic tangle of thoughts. How on earth could Great Grand Father paint in such a decorative room? And very well he painted too as he exhibited at the Royal Academy Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute.

With help from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, I have been on a fascinating trail to try and identify the wallpaper in the studio. My findings will appear in The History of Wallpaper Review later this summer.

But back to pattern versus plain. As I spend a lot of time specifying wall colour, I thought I would do a little research into why some people are comfortable surrounded by pattern and some are definitely not.

I was diagnosed a ‘dyslexic’ when I was very young and have chosen to work in areas where right-brained individuals can thrive so therefore don’t give my label of dyslexia any thought…until now.

When you look up ‘symptoms of dyslexics’ on the web you will see lists containing  attributes such as being intuitive, sensitive, perfectionist, artistic, and often very orderly. All very nice. Something else I hadn’t clocked until now which made me smile – dyslexic children are often first to learn and identify colours! There are of course many other indicators including being very light sensitive, often ambidextrous, thinking in images rather than words, having a strong sense of justice and interestingly often left eared. Well I tick all of those boxes and more but then something popped up which may well answer the question as to why I choose to live in an uncluttered interior.

It is actually common for dyslexics to feel anxious in decorative interiors. They contain far too many random visual stimuli which can led an ordered mind of a dyslexic to become extremely anxious. Our minds which operate on visual imagery receives an overload of information which needs to be ordered and the task becomes overwhelming and leads to confusion and stress.

For me, this answers a lot of personal questions and for interior designers, it is important information to bear in mind. If your client includes decorating a  bedroom for a dyslexic child you could quite easily create a stunning room in your eyes but one which creates a lot of tension for a child. It is less likely to happen when working for a dyslexic adult because they are likely to have discovered their preferred ‘style’ which will almost certainly be very clean and simple i.e one where they feel at ease in.

So perhaps the Father of Modernism, Albert Loos who famously wrote, Ornament and Crime, was perhaps a fellow dyslexic? Well I would like to think so anyway…

Always Room for Stripes

Why are stripes so alluring?

From the Inca Civilization with their rainbow flag to Bridget Riley & Jim Lambie and the nautical Breton stripes that appear without fail in our clothes shop each Spring what is it about stripes that we find so attractive?

Is it the fact that it “orders” colour in a way that is manageable to us? After all we have been trying to order colour since Aristotle’s, (often referred to as “The Grand Father of Colour”), theory. Or perhaps it’s just that we are all intrinsically drawn towards colour itself and seeing uncluttered blocks or stripes of beautiful colours are enough to produce an emotional response. Personally, I think it’s the response we get when we see two or more colours interacting together – an interesting colour combination evokes the same response as a great combination of musical notes or a recipe with the perfect combination of ingredients.

We just like looking at colour and if it’s not complicated by pattern or illustration, it’s easy to digest and has an instant appeal.

Well whatever the attraction is, I can’t get enough of them and I think it’s a form that will last for ever.