Leanne Claxton, embedding paintings on scarves
Print designer Leanne Claxton grew up in Lancashire and moved to London to complete her BA in Textile Design at Central Saint Martins (CSM). Having worked at Zara Home and Christian Lacroix, Leanne acquired the commercial knowledge to create her own eponymous scarf brand. Although she describes herself as a painter at heart, she is a silk scarf designer by trade. What makes her scarves so unique is the way she translates the beauty of her paintings onto the scarves, either by directly painting on top of the garment or digitally transferring them. Here to speak about her timeless statement scarves, is an interview with Leanne Claxton.
If you could describe your brand as a type of music, what would it be?
An eclectic mix of Classical, R&B and Britpop.
Describe a typical Leanne Claxton wearer?
A person who appreciates art and likes to invest in timeless statement pieces. Aside from men buying my scarves as gifts, my customer base is mainly women… but I have sold pocket squares and neck ties to men. I love it when I get to meet and sell to both mothers and daughters of all ages (some mothers buy headscarves for their babies!). On the odd occasion I have also sold to fathers and sons!
You create oil paintings first and then transfer these to scarves. Why do you choose scarves and ties as a vehicle to transfer your designs, as opposed to shirts or dresses?
The answer is simple, I am a painter not a pattern cutter. At one of my first painting exhibitions in Hong Kong, I sold a very small limited edition of scarves with my artwork on – because of the success, I started to think about having my own scarf brand. My silk accessories turn real art and real brushstrokes into vibrant, versatile accessories. You can really feel the painting process in each piece, and the scarves mobilise the art and give it movement. Silk allows the colours to be layered in a different way each time they are wrapped around the body. Canvases are a great way to showcase art in exhibitions and the scarves a great way to carry the art with you on your adventures and travels; it's accessible art.
Each Leanne Claxton scarf is individually painted making each piece unique, why is this important to you?
Because I am a painter at heart and I love the chemistry of mixing colour, whether it involves mixing oil paints or fabric dyes. It is important to understand that I have two processes when making the scarves. One process is the original oil painting that is transferred digitally and printed onto the scarves using a digital printing process; the other process is by directly hand-painting the scarf using various hand-painting screen printing techniques. Both processes are unique. I especially love to create artwork by painting directly onto the silk, this makes every bespoke, hand painted piece a ‘one-off.’ No two pieces are identical.
Which item of your collection is currently your favorite?
The 'Azuma Fuchsia’ Hand Painted Bespoke Oversized Scarf, because of its vibrant hand painted colour mixed with the dark black tones.
How was the experience of working at Christian Lacroix and Inditex? Do you think these experiences had an impact on you as a designer?
Christian Lacroix was and still is my favourite print designer. It was whilst working with the Lacroix team that I learned everything I know today about designing a print. Particularly, I learned about the important relationship between drawing/painting/creating by hand and the computer! I hardly used the computer before I worked at Lacroix, my experience at Lacroix was invaluable and I treasure my memories from working there dearly.
It was later in my career, when I worked at Zara Home, that I gained experience in how to work more commercially and at a faster pace. I learned a lot about putting printed collections together in different themes and stories. We travelled frequently to factories, where we discovered new and exciting techniques and processes.
I have been very fortunate to work alongside such a talented team of print designers and directors both at Lacroix and Zara Home. These experiences have surely impacted me as a designer and I will always be grateful for them.
A large proportion of your scarves feature flowers on them. What is it about the flower that inspires you?
Since I discovered the artist Georgia O’Keeffe at a very early age, I have been obsessed with flowers and patterns within nature. There is a lot of beauty in the smallest flowers and I like to zoom in on those details and exaggerate them within my art.
You live between London and Hong Kong, would you say that your type of customer differs between these two cities?
It is quite difficult to say. For example, the pop up venue PMQ in Hong Kong and also the London Fashion Week Festival pop up both attract an incredibly diverse range of customers from across the world. Therefore, in these situations the type of customer is similar even though both events are in two completely different countries.
My stockists, however, do only buy particular styles for their customers in certain countries. K11 in Hong Kong and China prefer the medium sized scarves and Coco Boutique in England prefer the long and skinny sizes.
Where do you see the Leanne Claxton brand going in the next five years?
In November last year I had my own studio shop space pop up in a creative hub called PMQ in Hong Kong. I would like to run that again during 2018. Having my own shop in Hong Kong was great because I was able to meet new customers from all over the world. I can also paint on the shops balcony, which is perfect because I love to paint outside.
I have also started to develop some home textiles. Last year I launched my umbrella range and cosmetic bags, which I'm very excited about! Resort wear is an area I would like to explore in the future.
Biggest source of inspiration?
Want to see more of Leanne Claxton? Check out her Ocotur.