The designer getting inspiration from the shores of the Isle of Man
Isle of Man designer Natalie Hodgson, recently graduated from the London College of Fashion (LCF) in Cordwainers Footwear. Eager to study Footwear for her BA, she only applied to LCF as she knew she wanted to be taught at the best footwear course the UK has to offer. Inspired by her island roots, Natalie's graduate collection, Fenella, gives ghost gear a new fashionable life. From her long walks on the beach at home, she regularly observed washed-up debris and wanted to incorporate these items into her final collection. Here Natalie tells Ocotur about her graduate collection, life on the Isle of Man and what led her to sustainability.
Describe a typical Natalie Hodgson wearer?
As the pieces that I make are quite time-consuming, I would describe them as fashionable luxury. My designs are fashion-forward, with a high degree of craftsmanship. I imagine my wearer to be fashion conscious, rather than just buying into fast fashion.
Why did you choose to use the coastline and fishing industry of the Isle of Man for inspiration for your graduate collection?
I chose the coastline and the fishing industry for my final year project as I knew I wouldn't get bored of the theme and could do so much with it. I was back at home in the summer before my final year and wanted to start my research before going back to university. I have been living by the sea for the past 24 years and love walking on the beach and observing the natural sea life and the washed-up debris, so I made this central to my collection.
What was your favorite piece of your collection and why?
The beaded boot because it was so time-consuming to make. To produce it, took around 70 hours for the hand bead process alone! And to be honest, that's probably still quite a conservative estimate. The beads were created by deconstructing a fishing net and using the fibres to make tiny beads that I embellished the boot with. As I made the beads myself and they are so small, only a few millimetres each, it took so long. That's why I ended up not making a pair, but just one boot.
How was growing up in the Isle of Man? Was it difficult adjusting to London life?
The Isle of Man is quite a slow-paced island. It only has a little over 80,000 residents. But for such a small island it has a multitude of thriving industries such as agriculture and fishing, to offshore banking and online gaming, but in regards to fashion, there is nothing really for me back home. I would have never gotten interested in fashion if I hadn't attended the Art and Design college. Through the college, I started to get interested in fashion and footwear specifically. In terms of adjusting to London life, I was quite surprised as to how well I adapted because it literally is the polar opposite to the Isle of Man! Luckily I had visited London a few times before, so it was not a complete culture shock.
When did you know you wanted to study fashion at university?
I absolutely have no idea. I actually never considered going to university, in a way I just sort of got pushed into it. The first time I applied to LCF, I freaked out and actually cancelled my application! Then I worked in an office on the Isle of Man, but soon realised that I really did want to go to university and reapplied. As LCF is the best university to study footwear, when I applied a second time, I only applied to LCF as I would not have gone to university if LCF didn’t accept me.
What does sustainability mean to you?
I only started to really think about sustainability after I worked together with the LCF designer Bethany Williams on her collection Breadline. Every aspect of her work was in some way recycled, from her sweaters being rewound from old ones and fabric coming from donated Tesco everyday prints and cardboard boxes. So I would definitely say that if I hadn’t worked with Beth, I would have probably not had the ambitious streak to take such a philanthropic and ethical approach to my own design.
What materials did you use for your collection?
Most of my collection used ghost gear as the main material. Ghost gear is fishing equipment that has either been discarded or lost at sea. Say a fishing net for example, if it falls off a boat, it catches marine life and kills it. And there are hundreds of fishing nets around the sea, and so I wanted to look at putting a second life into the equipment. For both the beaded shoe and the bristled shoe, I unwinded a discarded fishing net to reveal each fibre to create the beads and bristles. With regards to the rest of the materials, I made sure these were also sustainable, for example the soles are recycled soles provided by my university and the leather was used from a scrap bin.
Want to keep up to date with Natalie? Check out her Ocotur