Trend Watch: Ribbons & Bows
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Ribbons and bows are a consistent motif in your collections – why?
“When artist Susie Green first came up with the ‘Ribbons’ design for CommonRoom, she was making lots of artwork with bondage rope. She was interested in body ornamentation in the broadest sense, both in terms of fetish and fashion. She then started thinking about the design with regards to interiors. Susie was quite strongly influenced by a visit to the Museum of the Home (the Geffrye Museum at the time) and her love of fashion icon Diana Vreeland. She also cites Elsa Schiaparelli as a major influence. When Schiaparelli launched her knitwear collection in 1927, she celebrated the bow with a trompe l’oeil recreation of it knitted into the neckline of a sweater.” – Kate Hawkins, artist & founder of CommonRoom
“I’ve just parted with my childhood single bed which I stenciled and painted with bows aged eight – it’s literally been a 40-year obsession with bows. In my late teens, I started collecting vintage ribbons, when all my friends were spending their pocket money in Topshop. I am proof that some people never change…” – Isla Simpson, fabric & wallpaper designer
Why do you think ribbons and bows are so popular right now?
“The country house feel that Laura Ashley nailed in the 1980s and 1990s is just so easy to live with, and it feels right for how we want to live at the moment. Ribbons and bows are the perfect feminine expression of that – they never really go out of style.” – Isla
“Ribbons are a bit of frivolous fun in a rather heavy moment in time. Borders are also staging a comeback, so there is probably a zeitgeist thing going on – we were all 80s babies and there’s probably something in the fact that we grew up around a lot of chintz, including ribbons and bows. They’re a reflection of all our psyches!” – Kate
How do you like to use them in your designs?
“I like to draw and paint my ribbons and bows with great movement, showing light and shadow, the frayed edges, almost like they are dancing across the design.” – Isla
Is it possible to make bows and ribbons feel more contemporary?
“We like to make ribbons and bows feel contemporary by removing some of the prettiness and chintz. In the ‘Ribbons’ design, Susie stripped them right back to their basic forms so they become quite sculptural in their contrasting colours.” – Kate
“My designs have a lot more space in the background than the chintzes of my childhood, which had an awful lot going on. That reimagining makes them feel easier to live with, lower key and more contemporary. In general, I aim for timeless elegance over anything too modern or abstract.” – Isla
What's the best way to incorporate them into a room scheme?
“Nothing has the power to transform a space quite like wallpaper. A matching bedroom blind and headboard with a ribbon fabric can look good without bearing into OTT territory. That said, I love the aesthetic in films like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, so I’m probably quite a maximalist at heart.” – Isla
What else do they work well with?
“They match perfectly with small-scale motifs such as florals. I’m actually in the process of designing some floral pieces to match some of my existing ribbon and bow designs.” – Isla
How would you style your designs?
“With brown furniture or antiques – I feel they have the power to balance out the femininity of my designs. I also like interiors to feel timeless, as though you could come back in 20 years and love a scheme just as much.” – Isla
Finally, do you have more plans for bows and ribbons?
“Always! My sketchbook is full of motifs and designs I’m developing. I’ve just released a wallpaper called ‘Horatia’, which has a very classical English feel to it, with a laurel wreath tied by ribbons.” – Isla
Visit IslaSimpson.co.uk & CommonRoom.co
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