For millenia, philosophers, artists, writers, and yes…fashion designers, have energetically differed on the relationship between creativity and solitude. The great American psychologist and writer Barbara Powell, believed that “every kind of creative work demands solitude,” but I’m sure she didn’t have the current lockdown in mind. As our social distancing continues, we have at times struggled, and at other times thrived, at finding and remaining creative and motivated. So we decided to delve further into the question by pulling the veil back on our own creative process, interviewing Jemima Janney, the incredible talent in charge of design here at Laiik.
Currently keeping her distance inside her home studio in London, Jemima chatted with co-founder Helene Theros (also quarantining down the street in London) about her background and design process; how she finds creativity and inspiration in a world that’s gotten a lot smaller; what she has planned for Laiik; and how COVID19 has put the slow back into #slowfashion.
Helene: COVID-19 has upended all our lives, in some really unexpected ways. So I’ll start with an obvious question, how are you holding up?
Jemima: I feel very lucky to be able to stay at home, work from home and I have two young daughters so getting to spend this unexpected time with them is a blessing (albeit an exhausting one!). I’ve enjoyed the simplicity of the day to day and focusing on more wholesome things. I’ve really enjoyed the new pace of life - I hope I can find a way to maintain it once normal life resumes!
H: What’s it like to design during quarantine? Is there inspiration and creativity to be found with the extra isolation?
J: As a designer, I get most of my inspiration outside the house. I like watching people and how they dress and how they behave whilst dressed in a certain way. I imagine the characters I’m designing for out and about - at work, rushing, in restaurants, socializing and think about what they’d need from a sandal to feel comfortable and confident to do these things.
So, quarantine has naturally had an impact on my usual inspirations - but I have found more room for creativity. Without all the stresses of normal day to day life, like commuting and traffic (!), I’ve found more time to research and look at art books, artistic film and imagery. I’m actually in a more creative headspace - I think allowing our mind to rest and take off some of the usual pressures allows for more creative thinking.
H: From a creative point of view, what have been some of the unanticipated positives that have come out of this crisis? Has anything changed the way you approach design, or your outlook on fashion?
J: I touch on it above but an unanticipated positive is having the headspace and time to find new inspiration within my home - be it from books, or online. For the first few weeks of quarantine, I’ll admit I wore a lot of tracksuit bottoms and comfy clothes but as time has gone on, I’ve found myself dressing more creatively for the day and I’ve remembered how much it affects my mood. I've rediscovered what clothing and shoes can do for you, it can drastically boost your confidence, mood and outlook on the day. It allows me to express myself at a time when there are less outlets to do so, even if only for myself.
H: For me, one of the unexpected positives that have come out of the lockdown is the big global pause on pollution and excess that it has brought with it. Almost when it most needed it, Mother Nature gets a breather. And I wonder what we’ve learned and what we can carry forward after this passes. How has this affected your feelings about what fashion and what we – in our industry --- can do to become more responsible and sustainable? If there is one main change you’d like to see after all this, what would it be?
J: I think a lesson that we can all learn from this is that we don’t need the revolving closet that fast fashion has led us to believe we do. Being in lockdown has definitely forced me to dig deeper into my existing closet instead of reaching out for new things. And I’ve found so many treasures hidden away. The most responsible and sustainable thing we can all do is to shop high quality long lasting products - reducing the need to replace things so often and contributing to the massive amount of waste the fashion industry generates. At Laiik, we put a lot of emphasis on durability - as well as making sure that everything that goes into our produce and packaging is environmentally friendly!
H: You got your start in the fashion world in London, but quickly moved to New York to become a designer at Rag & Bone and Billy Reid, where you designed footwear. So, why shoes?
J: I love how shoes can define a look. A simple outfit can have an entirely different point of view depending on the shoes that are paired with it. I enjoy feeling like I’m designing something to really be lived in. All clothing is ‘lived in’ but where clothing is interchangeable, most woman have a pretty concise shoe collection which are carefully selected and worn a lot. I enjoy designing womenswear too but its the importance of footwear that drew me in!
H: You’ve been with us from the very beginning of Laiik. I remember talking about our vision for the design of the sandals, combining classic Greek minimalism with a modern aesthetic and wearability, and making it fun! What most inspired you at the time to create the first collection of sandals?
J: With our first collection, I was really inspired by color. Most of the traditional greek sandals have always been made in browns and naturals. Whilst Laiik doesn’t shy away from these colors, and we carry our versions of them in the collection, I was excited to modernise this classic aesthetic with the much wider range of bold colors we have available today (still all vegetable dyed!). Over the last few years at Laiik, I’ve become really inspired by comfort and wearability (whilst maintaining a strong aesthetic). We are obsessive at Laiik about making sure the woman who wear our shoes can go from dawn to dark in them and that they allow her to live her busy life without hindering it in anyway.
H: Along with the rest of us, I know that you were gutted that the lockdown hit just as we were going into production of our new Spring/Summer sandal styles, forcing a delay. Luckily, our factory partners recently opened up and our new collection will drop in June. Can you tell us – at long last – a little bit about the new styles and how they compliment our existing collection?
J: The new collection has, as always, an emphasis on color - this time insole color. We’ve been from Milan to Athens to Paris sourcing the best vegetable tanned leathers for our shoes and have some beautiful new insole colors which allow us to play with tonal coloring and color blocking between the insoles and the uppers. We also have a stronger emphasis on security and adjustability on our sandals this year. Enabling you to run to the beach or run for the bus in them. My personal favorite is the Ippolita - beautifully secure, playful and classic at the same time. It’s a Greek gladiator-esque style appropriate for every day city living - it's the Laiik brand in a nutshell.
H: And finally, what are you most excited about getting to once this all passes?
J: Apart from the obvious family and friends, I miss the hum and buzz of the streets - Im looking forward to the streets returning to their normal bustling selves and supermarket shopping without fear! I miss spending time choosing quality produce to cook without feeling rushed, wearing gloves and a mask!