From Concept to Runway

“Jenny King Embroidery offers a unique UK-based design and production service that is as creative as it is professional. The highly specialised team is used to working with designers at every stage of the creative process: from concept through to development and production and have experience of embroidery design for both fashion and interiors.” I’ve been really eager and excited to speak to Jenny about her work and textiles as I’m a massive fan of luxury fashion. We had a pleasant and lovely talk about her studio, Erdem and running a business.  

How did you get into embroidery?

I did a degree at East London University in printed textiles and then I went on to do an MA at the Royal College of Art in Mixed Media Textiles and within that I specialised in embroidery so that was the official route into it. Generally, all my life I’ve just been really interested in fabrics and sewing and I was quite self-taught to start with. When I was doing my print course my mum gave me her old Bernina sewing machine and I was self-taught on that too. When I got to RCA I was lucky enough to have Karen Nichol as my tutor; she’s been a massive inspiration for me and she encouraged me to specialise in the Irish (machine embroidery) and I just loved it! After I left RCA I worked with Karen for a while so that really spurred me on.

When did you open your studio?

I went freelance pretty quickly after I graduated from the RCA, which was in 2002 and the studio gradually built around me. To start with it was just me and one assistant and it’s grown from there.

What services do you provide and who for?

We offer design development and production so we’ll work with our clients and we’ll help them develop their ideas. Most of our clients are high-end fashion designers. It varies, some clients will know exactly what they want and they may give us some artwork which we’ll translate and other clients give us a much more open brief and will give us some initial references and we’ll work from those. We work with clients to develop our initial embroidery samples onto clothing as engineered artworks, then we produce the embroidery for their fashion shows. After the shows clients will get orders and we’ll do the production for them. It’s all produced in our studio in Brighton so that we can keep the quality really high and stay in control of everything.

How many people do you have working for you?

It really varies because most of the people who work for me are freelance. When we’re really busy there can be up to seven embroiderers and then we normally have two or three people who work on prepping and we quite often have interns as well. The fashion calendar dictates how busy we are, so during the run up to fashion week we’re really busy then it’s normally a bit quieter afterwards. Then when production comes in we get really busy again! Now with menswear running twice a year and womenswear running four times a year there are fewer quieter times in between!

Embroidery for Noki

There are so many shows like Pre-Fall and Resort for example do you work on those shows too?

Yeah we do, but not always. Some of our regular clients might want some embroidery for Pre-Fall and the following season they won’t so it does vary a lot. It’s less predictable than the main Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections.

 

Embroidered snakes for Olivia Von Halle

Do you work with only British designers?

Mainly London based designers. Occasionally we work with people overseas; we recently did some work for Marc Jacobs.

How do clients find you?

It’s mainly down to word of mouth. People I’ve worked with before move to other companies and introduce me to new companies they work with so I get a lot of new work that way. We have our website too and more recently we’ve been working with social media which is fairly new to us. Instagram is a good, immediate way to show people what we’re doing but it can be difficult too because we can’t show any new ideas we’re developing for our clients, nor can we show finished work before the clients have put it out there.

Embroidered patch for One Denim

Do you remember who your first client was?

My first big catwalk client was Erdem Moralioglu whom we still work with.

He always has lovely textures and embroideries.

Yeah his textiles are amazing, his prints, his jacquards. His selections are exquisite and he’s a really brilliant person to work with.

Is there anyone you’d like to work with that you haven’t before?

I’d really like to do some embroidery for Alexander McQueen! That would be great. We’d love to work with some of the big Paris houses like Dior too.

Mary Katranzou A/W 17

Speaking of Dior, do you wear white coats and gloves in your studio?

I wish I could say we do but don’t. We have to be very careful though, no biros or cups of tea and we regularly change the cloth on the ironing board. But no white coats or hair nets!

What’s the most exciting thing about running your studio?

I love how quickly everything changes from season to season. In a way, it’s the best and worst thing because it’s exhausting how quickly everything moves but it’s also so exciting. There’s no chance of getting bored. It’s lovely working with lots of different personalities who approach their collections in different ways too and it keeps everything really interesting for us.

What’s the most difficult thing about running a business?

One of the hardest things about doing this kind of business is that you just don’t know what’s coming from season to season. People don’t always know what they want in advance so I’ve actually stopped trying to plan. Everyone’s collections are changing all the time and their garments are changing all the time. Things never arrive when they’re supposed to so you have to constantly go with it and hit the floor running. You can’t really look six months ahead. Cash flow is difficult and finding embroiderers can be hard too. Because of the type of embroidery we do, it has to be so perfect and high end; it takes a long time to learn and we have to invest a lot of time training stitchers and make sure they’re the right people. It takes a lot of dedication from the team.

Are there many guys in studio that embroider?

No, we don’t have any boys that embroider, but that’s not to say they can’t, obviously! We did have one guy for a bit who was helping with our prepping but no boy stitchers!

Mary Katranzou A/W 17 detail

What advice would you give to people wanting to start a business in textiles?

You’ve just got to work really, really hard. Take every opportunity you can, when I started out I did loads of work for free and did as much as I could. I think it’s important to be original and true to yourself. Be nice, it’s a small industry. Because it’s such a small industry you’ve got to treat every project the same and do your best with it. You never know where that person will go, it might just be a start-up company but they could end up becoming really big.

What do you love about textiles?

I love cloth and I love thread. I love the fact that the Irish is so quick and you can create such beautiful embroideries in a relatively short amount of time. I love being really good at something and having a unique specialism. Once you’ve got a technique down you can do so much with it. I love the instantaneousness of it. I love the craziness of the fashion world too. It’s all good really!

You can see more of Jenny’s work here and follow the studio here. All images from Jenny King Studio, clients names have been specified under the relevant picture.

 

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  1. Been reading this site for a while, good post.

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