Designer Spotlight: Stephanie Woolven
Above: StephieAnn Design Applique Camisole.
“StephieAnn romanticizes the innocent, feminine and delicate nature of women of all ages.”
Story by Michelle Broomes, Editor for the UK. Campaign photography by Emma Gutteridge.
The world of nature is a great influence in the realm of design. There are limitless pre-existing shapes and colours that can be aptly manipulated to create the perfect canvases for the skilful designer.
British textile designer Stephanie Woolven, founder of StephieAnn Design, has harnessed the opulence of exquisite flowers to help her tell a tale of everlasting love and beauty with her debut lingerie collection, Hammer Through Daisies.
“What’s quite unusual about Stephanie’s work is that she captured the splendour of her subject matter by trapping them in blocks of ice before they were destroyed.”
She then meticulously photographed the frozen flowers and the results were used to create the ethereal design blueprints that were lovingly transformed into finely handmade lingerie and nightwear garments. Each print has been appropriately named after its chosen flower.
The 22 year-old from West Chiltington, also credits her peculiar prints to the inspiration she gleaned from the poetic lyrics of the Welsh-born writer, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953). The collection, “Hammer Through Daisies”, derives its name directly from Thomas’ famous work, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” which proposes the notion of enduring love.
Above: StephieAnn Design Pansy Knicker.
Stephanie personifies this romantic and spiritual poetic work through her iced flower technique – a unique process proving the indestructible beauty of nature.
This young and talented designer has immortalized her exceptional floral motifs by transferring them onto British silk cotton which she has used to create the luxury pieces of lingerie that include gorgeous bras, briefs and camisoles manufactured in the UK. Stephanie shared greater insight about her work with The Lingerie Journal.
Q&A with Stephanie Woolven
Above: Designer Stephanie Woolven.
Your work Hammer Through Daisies is underpinned by your inspiration from a poem by writer Dylan Thomas. Tell us a bit more about this.
I gained inspiration from the poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas. Thomas expresses his concept of everlasting love through metaphors, describing loves ability to continue through death.
I picked out these lines from the third stanza:
‘Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies’.
Together this inspired me to freeze flowers as my metaphor. I picked out specific flowers that I thought looked delicate and vulnerable in nature from my country garden and local florists.
I imagine though rewarding the process of reaching the final design blueprints involved a great deal of work. Did you do it all yourself?
Yes I completed the whole process myself. I did all the photography myself as well as the drawings. I did this whilst the flowers were melting to capture the effect of heat. I used delicate water colours as well as thick oil pastels to create abstract work. My photographs and drawings are wonderful and very beautiful which reflects the meaning behind the poem: You can destroy love but its sentiment and memory will still be beautiful. As much as I tried to destroy the flowers through ice and my hammer, they were still beautiful.
Above: StephieAnn Design Hellebore set.
Tell us a bit more about the process of freezing and destroying the flowers to gain the final look.
I picked out specific flowers that I thought looked delicate and vulnerable in nature from my country garden and local florists. I then filled plastic trays with water, submerging the flowers and arranging them the best I could. On several occasions I added dyes and paints to the water to test what effect this would have. After leaving the trays overnight I then assembled a small photographic box with white card and a tripod. I then carefully removed the containers from the freezer, emptying out the ice. The ice then slowly melts around the flowers, changing their colour as they reach the surface. This creates an incredible ethereal quality, capturing bubbles and ice crystals. Additionally, I took a hammer to the ice block, smashing the flowers apart. This helps break up the colours and creates new lines and arrangements where the ice breaks.
“I took a hammer to the ice block, smashing the flowers apart. This helps break up the colours and creates new lines and arrangements where the ice breaks.”
Where did you learn this icing technique?
Through researching poetry and visual imagery I chose ice to destroy flowers in a poetic manner. The ability to freeze an object so alive in beauty and soul resonated closely with my interpretation and imagination. It was part of the experimental nature of the project and was a practice I was not taught. I simply filled ice trays and tested my theory. I gained photographic success through trial and error, testing various ideas such as adding dye to the water and even sections of mirrors. With time I realized the flowers were most beautiful on their own.
What have been the best and most challenging parts of putting Hammer Through Daisies together?
Creativity is always the most rewarding and exhilarating time. Being able to express myself through artwork brings me such joy, as does witnessing my creations come to life and take on a three-dimensional form. Hearing such a positive response encourages and uplifts me. The collection Hammer Through Daisies has been a challenge. As a young start up designer, of only 22, I had and have a lot to learn. I am a perfectionist so every detail needs to be considered. Therefore the most challenging aspect is having the time to complete everything to my high standards. There have been many late nights and simply deciding when to stop is always problematic for me.
Above: StephieAnn Design Anemone Set.
“I strongly identify with the Made in Britain ethos and although it has been a challenge it makes me proud to think that I am supporting British materials and manufacturing.”
What has been the overall response to your lingerie so far?
I have been delighted with the positive response I have received. Customers often comment on the uniqueness of the print design and fall in love with the fabric’s story. I am touched by the overwhelming response which was not expected. I am still surprised with the attention my designs generate and the heart-warming comments I receive. One lady recently remarked that my designs were ‘eye wateringly beautiful’.
Your product is handmade from locally sourced materials. Was this very important to you, to keep your brand as British as possible?
Yes, I strongly identify with the Made in Britain ethos and although it has been a challenge it makes me proud to think that I am supporting British materials and manufacturing.
Above: Stephanie Ann Design Anemone Camisole set.
Your pieces are young, fresh and girly. Does this mean that your lingerie collection is aimed mainly at a younger market?
StephieAnn romanticizes the innocent, feminine and delicate nature of women of all ages. StephieAnn has been designed for women to wear for themselves, to feel comfortable and attractive in luxury design and fabrics. Mothers buy StephieAnn for their daughters as well as for themselves to relax in as loungewear or even to wear under a sheer blouse, showing off the print. In fact the typical StephieAnn customer is a lady confident and comfortable with her sexuality wishing to treat herself. Perhaps no one knows she is wearing luxury lingerie, it is her secret to keep.
You did your photo-shoot for the collection at a countryside vineyard. How exciting was that?
The StephieAnn photo-shoot was truly wonderful. I am from a small country village in Southern England called West Chiltington. It’s where I grew up, work and take inspiration from. Basing the photo-shoot in Nutbourne Vineyard represents my love for my home as it is located a field’s walk away. West Chiltington is a tight knit community and I am very thankful for all local support I receive.
Above: StephieAnn Design Foxglove Camisole.
Was it a fortunate coincidence that your launch falls in Thomas’ centenary year celebrations or was this planned?
I wish I could say this was planned but it was a complete coincidence and I simply fell in love with the poem. It was a long time before I realized his centenary year was 2014 and I believe this makes my collection even more poignant and exciting.
Your desire was to be an independent entrepreneur. What’s it like having creative control over your work? Any major challenges?
Allowing myself creative freedom opens up a world of possibilities and adventures. I don’t feel restricted by conformity or another’s tastes or expression. All the work I produce comes straight from my imagination and the control allows me to push my work to be pure with the knowledge that I won’t stop working on a design until I am satisfied. The only other person who has creative input is my mother who often works alongside me and checks off every design. My main challenge is always time. Being an independent entrepreneur often means that there is never enough hours in the day.
Besides poetry where else do you get inspiration for your work?
Poetry is my main source of inspiration and I already have many ideas for future collections. Besides this I take inspiration from my surroundings, country lifestyle and the wonderful places I have visited. The materials and techniques I use often drive me in a certain direction.
Where can we get our hands on Hammer Through Daisies?
I am very excited about StephieAnn’s website launch; you can get the Hammer Through Daisies collection at www.stephieanndesign.co.uk with exclusive designs to be added throughout the year. As well as this I am delighted to be able to tell you that I am finalizing the details for StephieAnn’s debut collection to be sold within boutiques around the UK. You can also buy StephieAnn through boutique designer website, NotOnTheHighStreet.com.
Thank you, Stephanie
About the Author
Name: Michelle Broomes aka Shelly
Bra size: bigger than you’d imagine!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Favourite lingerie brands: Panache, Bravissimo, Curvy Kate, Freya. These, in my opinion, are built to carry weight.
Bio: In my early years I was always known to be an “academic” because I was good at the books and always got really good grades in school. I’d never been really good at anything practical until I became a lingerie fitter. Now I talk about lingerie nearly all the time and -ask my hubby- I am a fierce critique of bras and the like. Throw in matching knickers, jewellery and heels and I’m in lingerie heaven.
Lingerie philosophy: Well fitting lingerie is always sexy even if it’s from the bargain bin!
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