West London locals: Meet artist and luxury textile designer Emily Carter

Emily Carter - Kindred West London Locals

Emily Carter is a storyteller. From the intricate details in her luxury textiles to the meticulously-rendered animals in her artwork, each piece is a snapshot of a time and place; of energies and moments coalescing organically.

Inspired by the beauty of the natural world, Emily’s work is reminiscent of scientific drawings from the Victorian era, with detailed and realistic illustrations of animals, plants, and other objects. Her designs can be found on wares and artworks from her own design studio, Emily Carter.

We caught up with Emily, a West London local and Kindred member, about creativity, the best bits of life below the river, and what it takes to run your own design label.

Emily Carter. Photo courtesy of the artist

Kindred: Tell us a little bit about the work you do. What’s your specific creative field?
Emily Carter: Originally, I’m an illustrator, specialising predominantly in amalgamations of nature and wildlife. But early in my career, this developed into hand-illustrated textiles and print designs, which further evolved into fabrics and clothing. I now have my own clothing brand, Emily Carter London, and a textiles company, Emily Carter Studio. Each of my designs is intricately drawn by hand — often in meticulous detail — and tells its own unique story, emphasising the value of sustainable and original design.

My products are also ethically and sustainably made in England and do not go out of season, aiming to promote a lifestyle of buying quality clothes to last. I take pride in incorporating recycled and upcycled materials and packaging where possible, and supporting local British printers and factories. Alongside the businesses, I’m also the designer for Harrods, where I lead and create the in-house themes and designs for the store.

K: What are you working on at the moment?
E: I’m currently working on various collections of face coverings and masks, which I’ve just launched in Selfridges. I have been making these out of upcycled silk, and donating a percentage of profits to the NHS to support COVID-19 relief efforts. I’m also working on my new scarf collection, along with a few new accessory ideas (turbans, scrunchies), launching in September.

The Baroque Tiger Silk Scarf by Emily Carter. Photo courtesy of the artist

K: Your art very much focuses on the beauty of the natural world. What drew you to that subject?
E: Growing up, I actually wanted to be an entomologist or palaeontologist — I spent my childhood drawing, exploring the outdoors, and identifying insects and creatures (ironically I wasn’t at all interested in fashion or clothing) so this will always be my main source of inspiration. The reason I didn’t go into either of these fields is because I realised it was the beauty of the subjects that I was passionate about, as opposed to the research element. So I instead chose a career where I could incorporate my love of nature into my designs and artwork.

K: What are your main inspirations and influences as an artist?
E: Every creative requires a lot of external stimulus for inspiration; this is just as important as the process of creating itself. I find travel to be essential, as is taking the time out to cultivate creative ideas. I find many of my ideas unconsciously derive from things I’ve seen whilst exploring — I tend to travel alone for this reason. I do visit a lot of exhibitions, particularly those which are botanical art and scientific illustration themed. I also am particularly fond of interiors and architecture (17th & 18th century), ideas from which I use in my scarves to create border patterns etc.

I strongly believe that inspiration comes in all forms, and isn’t necessarily always visual. From my interest in science I do read a lot, primary non-fiction books, on themes relating to cosmology, quantum physics, and philosophy — ideas and concepts which appear in my designs, particularly in my intricate scarf prints. I also realise now that the majority of my work is inspired by my surroundings growing up. I was fortunate enough to have a mother with exquisite taste, particularly in textiles, antiques, and furnishings, so being surrounded by this as a child certainly influenced my artistic direction and inspiration.

Emily Carter – artwork in progress. Photo courtesy of the artist

K: What advice would you give to young creatives interested in running their own design label?
E: I do think that making mistakes and experiencing hardship is essential for personal and professional development, but there are a few fundamentals which one should know before starting a business. As a creative, you’re typically not as focused on the financials, but understanding finance, legal, and tax is essential. Learn as you go, of course, but your brand won’t be a success unless you’ve understood these key factors. Short courses are everywhere, as are books and videos, and people who will be more than happy to answer questions and impart advice. Take some time for learning and self development before you dive in — believe me, it’ll save you a lot of time and potential hassle in the future to learn the fundamentals first.

Also, look after your physical and mental health. If you are the owner of your company, everything falls on you, so it’s important to stay well and understand your capacity and perhaps areas for further growth and improvement. I believe that self-awareness and understanding are part of the absolute fundamentals of running any business, so it’s important to take time to cultivate this.

K: What do you love most about living in West London?
E: Everything! Having lived east for the majority of my time in London, moving west has changed my life. I live right by the river, with close proximity to beautiful parks, river walks, wetlands, and reservoirs. I’m originally from the country so living in west London has finally made living in the city feel like home. And of course, my favourite place in Hammersmith, Kindred, is just around the corner which has provided me with a community of wonderful people, which I always felt was missing during the years I’ve lived in the city.

The Jewel & Jaguar Silk Scarf by Emily Carter. Photo courtesy of the artist

K: What drew to you Kindred, and to be a member?
E: Well the first reason was the close proximity to my flat, but the beautiful building and ambience was equally enticing. I wanted somewhere to work but where I could also feel part of a community. Working alone isn’t an easy choice, especially in London if you live alone, too. Having a support network is fundamental and I honestly can’t believe how much it has changed my life to be around such a like-minded and fantastic group of people. The connections I have made here have been brilliant for both business and my personal life. Kindred really is one of a kind.

K: What’s next for your label?
E: I’m launching ready-to-wear and swimwear collections in February next year, as well as my second collection of furnishings and interiors. This year I’ve been working on a business model for sustainable clothing — accessories are more straightforward in this regard because they tend not to go out of season or be thrown away — but I didn’t want to create dresses etc. with this idea of creating a collection which becomes obsolete a few months down the line. My bottom line was that I’d rather not do clothing at all than go down the fast fashion/wasteful fashion route.

But I have found a way to create clothing which encompasses my personal and professional values: the collections will all be made in England, from recycled or natural fabrics where possible, and will be focused on exquisite prints and designs which do not go out of season, and are made using the best quality fabrics and finishings. Many exciting things to come!

Emily Carter’s art prints, textile accessories, homewares, and more are available from the Emily Carter website. Follow her on Instagram or sign up to one of her drawing tutorials, hosted regularly at Kindred.

Kindred are offering a free month of full house membership from August 10th, to celebrate our new membership structure. Learn more and claim your free month

Monica Karpinski

Monica Karpinski works with Kindred on digital and content strategy, including brand storytelling. She is the Founder & Editor of The Femedic, a media and research platform for women's health, and writes widely on health and gender inequalities.

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