Fix up, look sharp. We just had Jan Constantine’s stunning hand-embroidered cushions in our latest promotion! If you weren’t lucky enough to get your mitts on one of her stunning hand knits, then don’t sweat it – relinquish the panic button – we’ll be having another promotion with her soon…
In the meantime, you can go behind the design: I recently caught up with the talented creator to find out how she went from sewing dolls clothes on her little red machine at the age of six, to designing for the London 2012 Olympics…
We’re all really rather in love with your hand-embroidered cushions, throws and crockery, especially the I Love London collection. What inspired you to become a designer?
At the age of six I made all my dolls clothes on a little red sewing machine. My mum was a tailoress and my grandma was a seamstress and milliner so I was incredibly influenced by them – they were both fabulously smart dressers and it came through in my blood.
As I grew up I loved fashion and made everything I wore, sewing a new outfit for the disco every Friday night and feeling great in my own creations so I went to art college in Bolton and studied fashion.
What was the first job you had?
My first design job was as designer/pattern cutter for a small Manchester fashion company. I spent almost a year there and didn’t like it, but it was a great experience as I had to do everything from designing and costing and grading to meeting the buyers.
How did it lead you to where you are today?
At 21 I went to London for a job as junior designer with a larger brand. I became design director, travelling all over the place but then after a decade in London wanted green fields. My husband and I saw a wreck of a house in the Cheshire countryside while staying at my sister’s farm. We quite naively bought it at auction a few days later and never looked back.
How did this change your life?
We became self employed, independent and loved the life. I built a successful interior design business and also did styling for magazines such as Italian Vogue and W Magazine as well as having my two daughters, Camille and Mary. I always wanted to produce my own designs and my love of embroidery, which had always been key to my fashion collections, was the main inspiration for my new business.
I started sewing lavender hearts with friends with the odd bottle of wine around the big kitchen table and “Jan Constantine, Hand Embroidered Heirlooms of the Future” was born. Eight years and a whole big story later, my collections are recognised and growing rapidly.
Who inspires you and why?
I think Tricia Guild and Sir Terence Conran are design icons of the 20th and 21st centuries who will go down in history. I love Tricia for her unrivalled sense of colour and pattern and Sir Terence for his very clean and sophisticated influence on British design over the last 50 years – he’s the William Morris of our time.
Now I know you love London, but would you say you’re a country or city girl at heart?
I am both – I love being in the Cheshire countryside, seeing the seasons, picking the flowers, seeing the green everyday and smelling the air. I also have to get my fix in London (I have a flat here) every week with shows, exhibitions and meetings.
How does it feel to be designing for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?
It is a great privilege to be connected with the games and as a designer who’s very patriotic it’s a very exciting opportunity.
How would you describe your home’s style and what do your family think of it?
Colourful, comfortable and very me! I have junk and antiques and family furniture all spiked with colourful textiles and images. The family love it – we’re all very arty people and the children have their own personalities that reflect in their own spaces too.
Describe your perfect weekend?
Just to be at home is a luxury these days! I love to have a lie in till 9ish and have a luxurious bubble bath, while listening to classical music. I love to go out leisurely for coffee in the pretty streets of nearby Nantwich, shopping for the fresh produce at the farmers market. Dressing up to go out or having friends over for dinner is a simple pleasure too.
Colour and more colour – injecting into the white spaces and also banishing the beige.
What three products could you not live without?
My perfume from Miller Harris – very sweet and floral.
Fresh flowers, preferably red, pink, white or blue and perfumed.
Dark expensive chocolate by Prestat - just a little bit everyday.
What’s your top tip for wannabe designers?
My tip is to be you, truly you. In the early days of my business I used to do things that I thought other people would like, but not necessarily things which I would want for myself. The day I started to do my own thing, designs I loved and would have for my own home was the day my business took off. Be true to yourself. As the saying goes “You can’t please everyone so just please yourself”.
The Jan Constantine promotion has now closed. But we’ll be having another one again soon. Sign up ACHICA.com to find out when.
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor