In search of sustainable clothing, we found the effortlessly cool designs of Bug Clothing. Founded by Amy Ward in her Hackney based studio, she goes against seasonal trends, producing timeless garments, designed and handmade with her technical expertise. Using natural fibres, her garments allow freedom to move, relax, and breathe – something we all need a little help with in our hectic city lives. Ward’s ethos in life is truly reflected within Bug, something we find out as she talks about her friends, her love for fashion and pursuit to find life’s balance.
Well I always wanted to be a Womenswear designer, I spent hours watching That's So Raven and other such awful shows and drawing versions of their outfits (which I then got my Mum to laminate at the office). I grew out of this and studied design, sewing and pattern cutting at College and then at University. I just loved it. I did internships throughout University for some Ready To Wear and couture brands, which really helped my technical skills advance. Throughout University I worked for a company that rents workspace to a creative community and this was a great place to meet similar minded people. Post Uni I worked for less than 2 weeks with a designer that made me realise I never wanted to take fashion that seriously and to be grateful that I’m able to do something creative. I knew I didn't want to produce clothing on a seasonal cycle and wanted to design, making clothes at a rate that felt natural. I sort of knew I didn't want to work for someone else’s brand if I could try myself. So, for the past 2 years I've been setting up Bug Clothing alongside working as a freelance cutter + seamstress.
You adopt an attitude, very similar to Vivienne Westwood, that encourages us to buy fewer and better quality clothes. Do you feel more designers and shoppers need to adopt this ideology? And is this something which is important to you with Bug Clothing?
For sure! I think we all need to be more considerate with the amount that we consume. Instead of buying something that is made up of synthetic materials in a fast fashion environment where garments aren't built to last, in styles which change every season, and that we will wear a few times then throw away, it makes more sense to buy fewer and higher quality items. Of course, the higher the production, the more jobs there are for people - so in this respect it is a good thing, but only if the production chain is fair. But I still feel we over-produce and we just don't need so much stuff! Currently the way I make is on such a small scale, and I work with two wonderful and clever friends who sew with me when the demand is high - but I do hope to make every part of what we do as conscious as possible, We can all only do as much as we can, but as long as we acknowledge this, then that's a start! I also really appreciate when people want to patch up/repair old clothing, instead of throwing things away we should care for and repair things, this is another reason why I want to create clothes that fit really well, so they're something you want to hold onto.
In what way are your designs conscious? Tell us about your original use of natural fibres?
I would say the way I design is for the sake of people being comfortable both physically and in the way they feel about themselves. Of course you can't make clothes that will flatter everybody but I hope that Bug Clothing does a good job at making things that flatter a number of body shapes/lengths/widths. Clothes that don't cling too much, that allow you to do your job + that make you feel good about yourself. Using natural materials is wonderful because it allows the skin to breath, and naturally softens over time. Also on a more aesthetic level I think it compliments my designs. I buy materials from a place that sells 'dead stock' and 'end of rolls' so this helps contribute to the matter of not over producing.
You state that your designs are inspired by the people you meet. Which characters attract you the most when considering your designs?
All sorts! Mostly the talented, kind and cool people I call friends. I'm surrounded by such a fabulous and creative group of women and they're all really good at telling me what they like in clothing which helps to influence my design. I like to think what would look nice on a person and then design something - with their name as the garment title. As a pattern cutter, construction logistics aid my design, and also my desire to not use actual fastenings, other than the occasional button and buttonhole, just ties! Also materials - finding a beautiful linen and then wondering what shape or how much of a colour would look good on a body. And then one shape idea can influence a million more. The fact that my pals do jobs that involve moving and making, garments that allow movement and you don't feel conscious or have to keep fiddling with, stuff you can throw on and take photographs/make ceramics/cook in/make jewellery in/cycle a bike in (mostly)/run around in.
You create everything in your ‘humble studio’, as you call it, in Hackney. Is remaining a local East London brand something which is important to you, and why?
Ummmmm, I think managing to continue as a business in the place that I want to live is important. For now that is London, and London is a wonderful place to create as it's non stop and there's such a concentrated rally of creative and inspiring people all in one place. Although it can be a real struggle, it's very hard to keep your head above water in such a busy and expensive city, so to be able to run a small business here is a real effort and also a great achievement. I would love to someday have a big studio surrounded by fields with massive windows and french doors and a harem of cats and some friends sewing with me and we just drink coffee all day and listen to amazing music and make lots of linen clothing! To me it doesn't really matter if it's in London or not anymore, I like to hope I could do it from anywhere with enough help around/access to the city when necessary.
What are your aspirations and goals for yourself and Bug Clothing?
I plan to continue to try and make each aspect of my brand as sustainable as possible. I would like to be able to pay seamstresses a good salary to sew with me in house more frequently. I'd like to get some more space. Continue to design and collaborate with exciting and interesting people, and also find a life balance, if that's really a thing.