Growing up in London it was inevitable that art, fashion and culture would have a big impact on my life. I spent my childhood, and reams of paper, doodling fashion drawings and, as my mother proudly reminded me, I made my first dress on her sewing machine at the age of nine. I have been happily making ever since, creating individual clothes and textiles, each piece having it's own bit of theatre.
I studied a BA (Hons) degree in Fashion and Textiles at Ravensbourne College of Art & Design and was already supplying my designs to a London store before graduating. I developed and grew my business in partnership under the label 'Howat-Foy'; cutting patterns and sampling my own trend-lead collections before they went into production in east London factories or with our team of out-workers prior to being delivered to independent stores across the UK. That was the late eighties and an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the fashion industry! Sadly those heady days came to an end as Britain went into a recession; many of the smaller independent boutiques folded to make way for the new, now well known, fashion chains and consequent mass production. I continued my career as a womenswear designer for several of the big names on the high-street and, still based in London, I travelled globally for inspiration, sourcing and production which was both glamorous and demanding, however, best of all, it led me to meet my husband! When our first child was born my values had changed and I felt reluctant to return to the pace of fast-fashion I'd previously been so enthusiastic for. Inspired by my friends' enthusiasm for the clothes I was making for my daughter I launched a childrenswear label; 'The Princess and the Pea' in early 2000, which involved lots of fun-fur, plush fabrics and small production runs. After our second child arrived I took time out to enjoy being with my children and gradually turned my hand to teaching fashion and textiles to others.
In 2012 I launched FASHIONSKOOL as an after-school sewing club at Highgate Primary School where enthusiastic groups of fashionistas learnt to use a sewing machine and up-cycle their own clothing. Encouraged by the eager demand for learning sewing and textile skills I expanded FASHIONSKOOL by introducing fun, fashion-inspired, clothing and textile workshops for children and teenagers during the school holidays from my own home work-space where I would provide my own exclusive patterns and step-by-step tutoring in small groups. As my students progressed so did their desire for increased challenges so, utilising my previous pattern-cutting knowledge, I included higher skill-level workshop projects and launched dressmaking classes for teens and older children in addition to regular sewing classes. Before long their parents were also asking me to teach them the same skills and I added adult dressmaking and pattern cutting classes to the list, otherwise known as 'Friday sewing therapy!' I absolutely love my job running FASHIONSKOOL and honestly believe there is no pleasure greater than creating and nothing more fulfilling than inspiring creativity in others.
© 2015 SUE BROWNE