Yellow Bubble is an Edinburgh based knitwear brand run by Jenny McCraw, a fellow Herald Fashion Awards 2016 winner and one of my favourite memebrs of my fashion department at The Scottish Design Exchange. The label has just receaslesed the new Spring/Summer collection, aand I was lucky enough to preview it in the Abbeyhill studio last week to chat with Jenny herself. Love this image from the new lookbook, photographed by Erica Von Stein, all the 1970s vibes! Read on to see our interview all about Scottish fashion, summer knitwear and shopping small…
Tell me about the new collection! What are the inspirations and methods behind it?
I started out with a more technique-based idea, beacuse I knew it was coming into summer, and obviously knitwear won’t be the biggest seller, so I thought heres thetime to do something really fun and creative. I was thinking of ways to use dyes and I came to the conclusion of using organic cotton and then tie-dying it, and came up with loads of different colour samples and worked out the designs from there.
I can get a little bit obsessed with TV shows and music, so recently I got obsessed with This Is England ’90 and The Stone Roses, and how they responded as a movement to rave culture and stuff like that, so I thought it would be cool to do a positive response to all the horrendous shit that’s going on politically at the moment, in a way that I really enjoy.
The collection really is very optimistic and uplifting, with all the bright colours, fun shapes and the tie dye. What stage is the collection at just now?
I’ve created all the samples now so its just a case of shooting and editing the new loobook to come out any time now. I have kept the collection quite small, and theoretically everything is just a blank canvas (plain white cotton pieces that are dyed on a whole-garment basis) so it can all easily be made-to-order; its open to interpretation from the customer and their preferences then I can just see what we can acheive with the dye.
Thats great that it is so customizable, the possibilities are endless with colour pallettes. How do you think a knitwear collection can work for the summer?
Its all lightweight cotton so its very breathable, and to be honest its always cold here (in Scotland) anyway! Retail is not really justifiable for knitwear in the summer so I’ll keep it on a made to order basis, just selling online. Its very festival friendly with the colour pallette and the designs, with metallic details and tie dye patterns. I wanted everything to be very loose and comfort was a key factor when designing so nothing was too restricting.
I agree. I would totally wear the knitted dresses to festivals, love the sheer panels. Tell me a little about the process of making a Yellow Bubble jumper here in the studio?
So I use a fine organic Eqyptian cotton yarn, design the basic pattern of the jumper then and machine knit a sample piece then test out a few different dye colours and dying techniques to see what works. For me its more like a textiles design process then a traditional fashion design process. I’ve been working with foils as well, which I really love, painting and pressing gold foil onto the jumpers and the t-shirts. Theres a designer that I’m obsessed with called Yuki Fujisawa who creates like big metallic foils on chunky arran jumpers and its so cool. She is a huge influence for this collection definately.
Its something you don’t see much on the high street is designers really experiemnting with the actual textile, so its refreshing to look through these pieces; totally unique. Walk me through the key shapes and styles in this collection!
So we’ve got a super casual cropped tank top, a boxy sweatshirt and a t-shirt with the ‘we know nothing’ slogan printed on them, a yellow bubble printed t-shirt, a sheer panel dress (which is knitted using invisible yarn), a t-shirt jumper, a dreamy long dress, a striped sheer dress, and then there’s my personal favourite- the kimono. In the photoshoot I’ve been styling them with bell bottom culottes and sparkly platform boots and big noodle curls in the hair and gold leaf make up, so a very retro, Kelly from This is England vibe.
This new collection is so different from the products we saw from you in Autumn/Winter at The Scottish Design Exchange. Its great to see Scottish designers pushing the boat out creatively rather than sticking with traditional heritage styles particularly when it comes to knitwear. Why do you think people should shop Scottish?
The process of creating clothes for a small brand is so much more experiemental, cretaive and innovative than if I was a designer working for a fast fashion brand like H&M churning out 50 different designs a day that have to be so commercial. Shopping local and small also means you know the person making the clothes is being treated fairly and the materials are sourced ethcially, and you can actually find out the story behind the design not just the finished product. Scotland has such a rich history of textiles, especially in the Borders, so the whole history is there and the community is so strong, and luxury brands like Chanel are starting to move manufacturing back here which is great to see.
More than anything I champion Scottish fashion, but there are many factors holding our industry back from big growth, as well as investment and geogrpahy. For me a key thing is the stereotype that comes along with Scotland; the tartan, cashmere and tweed. We have a wonderful heritage and a big tourist market, but I think that often holds us back from innovation and experimentation. Whats your opinion on marketing Scottish fashion to an international audience?
I feel like I’m at the stage now where I have the time and space to play and experiment and stay true to my voice as a designer becuase I don’t have quotas to fill on a massive scale. Lately I’ve been thinking, what if I don’t want to be that successful yet? What if I just stay small and instead of focussing on rapid expansion and global business and stuff I just develop my own skills and aesthetic as a brand to learn more about what I do until I’m ready. What if I saw this not as just an income but as an outlet for creative development. Doing this collection was what I really wanted to do and I’m really excited to make the next one. For me its more about creativity and enjoyment as an artist; I’m quite content with where I am right now!
How are you balancing everything, and how long does it take to make each piece?
It doesn’t take too long to actually knit a piece, as the shapes are a lot more basic with less detailing than the previous collection, but its the dyeing that takes time, as it needs to be mixed, soaked, rinsed, dried and steamed. So I will have a few pieces on the go at the same time; its all about organisation and good timing to be honest, but definately a day or two to get a piece finished. Many people don’t understand how much time, effort and capital goes into making a piece of clothing by an independant designer, as they are used to paying super low prices on the high street.
And what are the plans for the next Yellow Bubble collection?
Well I would like to keep experimenting with the dyeing thing and bring that into the Winter, but I’d also like to make something flufffy. (Yellow Bubble is famous for its faux fur cropped jumpers- they are so soft and adorable!) Possibly I may create a more luxurious faux fur style range with long coats and cardigans in the fluffy finsih, and then with the dyeing maybe experiment with a fluffy wool yarn woven into different patterns and dyed different colours.
This was just a small snippet of my chat with Jenny about all things Scottish Fashion, mental health and creative balance, quality and over quantity and why shopping local and small is the way to go, we went on for a while! It was a great little studio visit and interview and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next , and to buy a piece from the new collection (I have my eye on that sheer panel dress as you can totally tell from the amount of pictures I took of it for this post!). Keep up with Yellow Bubble on instagram to find out more, and let me know what you think!
Ruth @ Urbanity xxx