An insight into DARN
I had the pleasure of speaking with my close friend Amelia Pemberton, founder of Darn Collective a London based womenswear label that has such launched its first collection of 100% silk scarves, all of which are designed and made within the city. As someone who has inspired me endlessly since our first meeting in the first year of our studies at Falmouth University, it is a real pleasure to watch Amelia present her ideas and endless talents within a conscious, independent label that is a true reflection of herself. The first of many collaborations, I'll keep this intro short and let the interview do the talking which you can either read below or over at the Darn collective webstore.
Combining a myriad of influences that have intertwined throughout her upbringing in the UK, Amelia Pemberton founded Darn in 2019, an independent clothing and accessories label that offers designs rich in personality and expression; ‘elegant but not graceful, playful but not silly’ as she likes to phrase it. Drawing inspiration from the creatives and strong women who have helped to guide her through her twenty seven years, the companies first collection was released earlier this year, offering 100% silk scarves that have each been designed, printed and sewn within central London. With a vision for Darn’s future that focuses on collaboration, small scale design and pieces that are destined to become vintage, I spoke with Amelia about Darn and how she is embracing her position within the creative industry at a time of transition and vast change.
What is the story behind Darn? How would you describe the essence of your company?
I started collecting vintage fabrics from antique fairs and French brocantes at the age of eight which I would visit accompanied by my mum which really helped me to practise my eye for discovering pieces that held unique character and value - I certainly have her to thank for my sharp eye and these experiences directly inspired what I want to capture and offer through Darn.
The essence of the company is based around the women who made me who I am today. Those key, strong and influential mentors and friends I’ve had in life and watched dress and style themselves with such effortlessness ease has shown me a person really knowing and expressing themselves with a unique elegance. Textiles are at the core of the company which I create and form into different products. My experience working within different fields such as homewear, leather, knitwear and clothing has given me a really rich insight into the finer details and an understanding of the complete process from research to presentation. Whilst the world has been in lockdown I’ve had the time to play and discover what else I want to share with the world through Darn and why.
How have your experiences of being raised in England shaped your vision for design and the development of your own company?
‘The Secret Garden’ by Agnieszka Holland has always deeply resonated with me since I first watched it as a child and I’ve been hooked on the aesthetic and atmosphere portrayed through the film ever since - I even had a corner in my parents garden that I would turn into my very own secret garden. I collect a lot of vintage clothing which I use as reference and I am a big fan of stripes, french vintage uniforms and antique trimmings. Textiles are my starting point - to me it’s all about quality, unique textures and colour!
I have a deep love affair with Cornwall, an area of England that is always on my mind. I get such inspiration from short trips there following on from a three year stint during my studies at Falmouth University and I always find that a dose of sea and tranquil landscape really helps to reset my intentions. I have always been a bit of a lover for the countryside and every year I spent a few weeks in North Wales with my family, so I always have this nostalgic feeling with cosy knitwear and layering up after big long hikes in the mountains.
The name ‘Darn’ can be understood in two different ways, as in the phrase ‘Darn it!’ or to darn and fix an item of clothing - what does it mean to you?
Darn to me means both, it all started when I designed my BA collection in 2014 where I made a joke out of the moths that would constantly eat my clothes which always made me say ‘Darn it!’ , especially when they got to something particularly special! I found a solution to their work and designed around their eaten creations, using a combination of vintage textile fabrics and laser cut techniques to show them that they won’t ever truly win through making something beautiful of their ‘art’!
Darn isn’t your first company having founded Doobydolls aged 12, a bespoke doll brand that has seen commissions by the likes of Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michel Roux...have you always seen yourself as an entrepreneur?
I guess so as it is all I have ever known. When my parents check up on me they always ask if I am drawing and keeping up with my ideas and I find I am at my most happiest when I am busy juggling a range of projects which helps to keep all of my ideas rolling, which can feel like a rollercoaster. Even better is when I am collaborating - I love working with other creatives, it really gets me going.
Design and textile production is currently going through a mass amount of change. Where do you feel you sit within an ever-developing industry?
The key value of Darn is to design meticulous products for life which in turn are sustainable through their quality and timelessness. I do not believe in seasons and I will only release products when I think they are right with no set calendar. To me, it is all about slow and considered design with transparency and communication to our customers who appreciate well made products that have been created in small numbers. I believe Darn designs are destined to become vintage and I wish for them to be treasured for a lifetime before being passed down to following generations.
Nowadays transparency within production is a real must - what does the process look like for each Darn item?
I value being able to make strong, loyal relationships with the factories I work with, from the small printers in Lewes who translate my designs to fabric, to the workshop in North London that completes the scarves using talented sewers. All products are currently distributed from my bedside table so it is a very small setup at the moment which will expand but with the same core essence and values remaining firmly in place. It takes a lot of commitment and courage when you are doing it all yourself, but the pride I feel in seeing Darn worn all around the world keeps me going. I am currently working on more designs and have found it can prove difficult finding manufacturers to work with who share Darn’s beliefs. I think this movement within the industry for more considered, traceable design means this will become easier in time.
For those who do not know you, how would you describe yourself?
The first in the sea for a swim and a collaborator that loves to bring people together whether it’s through creative projects, food or wine - I was the president of the Royal Wine Society at the Royal College of Art, London! Lucky for me my mum is a freelance textile designer so I have been raised head to toe in fabric - I pretty much came out of a quilt. I take things seriously but with a kind approach and am always seeking new makers and friends to collaborate with in the hope of growing and learning together, which was really strong throughout my experience at Falmouth University. I am a doer who is obsessed with sports and being spontaneous - my name Amelia in latin means ‘work’ so I feel I am doing the name justice but in my own way…