Lotty B is a designer who works from the beautiful island of Mustique in the Grenadines, West Indies. Known for her incredible designs inspired by her amazing surroundings, Lotty is probably most famous for creating pieces worn by Pippa Middleton and most recently baby Prince George!
We were lucky enough to be able to speak with Lotty and find out more about her and her designs.
You began designing in 1993, what prompted you to start?
I had studied stained glass at Chelsea college of Art, but when we moved to Mustique in 1992, I decided to take some silk and silk paints with me as a hobby. I very quickly came to love the medium and found silk a perfect material on which to translate the bright, clear colours of the Caribbean. I soon found there was a good demand for sarongs and that was the beginning of Lotty B as a cottage industry, just fitting in what painting I could between raising the rapidly increasing family. I hand painted each piece for many years before finally going in to print.
How different is painting items by hand compared to the painting process you now use? Do you still hand paint items?
I do still paint all the original designs at home, and often still on silk, although it can be a little temperamental when it’s very humid, in which case I use water colours and inks on paper. These designs are now sent on to the factories for production.
What is your design process?
On a large rectangle (about 45”/65”) I sketch out a design and paint it, (usually on silk and sometimes on paper). I work back and forth between photo-shop on the computer and actual painting. Photoshop is extremely useful when playing with colour schemes and creating the different print layers for sending off for production. They still screen print the silks by hand, the old fashioned way. The computer is also very useful for working out the repeat patterns for the shirts and swimming trunk prints etc.
Your inspiration is your home in Mustique, but where does your passion for design come from?
Definitely my favourite part of my work is the fabric design. I have loved fabrics and prints since as far back as I can remember. I come from a big family, with 5 sisters and 4 brothers. I’m the fourth oldest and you had to be persistent if you wanted something. I used to pester my mother to distraction to take me to the fabric markets when we lived in Africa. I started to sew when I was very young. I remember making a tiny teddy bear out of felt when I was about 6 years old sitting on the veranda with our nanny in Ghana. She showed me how to cut out the trousers so that they would fit round a 3 D shape. We did a lot of crafts when we were little. My mother put on art classes in the local hospital and she’d always take one or two of us with her to help.
My grandmother was a huge inspiration to me and I adored her. She was an artist. I think she passed an interest in art on to us all. (My sister, Eleanor Cardozo, is a sculptress and my youngest sister, Decima, is a portrait painter.) She gave me a sewing machine when I was 14 and I took it back to boarding school. I used to sew dresses late into the night and at weekends when the art rooms were empty I used to print up fabrics. I’ve always loved screen printing.
When I design a piece of clothing I am very aware of where it is going to be worn – in my case, in the heat, on holiday. To me, the simpler the garment the better. It is all about comfort and style and feeling good. I don’t use zips if I can help it or design tight fitting clothes. In the heat one wants to feel comfortable. The feel of the silk is very important it wants to feel fabulous against your skin. After a day at the beach there is nothing better than to slip on a kaftan for the evening. My favourite silk is a sueded charmeuse which is incredibly soft yet cool and it drapes beautifully. I think the kaftan is a most feminine and alluring piece and can’t help but make one feel good. It opitimises the sophisticated holiday feel.
The kimono is also a great sexy piece. I wear mine at home as a dressing gown for breakfast or a telly supper, but I have seen people wear them out to cocktails with bare legs and a pair of high heels and they look a million dollars!
Probably the most popular is the short chiffon kaftan. It is amazingly comfortable, almost like wearing nothing at all, but gives a little protection from the sun and still shows off your bikini. It can also be worn layered over a pair of slim-fit jeans and a camilsole, or with a silk slip underneath, which turns it into a dress for the evening. It packs so small and can shake out without ironing which makes the most convenient and versatile piece to take on holiday, taking you from beach to bar to dinner.
Although quite different, the two labels, Lotty B and Pink House Mustique run along side each other particularly on the design front. I take a subject and run it through the whole collection, from kaftan to swimming trunks.
This year I’m working on three new design themes: Pelicans, Bamboo and Leaves.
Each has a colour theme and between them they cover a good variety. Colours are amazing here. They can be incredibly vibrant, clear and sharp, but early morning they are the softest pastels or during a storm they can be very moody and dramatic. Subject matter is never a problem either. There is just so much to inspire one: A huge variety of flowers, fruits, butterflies and insects, birds and a whole sea life too. I’m really spoilt for choice.
I think it also helps that I can work in the midst of nature, out on our veranda where the humming birds and little banana quits are constantly flying in and out, to take nectar from the bourganvillea or trying to make their nests in the most ridiculous places, scattering twigs all over the place. The sounds are great too. During the day the birds never stop chattering and at night the insects take over. They are so loud particularly when it rains, but we get so used to it that we only really notice it on video or if we have friends to stay who aren’t used to it. We can hear the sea too and there’s always a breeze through the palm trees.
What is next for Lotty B and Pink House Mustique?
I opened the little gingerbread Pink House shop on Mustique five years ago and started designing swimming trunks and linen shirts, then two years ago I added bikinis and simple linen and cotton cover-ups, and the Pink House label started to come together. It’s a fun yet elegant, high end beach and resort-wear label for men women and children.
I’d like to get it really established worldwide and then I’d like to spend less time on running the business and more time on design, maybe branching out into furnishing fabrics and china.
Is there anyone you would like to create a piece for? If so why?
I pride myself on creating clothes that cater to all different types so it’s difficult to think of one particular person. However, with the fear of sounding clichéd, it would be an honour to dress Gisele because she is the ultimate swimwear model – beautiful, elegant and timeless. ( which is exactly what I hope to achieve in my designs.)
What are your handbag essentials?
My hands are usually full of fabric, paint brushes or sea shells, so, I do not often carry a handbag. If I do, I include the basics for island life – sun cream and a sarong!
The new Spring/Summer ’14 range from Pink House Mustique is available now from www.pinkhousemustique.com