The Masters: Grace Weller
It’s a certain antithesis that comes to mind when Grace Weller arrives at our interview. Unassuming, and dressed in her (self-confessed ‘‘scruffy’’) uniform of T-shirt, jeans and boots, Grace is not the woman she designs for – not superficially, at least.
Born in London, Weller’s home is now Buckinghamshire, where she spent her teenage years. Her childhood, described as a smörgåsbord of creativity and wholesome pastimes reads like a picture book of country living. “I had an amazing childhood,” says the designer. “I was encouraged to be creative from a young age, and when my parents moved to Buckinghamshire I took up riding competitively- I had always been obsessed with horses.”
There’s a fondness to these tales that speaks for Weller’s willingness to return to her home after her first year of MA at CSM. “I was living in south London with friends at first,” says Weller. “But I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to fund my collection paying London rent. I just decided to move back home to Buckinghamshire and commute instead!”
“I LIKE COLLECTING TEXTILES AND GARMENTS WITH INTERESTING TECHNIQUES, THEN EXPERIMENTING WITH DIFFERENT FABRICS AND PROCESSES TO BRING THEM TO A MORE CONTEMPORARY PLACE.”
Moving out of London may have hindered the designer’s down time, but it certainly hasn’t hindered her creativity. Inspired by antiques and her penchant for collecting ‘bits and bobs’ from various places, Weller’s work is an extension of this passion for mix and match and ornate details. Woven, shredded and built back up, a single piece in the designer’s collection can contain up to 10 different processes and techniques. Weller is unafraid of experimentation.
Weller designs for the woman, the Gentlewoman in parts. The woman with a capsule wardrobe containing a uniform of cashmere, silk and men’s shirts. The woman who speaks four foreign languages and owns a house in zone 3. The woman with a PhD, a career in the arts but who’s forever absent at the parties. Weller designs for the grown up. Her woman is shrouded in mystery, quite literally caged behind fabrics and processes and material– contemporary armour if you will.
There’s a dichotomy to Weller’s designs that reflect both the woman of her inspiration and her own creative affinities. The designer is an open book when it comes to sharing her ideas, portfolio page after portfolio page reveals the depths of her design inspirations, two-fold in both aesthetic and mood. “I like the pairing of abstract garments and lace worn over contrasting crisp white shirts and oversized silhouettes,” explains the designer. “I like collecting textiles and garments with interesting techniques, then experimenting with different fabrics and processes to bring them to a more contemporary place.”
Weller’s creative aspirations are similarly two-fold, with the designer hoping to straddle both the textile and creative industries post graduation. “I would love to work with a creative label where I can continue experimenting to discover new and exciting ideas,” Grace says. “Ideally I want to work somewhere that would allow me to be involved with both the designing and the textiles side, as I studied womenswear on my BA.”
A quick Google reveals her undergraduate success at Graduate fashion week, where the designer was awarded the George Gold top prize of £10,000 (an award handed out to industry pioneers like Stella McCartney, Julien Macdonald and Christopher Bailey in the past). Alongside this, Weller took home the accolade for the best womenswear collection that year; an accolade whilst not explicitly stated by the designer, can be apprehended in the intricacies of her designs.
Weller’s is a collection that prioritises the woman – that both protects and parades femininity. It’s a fragile and honest femininity, at once strong and delicate, quiet and loud. It’s a strength between layers of fabric and Weller’s skills and design. Maybe, more than the designer cares to admit, and more than first meets the eye, it’s a woman, more like Weller herself.