It is almost impossible not to have heard of Samantha Cole, the powerful black woman behind the Samantha Cole London brand(SCL).
SCL is an International Award Winning Contemporary British Brand, a title that was received by Samantha Cole for her Spring/Summer 2009 Collection during New York Fashion Week for ‘Best Womenswear Designer’.
Samantha Cole has achieved great career milestones; her first solo show held in Association with Virginia Bright Entertainment Los Angeles during the recently concluded New York Fashion Week Fall 2013 has been the most amazing to date.
New York Fashion Week Fall 2013
Others include the recent selection and feature in the new Samsung Smart Camera TV Commercial, featured on ITV’s X-factor 2011, Fashion’s Finest Designer of the Year 2011 where she was one of four Designers selected and sponsored by London Fashion Week’s ON/OFF to showcase as “One to Watch” and got rave reviews from major UK and international Press, she was one of four Innovative Fashion Designers selected worldwide to feature in SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS New Innovative Product Publication.One of five designers selected by Super Model Lara Stone to feature in New York Times Magazine, she has been nominated for Innovation in Fashion from Arise Fashion Week Johannesburg, South Africa,nominated for Best Emerging International Designer from AFI, Johannesburg, South Africa, BEFFTA Award Nominee for Best Womenswear Designer 2009 & 2010, Featured on an Episode of BRITAIN'S NEXT TOP MODEL (BNTM), and has won Best Womenswear Designer for Spring/Summer2009 during New York Fashion Week and the list is endless.
Tracing the childhood that shaped Samantha Cole’s career path and brought about her various achievements, we found out that she grew up in quite a normal and respectable family with a Doctor as a father, that was trained and lived in Germany for over two decades, a mother asa nurse, trained in Liverpool where Samantha Cole was born.
New York Fashion Week Fall 2013
She is the first out of four children and as a young girl she always had a thing for fashion, which she thinks was passed down from my mother, “looking back at old pictures of her I realize she was so on trend, from the kitten heels, Mary Quant Mini’s and Beehive Do’s to the Psychedelic wave of the 70’s. She had a grasp and understanding that even today I find so inspiring”.
As a teenager, Samantha Cole played around with cutting and redesigning clothes as she wasn’t sure at that time if she really wanted to be a designer until the time she was studying for an HND in fashion at Southampton Institute of Higher Education. That period captured her imagination and lead her to pursue a Degree at London College of Fashion. Her passion for fashion was further enhanced with an Internship at prestigious British Fashion brand Burberry where she received amazing support and the best studio experience possible that has come to shape her in fashion.
Today, we at OnoBello.com have the great honour of bringing you an exclusive interview with a woman we admire so much in fashion, one that inspires others in the creative industry, carved out a niche and remained relevant not only as a powerful black woman but also a game changer in fashion, we hope you get inspired just as we have!
OB: When did fashion designing start for you?
SC: The passion started at a young age but I didn’t take it seriously until my HND at Southampton
OB: What keeps you going in fashion?
SC: The Love of fashion is the only thing that sustains me and keeps me moving forward.
OB: What are the shapes and themes of your latest collection?
SC:The latest collection has been slightly modified from the look of previous seasons. The ethos of making 3D wear-able is the same, textures remain prominent and for the first time knitting techniques and prints have been introduced, whether these will become a staple in the collection has not yet been determined.
The Autumn/Winter 2013 Collection called “A Linear Nights Equation” drew inspiration from a back to basics formula of math. The mathematical equation graph was the basis for the simple and uncomplicated shapes created. It also inspired the brands debut print range which consists strictly of linear shapes.Creating this Linear inspired collection began by using the “NIGHT EQUATION” graph accompanied by slopes and 3D linear equations.This is the focus and dominant feature that can be seen throughout the collection.
The “NIGHT EQUATION” set the tone for the monochrome colour palette with a hint of tonal sunrise producing for the first time,slight warmth to the collection. The linear equation which is based on lines forming shapes also inspired the textured pieces from the suede hand knitted dress to the basket weave knit skinny trousers.Silhouettes as always have a structural element even in its most minimal form.
OB: What are some of the frustrations and drawbacks that challenge you in the fashion industry?
SC: Getting the label into specific stores, getting an audience with buyers, sourcing and maintaining financial support, receiving payment on goods sold to boutiques, manufacturing the collections when the quantities are too large for small run factories and not large enough for major factories, sourcing fabrics with large minimums, getting the right press and exposure for your brand amongst others.
The list goes on but at the end of the day it’s the profession I’m in, you make it work and deal with the drawbacks as they present themselves.
OB: Where do you get your design inspiration?
SC: My Inspiration comes from so many sources which include Technology, Art, Culture, Historical influences, Architecture and sprinkled with some Modern references. Once the inspiration source is defined Music plays a huge part in the design process and assists the direction and mood of the collection.
OB: Is there a reason for the dominance of black and white colours in your collections, how come we never see brights and patterns?
SC: The black and white dominance served a purpose for the type of designs I was creating. I was more focused on textures and shapes and didn’t think any colour but black or white would highlight the designs I was creating. Black and white are simple, clean, strong and dominant, they allow you to be creative without the distractions of colour or print, this was my purpose and intention and I think I achieved that.
However, as the brand grows and develops, new elements are introduced, the most recent one being colour which can be seen in the current collection.
OB: Where should we expect the Samantha Cole philosophy to take us in the nearest future?
SC: Growth, development and diversification is the future of the brand. We will take you on the journey and reveal it to you one season at a time.
OB: With so much competition, how have you consistently remained relevant in the international fashion industry?
SC: Getting caught up in the competitive nature of the fashion industry is impossible and impractical to sustain without a consistent source of finance and industry support. Attempting to remain relevant without it is impossible to survive and will ensure a quick demise. The best advice I would give is ‘do you’, dance to your own tune, combine it with clever marketing and remain consistent without catering to the insatiable vacuum of the industry.
OB: How do you source for financial backing for your business? Is it all funded by you?
SC: Funding is partly by my company and further supported by sources from different avenues which include corporate companies and private individuals.
OB: How would you define your personal style?
SC: As a designer it may be considered ‘faux pas’ but I don’t actually have a personal style.
OB: How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
SC: I would define it as strong, individual and powerful made for the discerning cosmopolitan women.
OB: What are your other interests, fashion aside?
SC: I Love Art and Craft exhibitions, I find them inspiring. Also I like museums and remain passionate about the theatre, love the organic feel of actors live on stage and also partial to a good musical, find them quite therapeutic. I am currently looking forward to seeing the musical ‘The Bodyguard’.
OB: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having African Fashion on such a large world scale?
SC: I think the advantages are endless of which include; Promoting a positive image, highlighting the skills and talent of African designers, showing a wealth of incredible home grown fabrics and craftsmanship. Including but not limited to being recognized as a source for home grown Organic materials and bringing awareness of Apparel manufacturing to parallel some of the world’s established. The possibilities are endless.
With regards to disadvantages the only one I see is when the fabrics are adopted and re-produced internationally instead of supporting the original source to assist in developing home grown skills, sourcing, manufacturing and supporting the assisted growth of the African Apparel Industry.
OB: What are some of your fashion necessities and must-haves?
SC: I don’t know if it would be considered a fashion necessity but for me an essential item of clothing are jeans; boyfriend, cropped, ripped, distressed or bleached can’t be without a pair. My ‘must-haves’ are hats and scarves I love all sizes, widths, lengths and textures.
OB: What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
SC: My favourite fabric to work with would be leather, for me it’s one of the most versatile fabrics around. It can be thin, soft, and supple and easily manipulated to pleat and drape, while also structured and heavy for accessories and outerwear. Apart from its commercial uses what I love it can also be distressed, painted, perforated and laser cut. Now, any fabric that can be that diverse and give the wearer some attitude is definitely right up my street.
OB: What’s a typical day like in your life?
SC: A typical work day always starts with Prayer followed by coffee. Preparations for the day are usually done the night before so when the girls get in to work the following day they know exactly what needs to be done. What I love about the work I do is no 2 days are the same, one day we’re pattern cutting, toiling and 3D modeling and the next we’re looming and working on manipulation techniques with different fabrics. It’s all in a day’s work.