Meet The Maker: Not For Ponies
Northern niche brand Not For Ponies was founded in Manchester back in 2009, by Fashion Enterprise graduate Rebecca Andrews. She first began getting creative with fashion and textiles as a child 20 years ago. Inspired by the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians, she watched in awe as Cruella de Vil (no matter how sinister) commissioned striking fashion illustrations. There was something about the fluid, free-hand sketching, immaculate application of watercolours and contrasting tones that made her think 'I want to do that'...
Q. Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
A. I design and make things with a fun, positive vibe - fashion and accessories mostly. I like to make things that will hang in someone's wardrobe, then when they are having one of those 'meh' days, they'll put it on a give and little smile.
Q. Have you always been a maker?
A. I started designing clothes at primary school. I got an A3 file and turned it into a portfolio. I designed anything and everything, I just liked to draw - wedding dresses, ball gowns, fancy dress costumes, shoes, T-shirts. I started experimenting with colour palettes, took note of the way fabric folded, and began trying to represent texture.
Q. What was the first garment you made?
A. I got my first sewing machine for my 15th birthday. At the time I was really into No Doubt and idolised Gwen Steffani, so set about on a mission to make a dog tooth coat. I also inherited some vintage dresses from my Great Aunt Daisy, so played around upcycling them. They were from the 1960's so had huge great prints, brights colours and big floral motifs on them - right up my street.
Q. Where did you study?
A. I did my BTEC National Diploma at Northampton College. We did a lot of pattern cutting and manufacture, which really helped to develop my practical skills. I went on to do a BA in Fashion Enterprise at Cleveland College of Art and Design in Teesside, and have never looked back. Not sure why the North East gets such a bad rap! It's home to some of the friendliest, funniest, welcoming people I've met in my life.
After I graduated I spent a year working as a childrenswear designer for a supplier in Leeds. I got the chance to work on some great accounts, including Mothercare, and also spent 3 months working in the sample room in China. That was such a great opportunity, seeing first hand how the clothes in shops are actually made!
Q. How would you describe your aesthetic design style?
A. I've always had a thing for bright clashing colours, and even before I trained as a childrenswear designer, my design style was a little naive. I like fun fashion, humorous graphics and never take myself too seriously.
Q. Where does your inspiration come from?
A. I look at loads of things. I usually start with forecasted trends and go from there. It could be anything from art movements and musical subcultures, to the natural world around us. I use a lot of animals and mystical creatures in my graphics.
Q. Who are your design heroes?
A. Brands I love? In no particular order... Marimekko (I love Scandinavian design), House of Holland (I like their no bullshit Instagram feed) and Boden (great British brand).
Q. Can you describe your workspace? Where is it and what is in it?
A. I've worked in all kinds of spaces over the years. My first design studio was at Broadstone Mill in Stockport, Cheshire. It was a quirky little place. The studio walls were crafted from metal cages, the idea was that visitors could come and look round and chat to the artists. It was a great place to network with other creatives too.
I went from there into Afflecks Palace in the centre of Manchester, which was more retail focussed, so my studio was in my shop.
Currently I work from home as I have the space to do it, and it keeps overheads down, meaning I have to charge my customers less.
Q. What’s the best thing about being creative?
A. It's just great fun! Everyone should have a creative hobby, it's very therapeutic.
Q. What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
A. Do your research. Look at your competitors and how much they are charging. Spend time developing your product - even get a focus group together to get some customer feedback. Constantly ask customers what they want and what they think, and know your customer. Become really familiar with their likes and dislikes.