He works with the best, including Kanye West and Louis Vuitton. Now, for his own collection, Edward Crutchley tells Stephanie Smith how his native Yorkshire is his new inspiration.
Inspired by the Yorkshire Dales he grew up in, designer Edward Crutchley describes his latest collection as “a love letter to home”, through which he has tried to capture a deep, rich sense of place and the dynamism of the landscape.
Many of the fabrics used for his distinctive, luxurious, contemporary menswear pieces are made in Yorkshire, and indeed, fabric is at the very heart of his designs, using effects in wool, silk, mohair and cashmere to create a texture that evokes the moors, crags and dales of the county.
“Every fashion designer should love fabric,” says Edward who now lives in Paris, where he is a design consultant at Louis Vuitton, developing prints, weaves, embroidery and more. “It’s like visual identity through fabric.”
It’s a long way from North Yorkshire, where Edward, now 35, grew up in Clapham, near Settle, with his parents, both teachers, and his two brothers. He went to Settle High School, and was, he says, “quite quiet, I think”, adding: “It’s not always easy when you want to design dresses and you’re going to school with 600 farmers.”
Nonetheless, school did provide some early insight and inspiration. “My mum said I was always drawing clothes, but for me, it was when I was about 14 and in art class, and the teacher set a fashion design project, and I thought: ‘Ooh, this is quite good, I enjoy this,’ and it didn’t stop. At the start, there were a lot of people saying: ‘oh well, you know, you’ll never make it in fashion – have a back-up’.”
But Edward didn’t want a back-up. Instead, after A-levels, he found himself a place on the foundation course at Central Saint Martins in London, stayed on for his BA degree in womenswear, and then got a job at Betty Jackson, where he had been for work experience aged 17.
He was immediately plunged into the world of fashion production. “It was very technical and I really got a grasp of the ins and outs of the fashion industry,” he says.
Two years later, he moved to Pringle of Scotland, this time working specifically on fabric buying and development. “That was when I started working with weavers in Yorkshire,” he says. “I really had no idea that there were so many companies based in Yorkshire still making worsted, coatings, really amazing top level luxury fabrics – it was a revelation.”
Developing relationships with fabric manufacturers including Bower Roebuck, William Halsted, Joshua Ellis and Dormeuil has proved crucial. “I’m still working with all of them,” he says.
After Pringle, he was offered a job at Louis Vuitton, and has been working for them since 2007, although he has also been able to take on other clients. He’s worked with Kanye West on two of his own label fashion collections, helping him achieve the look and vibe he wants. “With Kanye, it’s really about building a language for his brand,” Edward says.
He also worked with designer Richard Nicoll on his SS15 collection. “We made the first properly wearable fibreoptic light-up dress inspired by Tinkerbell – it’s really something quite amazing,” he says, still enraptured.
Spring ’15 was also when Edward launched his own eponymous label, for which he decided to focus on menswear. “I think it was working at Vuitton, because I work on menswear here and it really taught me that the nuances of menswear are much more interesting. In a way, it’s much more limited, but I always find it interesting to work within constraint.”
The images here are of his autumn/winter 16’ collection, showcased via the British Fashion Council in London last month. With these pieces, he treads a path that is both new and very familiar, inspired by a visit home to Yorkshire in the summer. “I thought: ‘this is amazing. Why am I not doing something about Yorkshire? Why am I not doing something about where I’m from and what informs me as a creative person? And then I really started thinking about the mood of the Dales.
“It’s not a literal description of Yorkshire, but it’s that feeling of being in the countryside, being on a fell or in a wood, and how that space makes you feel, and translating that into contemporary menswear.”
His favourite pieces include a long robe coat made in brushed and pressed Yorkshire cashmere, and a satin blanket embroidered with beloved Yorkshire place names – Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough – and family nicknames, including “Atomic Ferret”, Edward’s gran, so-called because, even in her 80s, she would stand on her kitchen sink in stilettos to take down her nets for washing. A stylised embroidered ferret features on some pieces.
Edward’s designs are luxurious and relaxed, reworking classic shapes and playing with proportion. “I think clothing shouldn’t be difficult,” he says, adding that the best clothing makes you feel better and enhances your personality, “rather than buying something crazy that people will talk about as a substitute for your personality”.
His customer is a new breed, one who inhabits a creative or technological world. “They have money to spend but don’t want to buy the most outlandish look-at-me fashion, but they want to feel modern.”
And for future collections, Yorkshire will continue to inform mood, colour and texture. “I think that connection of describing northernness and Yorkshireness in a very modern way, rather than a hunting, shooting, fishing pastiche, is something that has really inspired me - and it’s something that I want to continue.”
■ Edward Crutchley’s collections can be seen and ordered at www.edwardcrutchley.com. Pieces start from around £100.
■ Shoot credits: Photographer – Andrew Vowles; styling – Julian Ganio; grooming – Yang Jin Dian; model – Tony Or at NEVS.