Designer Bo Carter draws on both her native Poland and her adopted Leeds for inspiration. She tells Stephanie Smith of her fascination for forgotten places.
Place is everything to Bo Carter – where you’re from, where you are now and, perhaps most important of all, where you are going.
Changing cityscapes, changing environments, changing use of place – these provide the inspiration for Bo’s vibrant, street-wise, eclectic and occasionally rebellious clothes.
Born 34 years ago in Poland, the designer now lives in Morley, Leeds.
Her latest collection for spring/summer ‘14 was inspired by her upbringing in Poland in the Post-Communism era. “I designed one jacket which was square and blocky and from that point it all happened organically,” she says.
“My aesthetics as a designer are very much based on the end of the Sixties’ and Seventies’ eras. I absolutely adore the shapes of the garments in those days, and adding the punk twist.”
For this collection, Bo (short for Bozena) has cut back on her trademark use of elaborate print, and concentrated more on the actual structure of the clothes.
For the all-important collection shoot, she wanted a backdrop that captured the changing nature of place. Her last collection was shot in Berlin but, for this one, she and her photographer boyfriend, Steve Gabbett, found the answer on their doorstep, in Bo’s adopted city of Leeds. “When we went location scouting, we realised how many amazing, forgotten places there are in Leeds,” she says.
“There is lots happening lately in Leeds, with the opening of the Trinity and the Arena. I think those two major projects pushed independent business to break through even more, which is fantastic news. There are so many great and creative people in Leeds and it is brilliant to see it.”
Bo’s clothes, which have been recognised by ethical treatment of animals organisation PETA, are characterised by playfulness, bold cuts and unusual use of fabric, colour and print.
She moved to the UK when she was 21 and trained to become an accountant, then worked in the NHS. Her design career began in 2010 with a Leeds Fashion Week, competition to find new designers for its annual catwalk show. In December 2010, she took her first collection to Virginia Fashion Week, then on to showcases in Malta, Iceland, Baltimore, Bangalore and around the UK. She opened her own shop in Central Arcade, off Briggate in Leeds, in 2012, but reaches much further afield through the Bo Carter website. Customers are all ages, she says, adding: “We do attract people who like to stand out from the crowd and wear quirky clothes and want something different.
“People are changing and becoming more aware of the industry and what’s behind clothing production,” she says.
Next month, she is heading to Iceland for another “super-cool photoshoot” and will also start working on something she has been thinking about for a long while, intriguingly called the Metal Collection.
Exuberant as ever, she says: “I am gonna carry on making clothes, as this is what makes me super happy.”