Whitby fashion brand Art Disco creates SS21 collection for sea dips and road trips (and mermaids)

Based in Whitby, Art Disco is a boutique lifestyle brand that evokes the spirit of the coast, adventure and nostalgia. Salty sea-loving founders Lucy Catherwood and Marie France talk to Stephanie Smith.

Whitby has always been a home for storytellers. Lucy Catherwood and Marie France made it their home six years ago and now tell their stories through the designs they create for their fashion and lifestyle brand, Art Disco. “Brave, free and wild as the sea” is their motto.

Their drawings of mystic mermaids, salty sea dogs and foaming, crashing waves adorn Art Disco’s T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, accessories, cards and candles, all sold through their own website and at a select handful of independent stores, including Furbellow & Co in Whitby’s old town. “If lost please return to the deep blue sea” is the instruction encircling a line drawing of the head of a beautiful mermaid, while another tee features a drawing of their Land Rover (called Pickle), above the comment: “If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine: it’s lethal”.

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“We design goods for our fellow wild hearts and salty souls who like us live to keep the spirit of adventure burning,” says Marie.

Marie and Lucy on the beach

“We take great pride in going the extra mile with every step we take, creating our own silk screens and hand printing each garment using age-old traditional methods and eco-friendly inks,” says Lucy. “Fresh from the waves, that unmistakable feeling you get from bundling up in a super-soft hoodie. Salty air and sand between your toes, a cold beer and friends around a sunset campfire, that’s what our designs are all about.”

Now 36, they both grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, Lucy in Giggleswick and Marie in High Bentham, and have been together since meeting at Settle High School. They both studied Fine Art, Lucy at Leeds Metropolitan University and Marie at York St John. They were both members of a signed indie-electro band called Dead Disco so spent much of their time touring and recording together. And they both also began to design and create the band’s merchandise of T-shirts, sweatshirts and badges. Demand for them turned out to be so high that they were offered a merchandising deal.

Lucy says: “After learning how to screen print at uni, we realised we would be better off doing it for ourselves and so spent our advance on printing equipment. The merchandise really took off and so Art Disco was born.”

Marie adds: “Art Disco grew as a standalone brand and we made the decision to make it our main focus.”

Marie and Lucy on the beach

Despite all the travelling, they found they were always drawn back to North Yorkshire. As their burgeoning Art Disco brand was mainly online, they felt able to base themselves anywhere and, after a chance visit seven years ago to Whitby, they fell hook, line and sinker for the town and decided to relocate themselves and their business there permanently.

“Whitby is such a creative place with an amazing sense of community and a vibrant entrepreneurial scene,” says Marie. “It’s outwardly traditional but is not afraid to move with the times and embraces diversity.”

Lucy and Marie tell the stories of their adventures through posts on their website, sharing evocative tales of the last days of summer, golden leaves, beach bonfires and wild swimming at Falling Foss waterfall. They even share recipes.

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Lucy at work on a design in the whitby studio.

“We realised it’s not the far-flung holidays you plan and save for for years, it’s the few stolen hours of spontaneous adventures, the local everyday adventures that you stumble upon that fill you with childlike joy,” says Lucy.

For their beachy lifestyle and campaign fashion shoots, Marie and Lucy take all the photographs themselves, with Lucy’s nephew Davie and his girlfriend Hattie modelling. “We also feature ourselves on our social feeds a lot, as we wear Art Disco most of the time and we like to share our daily adventures,” says Lucy.

Their customers, they say, are wild hearts and salt water addicts like themselves. A current favourite go-to is the Art Disco Mystic Mermaid Hoodie, perfect for wrapping up after a dip in the sea. “Teamed with our Road Trips + Sea Dips bobble hat, they make the ultimate North Sea kit list,” Marie says.

Road Trips + Sea Dips is the name of their latest collection, inspired by their lockdown mini excursions. Lucy says: “This year we’ve found ourselves escaping on little adventures close to home. Revisiting places we hadn’t ventured to since childhood has rekindled a fire in us, down dusty roads to secret swimming spots, and stargazing on top of our Defender.”

Road Trips + Sea Dips long sleeve T-shirt, £30,at ArtDisco.co.uk.

Lucy and Marie are now working on their next collection (expect vintage surf vibes). Lockdown, they say, has seen more people choosing to shop online from local brands as they seek out quality and sustainability. Building a relationship online with customers, sharing experiences, is all part of the bigger picture.

Lucy says: “Being an outdoorsy, adventure-loving brand it was tricky to see where we fit in a world that wasn’t allowed to leave home.

“Instead of focusing on far-flung adventures, we have championed all things local and it’s let us connect with our customers on a more personal level.”

Art Disco is at artdisco.co.uk. See Instagram @artdisco

Mystic Mermaid sweatshirt, £40 at ArtDisco.co.uk.
Marie and Lucy on the beach Mystic Mermaid hoodie, £45, at ArtDisco.co.uk.
Marie and Lucy on the beach
Deep Blue Sea Mermaid T-shirt, £25 at ArtDisco.co.uk.
Wild Heart T-shirt, £25,at ArtDisco.co.uk.