Hannah Weiland founded Shrimps in 2013, after coming across a stock of faux fur that could be dyed, cut and panelled any which way, while studying at the London College of Fashion. It initially inspired a single Breton-striped faux fur coat, but it wasn’t long before Weiland was receiving orders on a far greater scale, in terms of both quantity and prestige.
Ahead of the fast-approaching London Fashion Week, we met at her Ladbroke Grove studio to talk fun, fur and frills.
How is the preparation going for this season’s presentation?
All the clothes in the studio are for the new season, we got them quite far in advance because we did some sales in Copenhagen. We’ve still got show pieces to do, and we’ll do styling a few days before, and casting. That’s full on, we’ll have hundreds of models in this office.
It’d be great to talk about how you started out, and how your background in history of art influences your collections?
[It influences me] A lot!
When I was at school I was always best friends with my art teachers, and when I left they made everybody these little rosettes, and on mine it said: “It’s all about surfaces”, because I always did print and pattern. They really wanted me to study textile design, but I was quite academic at school and I really wanted to do history, I loved history of art, and I knew that after I would probably go into art or design. I went to Bristol, and I wrote my dissertation on Grayson Perry. It was focussed on his dresses and pots, and I called it Frilly Frocks and Shocking Pots. I was constantly drawing while I was there, and when I graduated I went to LCF to do surface textile design. My art teachers were so happy, I had a drink with them and they were all like: “Yes Weiland!”
I came across the most amazing faux fur while I was there. I’d never worn real fur, I’m allergic to it, I hate it, and I love animals; but I’d never actually worn faux fur either, there was nothing out there.
I’m always the person at parties who doesn’t take their coat off.
But this one was amazing, I made one coat in Breton stripes, showed it to a few people and everyone loved it. They hadn’t seen anything like it before, so I made a few more colour ways and went to the stockist Avenue 32, and they placed a small order.
I then showed the coats to Laura Bailey, she’s a family friend. I took them over to her house and she got really excited, she never wore real fur, and she asked if she could put an order in for LFW. This was September 2013, and obviously I said “Yes, definitely!” That fashion week I was ill in bed with Tonsillitis, and I remember getting texts from Laura, with pictures of Alexa Chung trying on the coat, everyone was trying it on. Then Natalie Massenet went up to Laura, she apparently chased her down the street and was like: “Where is that coat from? I need it at net-a-porter”. Then they rang me the next day and placed a really big order, for summer, “fur coats for summer?” And then that was it, I hired an assistant to help me with production, and now I do three collections a year.
I use my art history references for all my mood-boards, all my inspiration is art. For colour and print inspiration, and even the shapes of dresses from old paintings will turn up in my collections.
For SS18 I’m collaborating with the artist Faye Wei Wei on the set for the presentation, I first saw her work in a show at the Cob Gallery, I LOVE it.
The set for our shows is always so important too, for each presentation we create a Shrimps world. It’s really fun to showcase your new collection in the ideal space, where you can go crazy. We’ve previously made a marble bathroom with a big, square bath, which was really fun. I’ve worked with [set designer] Suzanne Beirne since the very beginning, it’s really creative and we have so much fun. I love creating a space where you don’t really know where you are, you could be anywhere.
In the ready-to-wear collections for Shrimps, there’s a fun and frivolity underpinned by contextual, or historical references. What’s your focus when designing?
The brand is very playful, I love choosing the colours each season. I once said I’d never use black, and I definitely use black now, but it goes very well with lemon yellow…
I think people should have fun with what they wear. A lot of people don’t wear colour, and I find it strange because there is so much colour in the world.
Quite a lot of my team just wear black, and I look at them like, “You’ll be in pink soon!” Pink suits them, I know it does. I think people just need the courage and conviction to wear colour. I have lots of friends who just wear black, but they’ll put on a bright yellow coat, and they can take it off and just have their black outfit underneath. That’s why outerwear is quite easy, and I think outerwear will always be our main category.
What was it that inspired you to work mainly with faux fur?
The faux fur itself. To me the category of outerwear is fabulous, because the age range of our customers is so varied, and it isn’t really about your figure, it’s about how it makes you feel. People say wearing our coats is like being hugged by a soft bear.
I love summer, because it’s happy and sunny, but winter is so nice in the way that you can be wearing quite a boring outfit, but you can put on an amazing coat and be like, “Yes!” I say this a lot, basically in every interview, but I’m always the person at parties who doesn’t take their coat off. I’m always so hot, because I probably have a jumper on underneath, but I just love coats.
Whats the inspiration behind the resort collection?
It’s inspired by folk art. I love folk and outsider art. The doodle print that’s embroidered on one of the jackets, I actually doodled at a Grayson Perry talk years ago. I found it with my design assistant we recreated it. I’ve also referenced my boyfriend’s grandfather’s books, he wrote children’s novels, which were illustrated by Roland Pim. The drawing are feminine and beautiful, and one of the books is called Priscilla and the Prawn!
You use materials in a really interesting way, often taking something quite traditional and adding a gloss or embroidery to it that feels very modern. Could you elaborate on your process?
Texture is really key. It’s a lot about texture and things that really stand out, I’ve never used a plain fabric. There’s fur with crochet, lurex gold gingham… and we photographed the resort collection against a backdrop of yellow PVC. When I first started doing ready-to-wear some people were interested to see how it would work, but it was easy to translate. Our knitwear is doing really well, it’s exciting, but I think the coats will always be at the heart of the brand.
A lot of people don’t wear colour, and I find it strange because there is so much colour in the world.
Who would you say are your contemporaries in the London design scene?
I love London designers, I’m good friends with Molly Goddard and Ashley Williams, I’d say we’re probably contemporaries. I love how they both have such a strong identity, Molly with her tulle, oversize dresses and colour; and Ashley’s streetwear, she’s got these amazing images that she repeats everywhere. And they are both so nice, before fashion week it’s great to be able to text each other and just be like: “I’m dyyying”.
And then I love people like Simone Rocha, we’re not really contemporaries, I wish we would be but she’s got two shops now, she’s doing amazingly well. Brands I’ve always loved are Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci, Marni and Erdem. I do think for me it’s Milan and London, basically.
I love feminine shapes and colours contrasted with something else, it’s all about having a contrast. If you’re too much one way, for me, it doesn’t work. Like when you’re styling a very girly dress I quite like to do slicked-back hair and minimal make up, and an accessory that’s quite manly.
Could you tell me more about your Marguerite event?
The idea is that its a doodle dinner, Faye and I collect all these beautiful objects, and we’re sourcing pieces that we can arrange on restaurant tables, atop white paper tablecloths with lots of felt tip pens. We want everyone to sit next to each other and doodle, like when you're a kid and you get colouring in sheets in restaurants. It's a dream situation, I would still do that now. The thing with doodling is that you really can talk at the same time, so I think it’ll be really nice.
Marguerite's Shrimps Doodle Dinner will take place in October. Watch this space for the date and full details! If you're not yet a member and would like to hear more, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org! In the meantime, you can check out the Shrimps site here!