Replace your dull grey winter scarves with one of Emma Greenhill’s wearable works of art, and when we say art, we mean it. Her design process resembles that of an artist in a studio rather than a fashion designer, although Greenhill mixes the two wonderfully for magnificent results, and ends up living the best of both worlds. It’s refreshing to meet a designer who values the beauty of personal, handcrafted pieces. We get an exclusive with the print-maven who is loved by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Laura Bailey, and Eric O’Connor.
How do you start the process of designing the images on your scarves?
Ok, so lots of things constantly dance around in my head which I want to put onto paper. For my AW15 collection I really wanted to acknowledge my two inspiring and strong Grandmothers, Hannah Greenhill and Iris Naddell who both orginated from Russia or thereabouts depending on border changes. This took me immediately to the Ballets Russes and I went to the Library at Glasgow School of Art and pulled out and poured over all the books on Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. They then took me on an adventures which also included in the mix Gertrud Stein’s children book titled ‘The World is Round,’ old fashioned puppets, early Cartier jewellery and Paisely prints. Colour influences and pattern from the artists, Pablo Picasso’s harlequins, John Byrne and Jim Lambe. I then take all my research and start to draw on my mum’s kitchen table in Glasgow and even used all her white plates, sorry mum, as palettes! So much easier to mix paints and wash than plastic ones. I also wanted to try out more painting as the color is better for printing than collage and so this season I had fun choosing different types of brushes and sponges. I paint on watercolor paper.
Talk to us about the paintings you create prior to designing the scarves.
Getting ready to paint is beyond exciting, suddenly I see flying rabbits and the collection is called ‘Matchmaker’ as I have finally gone back to painting which makes me so happy. I first draw with a pencil my designs onto the paper and then start to mix colours and paint……when I sleep at night the character come to life in head and for three weeks I sleep like a baby filled with magical dreams and the next design comes to me in my sleep. I draw one design and start painting it and need a nights sleep to hel
p me create the next one. Does this make sense? I do not take drugs, just my funny head. My dad says, I am full of whimsy!
I went to Brighton University/ art school but actually I had a horrid time after my brilliant tutor the now Professor Clare Johnston of the RCA left. Once, I graduated I went into fashion PR under the guidance and support of John Galliano and Caroline Lebar at Karl Lagerfeld, I happily worked for British Designers for around twenty years. After having to stop work and go home for a fibroid operation and anxiety breakdown, my dearest and closest friends, the artist Julie Verhoeven and the designer Hussein Chalayan who have always believed in me, gave me the confidence and the push, to pick up a paint brush again after such a long time. Husband and wife, Edward and Maryla Green, ex directors of Asprey continue to mentor me and the fabulous Koulla Constantinou and Charlotte Cutler have joined my charabanc.
Your pieces are very colorful. Some of them have a beautiful painterly effect that it almost looks like it’s by Chagall or Picasso. Do you feel colour is an important part of your designs?
I adore colour……and how funny Chagall, Matisse and Picasso are huge influences as are contemporary artists like Jim Lambe, Julie Verhoeven and Martin Boyce. When I paint I don’t think of clothes and I don’t ask the question would I wear these colours. I just let the paintings come to life naturally. My dad has a large collection of car books which I like look to look at as they are all bound in different colours and I love in my head rearranging the colours and seeing which colour would work with this one and that one.
Do you paint with scarves in mind or do you paint and think , ‘yes, that would work for a scarf”?
I draw my designs out thinking of a possible scarf layout. So yes, I do think it would, would this work for a scarf. I hope to build an accessory line and this season I have added printed leather bags which my graphic artist Adam Thorpe cropped from my original scarf designs