Kirsty Ward

Designer Focus
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18 October 2011 By Karen Hodkinson

Kirsty Ward

Dress like you’ve got something to say: Kirsty Ward’s designs are not for the shy and demure.

Slightly masculine and embellished with bold jewellery, Ward’s sculptured aesthetic was honed and refined at Central Saint Martins where she went to study after completing a BA in womenswear in Manchester. 

Citing MA course director Louise Wilson as an influential mentor, Ward graduated with a distinction in 2008. Alberta Ferretti wasted no time at all in snapping her up to design for the brand in Italy. After a year and a half with Ferretti, Ward returned to London and collaborated with David Longshaw on the jewellery for his A/W2010 collection. Many fashion editors sat up and took notice of this rising talent. In 2010, Ward made her womenswear debut at the Vauxhall Fashion Scout Exhibition and her eponymous label was born.

How did you come to decide to launch your label in 2010? Did you consider working for other designers for a few more years? 

I felt this was the right time to break out on my own. Working for other designers is great, but when you have a strong personal design handwriting it makes sense to say/do your own thing.

Tell me about your experience at Alberta Ferretti? What important lessons/advice did you learn?

I was an assistant designer at Alberta Ferretti and I did a lot of draping and embroidery. This job was really important to me as it was my first job in the industry, so I learnt a lot about how the business works.

What was it like launching your own label? What (or who) saw you through the whole process? 

It's satisfying as I love having my own business and working for myself, but it’s still a learning process each season. It's great that my boyfriend (David Longshaw) also has his own womenswear label as we can bounce ideas off each other.

How did you come to the idea of incorporating jewellery into your designs? 

I've always made jewellery as a hobby and I love the idea of merging the two, so it just kind of happened. It's a much more interesting and directional way of moving embroidery techniques forward.

As a womenswear and jewellery designer, is it difficult to change from one process to another? Do you think you could end up having to choose one over the other in the future? 

It's actually nice to switch between the two and have a break from one or the other. I hope I don't ever have to choose as I love both of the processes and its end results equally.

Kirsty Ward model wearing peach dress carrying typewriter

Could you describe your creative process? And do you enjoy it? 

I really enjoy the process. I like developing my collections from season to season, adding new elements along the way. I like to work in 3D as it’s a much more natural and less contrived way for me to work. I will start with making small samples and construction ideas, these all get stuck on my inspiration wall and then they grow from an idea into a toile then into a finished garment. I also use a lot of experimental pattern cutting as this is a much more enjoyable way for me to work. Although the results can often be unexpected, I enjoy the surprise.

What inspires you? 

I love hardware shops, experimental cutting, merging traditional jewellery elements with embroideries, and menswear construction/detailing.

When you design, whom do you have in mind? 

I have an idea of a woman, but no-one specific. To be honest I love seeing my stuff on an everyday girl on the street.

What was your childhood like? How did you decide to be a designer? 

I always loved making things - especially clothes - so becoming a designer was just a natural progression. I went to study for my BA in Manchester because the course was quite technical and hands-on with the construction side of things, so I learnt the craft here and went on to the womenswear MA at Central St Martins to hone the design and creativity side of things.

Do you have a role model? Someone you have always aspired to be? 

No, I don't have a role model - there are lots of inspirational women out there but sometimes it’s nice to go your own way.

How important are mentors for young designers? 

Mentors are important, as they are people to learn from and help evolve your taste levels. Louise Wilson, the MA course director at Central Saint Martins was a huge inspiration to me whilst I was studying for my MA.

Kirsty Ward model wearing statement necklace

What do you find most challenging as a young designer? 

To be honest, it’s the lack of financial backing.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers? 

Just keep on working and developing your own ideas - don't copy other people, as it’s your ideas that make you interesting and unique.

What’s your greatest achievement so far? 

There's not really one achievement but a cluster: being picked as one of Selfridges 'Bright Young Things' in January 2011, being nominated for a 2011 WGSN Global Fashion Award and being named by Elle and Vogue as a rising star of 2011.

Further Reading