Tiphaine de Lussy (de Paris) and Carolyn Clewer (from Essex) are the co-founders of London based knitwear brand Paris Essex. Their signature handcrafted pieces, mixing natural fibres and glitter, constitute the core of an ongoing collection that doesn’t follow conventional seasons. We sat down at their studio in Tiphaine’s East London home so they could tell us more about their two designs for UMd, Drip and Splat.
How did you come to work together? Tiphaine de Lussy: It’s a creative collaboration that’s been ongoing for something like 20 years. We met at the Royal College of Art in London where she was in the year above me. We both had an obsession with circular machines and elastic...
Carolyn Clewer: And glitter... And mohair.
Tiphaine: We were both a bit odd, and we were both obsessed with machine knitting. It had to do with the crazy yarns we were using that not many people liked, it was the Nineties and very slick. Now we’ve moved onto handcrafted stuff.
Carolyn: We must have bonded over that, being in a small environment and having the same kind of taste. We’ve stayed friends ever since.
What’s the philosophy behind Paris Essex? Tiphaine: We’ve been trying to take on projects that suit our ideas about how fashion or objects should be made. It has to be playful but we also need to make sure that it’s worth it for the people helping us make things. It also has to be sustainable. We work with hand knitters in England, and machine knitters and work with their requirements. It’s important to foster the relationship with people you work and collaborate with.
Carolyn: It’s like a weird community.
Tiphaine: They just love knitting! I would sometimes feel guilty because we haven’t sold enough and I just wanted to give them more work. There’s something there that is really beautiful...
Carolyn: About them enjoying the process.
Carolyn: When there’s personal involvement in creation and you can feel the craftsmanship from the piece, like when something is handmade, it just becomes special. At the moment, there is an appreciation of things being handcrafted, thinking about sustainability… Previously, communicating this concept to people was almost unprofessional, but people are more open-minded at the moment.
Tiphaine: It’s a better place for us to exist now.
What is the atmosphere like in the studio? Carolyn: Our studio in a long, narrow space and we’re usually in there with a dog and a couple of cats. We’re quite on top of each other, but in a good way. For us, our work is part of life and that’s different than going to work.
Tiphaine: My issue is that I could stay the studio all day long!
Carolyn: We don’t really have a typical day or week. Sometimes we’re both together in the studio, working on our own things that are going to be joined together or debating, sharing new ideas. At times we have to say, ‘Don’t talk.’ because if we’re intensely focused on something, knitting is very mathematical and involves a lot of concentrating.
Can you take us through the UMd collaboration? Tiphaine: We were inspired by the concept of UMd.
Carolyn: The idea that individuals can change something and get a one-off piece created is really exciting. It’s machine made but somehow, the hand is involved. We have our Paris Essex world and it’s playful, colourful, often slightly larger than life. We liked the idea of placing our designs into an area with clear boundaries.
Tiphaine: Design becomes interesting under constraints. Your creativity is further pushed.
Carolyn: If anybody is given too many choices, you won’t know what to do. You become overwhelmed. Our challenge then was to think of design ideas that really were about the process so we eventually settled on two ideas. The first one, Drip, was based on the design of stripes, because knitting and stripes go hand in hand, and for us, stripes are significant in the process of knitting. However, we decided to disrupt this idea because we’re anti-perfection, allowing the customer to change the width, and make drips through the stripes.
Tiphaine: In design, the happy accident is really what turns us on.
Carolyn: The second design, Splat, is slightly uncontrolled. The customer is placing their splatter where they want and it could be quite accidental or it could be quite designed.
Tiphaine: Because the process is about the customer disrupting the design to make it their own, we loved the idea but questioned how we could make it our own as well.
Carolyn: We had millions of different ideas, but these ones felt like they were at the core of what the project is about, or that’s our interpretation of it anyway.
Shop all Paris Essex sweaters and scarves or pick from our selection below.