WITH Philippa Foulsham
Philippa Foulsham is a print and pattern designer with an enviable CV, having worked for some of the very best in Paris and New York. An “English rose,” in the words of her colleague, Philippa is just as warm and approachable as she is successful.
We met up with Philippa and friends on a crisp, sunny Sunday to drool over her textiles and grow green with envy over the life of a pattern designer — one we learned is rich with trips abroad for sourcing gorgeous, collection-inspiring vintage textiles.
Having asked Philippa to exclusively pull prints featuring food, we gathered around her as she told us the story behind each pattern, her face lighting up as she revealed the fabrics: a mix of new and old, sheer and delicate, heavy and textured.
Philippa’s passion for sourcing vintage textiles is contagious, and much more involved than visual appeal; it’s where the fabric came from, whose hands it’s touched, its history. We were also delighted to see how she sneaks herself into the prints. Case in point, a Club Monaco martini scarf. Take a close look and you’ll find a small smattering of espresso martinis in addition to the classics, an ode to her love for the cocktail.
Needless to say we thought you’d enjoy hearing about Philippa’s life as a pattern designer (and how food plays into it all) just as much as we did — which is to say, a lot.
Photographed by Erika Long
Makeup by Risako Matsushita
Hair by Karla Serrano
You’ve worked for some major fashion brands including Christian Lacroix, Theory, and Club Monaco, where you work now. Could you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are now?
Yes, I was born in London and went to Chelsea School of Art and Design where I specialized in printed textiles. I really wanted to work for a luxury brand that used lots of beautiful prints and color. I fell in love with Paris while visiting a friend, and managed to land an internship at Christian Lacroix. Everything sort of [fell into place] from there.
What’s a day in the life of a print and pattern designer like?
I’m generally at the Club Monaco design studio. I’ll check my emails and start the day. It can be anything from presenting our latest collection to Merchandising, to sourcing vintage prints at a fair. Over the years I’ve found beautiful, inspiring textiles that have turned out to influence the direction of a collection.
We work with some amazing women who have a tiny little space at the Clignancourt flea in Paris, and we go down to some great stores in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. We found some beautiful grape motifs from a woman in Vermont.
I’m lucky we get to travel a lot for inspiration, and we go to [the fabric fair] Première Vision in Paris at least once a year.
What advice would you give other women pursuing a career in fashion?
Think twice. [Laughs] No, I’m joking. Follow your dreams. It’s a crazy industry, but it can be really fun. Work hard and don’t take it too seriously.
You’ve created lots of fun patterns with food. How do you decide which food to use and when? Are there any trending foods right now?
I would normally use a fruit or food that ties in with the concept. We recently visited Mexico City and did an agave ditsy for Men’s shirts. Last summer we did pineapples on dresses, and this fall we did martinis on a scarf — I love an espresso martini! Sometimes the motif is random, but it’s always chosen because of an emotional attachment, and to make the print fun. It’s amazing how long people have been wearing prints with fruit on them — they add beautiful colors. Often our color palettes are inspired by food and drink. We have a lovely ivory [color] I named Sake, and a gold called Honey.
I would say bananas are trending right now. Prada just brought back their iconic banana print from SS11, and it’s everywhere.
What do you like to cook and eat at home when you have the time?
I like to do a Sunday roast with friends, it’s kind of an English tradition. Roast chicken with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and carrots and gravy. I also like a basil and ricotta soufflé from The River Cafe Cookbook — it’s delicious.
How would you describe your relationship to food?
I love food! I really enjoy restaurants; when we travel I am always looking for the best places to go. We’re always inspired by the decor and the food, and by watching everyone around us. I was actually brought up vegetarian, but after living in Paris I started eating more and more meat.
An essential component of challenging yourself and experiencing growth is failure. Will you tell us about the last time you felt like you failed?
It’s definitely hard sometimes when a print doesn’t sell as well as you would have liked. There can be many reasons: the fabric, the silhouette, the colors. I try not to obsess over it, and learn.
Who are the women you look up to? And what kind of woman do you want to be?
I really like Charlotte Rampling — I just bought an old book of her photos from the start of her career. But really I look up to my mum. She’s intelligent and fun. She’s independent and hard working. She went back to college when I was young to study architecture, so I was always surrounded by interesting models, materials, and textures. She would take me to the ICA [in London] to see weird avant-garde movies and cool art shows. It sounds a little cheesy but I would like to be like her.