meet print designer florence colson
posted: June 30, 2014
Print designer Florence Colson says she’s “not a biker” and “doesn’t have the best relationship with computer technology,” but one look at the spectacularly unique design she created for the 2014 Specialized-lululemon cycling kits and we suspect she may be downplaying her talent and understanding of both those things.
“They’re going to create buzz” says Carmen Small, Specialized-lululemon’s team leader and the 2013 USA Cycling Professional Time Trial National Champion, of the kit. And if the excitement around lululemon HQ is any further indication, we couldn’t agree more.
We sat down with the London-born designer to get the story on what went into creating this year’s kit.
The best things in life take time
Kate MacLennan: You live in the UK and were working in Italy when we tracked you down. How did we even find you?
Florence Colson: I went to Uni in Leeds at the College of Art. There, I was put forward by my teacher to go to London and present my work.” [Ed’s note: Florence was one of 24 students chosen from about 1,000 to do this. We sponsor an award with text print, and lululemon Senior Vice President Deanne Schweitzer saw Florence’s work there.]
KM: What was the biggest challenge in this project?
FC: The fact it had to be for a particular function; when I’m doing my usual collections it just has to be a pattern that looks nice and fits the seasons—the brief is on pattern and colour, not it has to be able to do this and that. I had to fit the Specialized and the lululemon logo [into the design] without being too obvious about it.
KM: What was your inspiration for the interwoven diamond and floral design?
FC: [lululemon Graphic Artist in Design] Noemie McGovern sent me their inspiration, which was based on something they’d seen…a heavily jeweled jacket. I think the reason they asked me to do it is they’d seen my whole project from the end of Uni, which is based on Rococo and Baroque patterns; really heavily intricate and I spent ages drawing line upon line building up all the little details. I’m obsessed by the whole Baroque idea.
KM: What led you to your interest in Baroque?
FC: It started in this gallery near Leeds in Saltaire where they have these really old arts and crafts vases that are amazing colours and enamels with amazing colours. They’re all hand painted and they had a lot to do with [textile designer] William Morris. Then I started to look at architecture and looped it into Moroccan tiles and it all became one big explosion of pattern. I just love those shapes and the thought that someone spent ages painting it or carving it out of stone.
KM: You’re not afraid to take the time with your work, clearly.
FC: The whole slow craft thing fits me because I love drawing and painting by hand and I don’t want everything to take five minutes on a computer. I want to take time over it. It fits my vision.
KM: You did end up using the computer in the end for the Specialized-lululemon kits though, yes?
FC: First I just started drawing. [Lululemon] wanted it to have these baroque shapes, then Noemie was like, “A couple flowers might be nice.” In the end it became quite floral, and has pearls and a grid in it. At first I started to draw in one piece, but that wasn’t quite right, so I drew lots of different bits and scanned it in. That’s usually the way I work; I do bits and it gives me the freedom to change things. So I just drew all the elements then went to the computer, built up the shape and played around with it.
KM: Where do you work on stuff like this?
FC: Usually at my kitchen table. I would like to have my own studio space but after Uni I’m half homeless, half living with my mom/dad/boyfriend, so it’s wherever someone will let me have a perch [laughs].
KM: Is being an artist something you always saw for yourself?
FC: Well, my mom is a textile designer as well, really old school, hand paints everything. People are willing to wait for it and pay a bit extra for it. It’s nice that it’s coming back around and people are starting to appreciate it a bit more. When I was in Italy they have one person per studio who’s an amazing artist, and they hand draw everything. All the high-end companies like Louis Vuitton and Chanel want that artwork. It might end up on a computer, but they want their artwork to start there.
KM: What’s your favourite thing about the kit?
FC: I really like all of it as a whole. The grid on the back pockets is really nice, and it was something that Noemie said would look nice, but I may not have thought of it. I think it seems quite impressive. It’s not a normal thing to do, to design a bike kit. In the past few years I’ve always been interested in sports and stuff, and to be able to combine the two main things in my life, it’s… [trails off, smiling].
KM: Are you a cyclist?
FC: I’m not a biker but I have just recently got a really old racing bike, so I want to wear the kit and pretend I’m really good at biking. [laughs] I run for hours a day through the countryside, but my knees are starting to go far too much for my age. My mom’s a yoga teacher, but I don’t even do yoga with her. I think she’s worried I’ll be a naughty child.
KM: What does your closet look like?
FC: It’s mental. It’s spilling out full. I have quite a big collection of vintage patterns, dresses, and new patterned things. When you start designing and exploring pattern you obsess over how good it is or isn’t. So my closet is very eclectic and I’m a massive hoarder. I never throw stuff away.
KM: Any tattoos yet?
FC: Not yet, I’m too picky! There’s so many of my drawings that I’d like to get tattooed on me, but I don’t know what I’d get.
For more of Florence’s designs check out her website and follow her on Instagram.