In my (albeit reduced) experience of attending fashion runway shows, salon events and presentations to review collections of clothes, accessories and shoes, I have seldom encountered designers as technically proficient, passionate about their work and with an elevated yet modest emotional intelligence about the processes behind sartorial creation as Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones, the duo behind label Teatum Jones.
With academic backgrounds in Womenswear from Ravensbourne and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Catherine and Rob honed their skills over a number of years while working for Luella Bartley, Warren Noronha and John Richmond. After deciding to launch their own label, they spent several years researching and developing their ideas for what they envisioned as a contemporarily relevant womenswear brand. Together, they have developed an enviable professional empathy and work ethos that cherish the importance of conceptual research and of remaining true to one’s creative intentions.
After being chosen as one of the 10 finalists for the Fashion Fringe competition in 2009, they unveiled their debut womenswear collection for Spring/Summer 2011 in London, and showed as part of London Fashion Week’s official schedule for the first time in September 2011. A few months later, they showed their Autumn/Winter 2012 collection in an intimate presentation in London’s department store Liberty, whose chief buyer understood their talent and was prescient enough to buy their collections. Their fourth collection, for Spring/Summer 2013, was presented in the luxurious environs of The Dorchester Hotel in London, and a few months later the British Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) announced Teatum Jones as their 2013 Venture Designer, a title previously secured by fashion designers who have gone on to show their collections during the official schedule of London Fashion Week.
On 19 February 2013, Teatum Jones returned to The Dorchester Hotel to unveil their fifth collection. Titled ‘To My Youth... How We Laughed in Darkness’ (after the titles of a poem and a novel by Vladimir Nabokov that served as inspiration), Teatum Jones’s womenswear collection for Autumn/Winter 2013 proved to be utterly poetic in its successful attempt to portray femininity and innocence as existing within a seemingly enchanting landscape of colourful flowers and butterflies (as captured by Nabokov the lepidopterist, and as respectfully dissected by Catherine and Rob in countless hours of study in London’s Natural History Museum). If many designers would have depicted such budding states of female emotional and physical maturity through literal representations of femininity, Teatum Jones cleverly opted for imbuing their collection with intensely beautiful layers of meaning that reveal not only a heightened perception and command of their own original concept but also an intelligent and critical knowledge of womenswear that circumvents historical sartorial commonplaces very adroitly. According to this reasoning, garments made from polkadot fabrics are not just examples of traditional feminine fashion design but are, essentially, a reflection of the patterns of the butterfly wings captured in a net or a jar. Similarly, the laser cut bonded viscose used in a number of garments of the collection is not a mere representation of Teatum Jones's command of technical skills; instead, it suggests the pins poignantly inflicted on the dead butterfly as a way to suspend its beauty as an illusion of life.
Ultimately, and on a very practical level, this sophisticated approach to womenswear meant that garments such as the apparently plain jersey and viscose dresses and the opulent patent coated wool coats with panels of virgin wool or tulle became, on a closer look, extremely strong examples of Teatum Jones's talent that could easily exist within the realm of haute couture. For their respect for ideas, intelligent command of conceptual narratives and highly accomplished cut, Teatum Jones's outstanding creative skills deserve a much closer look by the fashion industry.
Photographs courtesy of Teatum Jones