Spring brings a flood of familiar tropical designs in the lingerie and loungewear market, but it’s safe to say there’s nothing similar to the aquarium-like original print from Welsh designer Rose Fulbright-Vickers.
Of course, the accomplished newcomer had a bit of help with her third loungewear collection, the seven-piece Tropical range.
The collage of painted tropical fishes is actually a unique collaboration that blends the talents of Rose, 27, and her late grandmother Susan Williams-Ellis, an illustrator who gained international fame as the founder of the renowned Welsh ceramics brand Portmeirion Pottery.
Susan — and Portmeirion, which she founded with her husband in 1960 — was best known for her charming botanical and floral tableware designs. But she was also passionate about the undersea world, and would sketch tropical fish in their native habitat while on scuba diving trips around the world. The book Magic Gardens: The Underwater Art of Susan Williams-Ellis was published shortly after her death in 2007 and showcased her paintings of marine life.
Rose created her Tropical print (below) by cutting out images of fish from reproductions of her grandmother’s paintings and then rearranging them to mimic the motion, colour and fluidity of undersea life.
“(Susan) scuba-dived her whole life, it was one of the major passions in her life,” Rose told Lingerie Talk. “But people aren’t familiar with it, and I wanted to share that with people.
“I did this partly because the print is so vibrant and joyous and partly because it hadn’t been seen before.”
The eponymous Rose Fulbright label debuted in 2013 with a handmade-in-UK lingerie range and followed that up last year with two loungewear collections inspired by 1930s style and Japanese fashion.
Mixing art, fashion and culture comes naturally to Rose, whose family once mingled with the Bloomsbury Group — her great-grandmother was a cousin of literary critic Lytton Strachey and the Tropical collection is inspired by the Bloomsbury-era looks of 1920s London.
Rose (right) knew she wanted her own fashion brand since she was 11 and remembers poring over Vogue magazines with her mother, “critiquing the things we saw.” After studying at Parsons in Paris and the London College of Fashion, Rose found herself drawn to the work of turn-of-the-century French couturier Paul Poiret and modern brands, like Kenzo, that straddle the line between art and fashion.
Her decision to repurpose her grandmother’s art fit perfectly with her label’s mission to create artisanal pieces that eventually become family heirlooms.
“I am trying to create garments that are precious and treasured through generations,” she said. “I want my items to be something that people cherish and look after for their children.”
Rose first saw Susan’s underwater art during childhood visits to her grandmother’s home in Wales.
“I remember seeing the fish paintings growing up when we visited her studio,” she recalls. “As a child I really loved it.”
Art Works © The Susan Williams-Ellis Foundation 2015
The Tropical collection taps into those childhood memories and another, more primal, connection as well: a child’s attachment to her parent’s most memorable clothing items.
“It’s something an adult would wear but a child would love, something you’d remember your mother wearing,” she says of the bright, busy pattern that somewhat resembles wallpaper for a child’s room. “It’s something that captures the imagination.”
Although her label started in lingerie, Rose sees it growing more toward the bold, theatrical loungewear styles seen in its new collection.
“It’s all about finding beauty in everyday life, surrounding yourself with things that are beautiful,” she said. “Loungewear is the most perfect canvas for that ethos. It adds that element of aesthetic to private life. Far too many people are just slobbing around wearing old T-shirts.”
And wearing artful garments can elevate a person in unexpected ways, she adds.
“It has an interesting psychological effect to wear beautiful items that feel nice on your skin. It has to do with how you perceive yourself and if you’re happy and excited by life.
“It can really change your life to wear beautiful things just for yourself.”
Pieces from the Tropical collection range from £140 to £460 and most of the brand’s sales come through its webshop and a handful of retail stockists. (Rose Fulbright will participating in a bridal pop-up shop this weekend at Marcos & Trump in London.)
The label is donating 5% of profits from the Tropical collection to Oceana, a non-profit conservation group that works to protect the world’s oceans.
Campaign Photographs © Doh Lee 2015