When you think of a designer’s day-to-day happenings, a few images immediately spring to mind. For example, you may think of a room teeming with textiles, iterative brainstorming on whiteboards, or even a disheveled desk towering with colour swatches. Unbeknown to the consumer, there’s extra slogging that occurs behind the scenes.
Meet Head Designer, Michelle Hamilton-Pike and Managing Director, Jemima Sabini Haddock. Jemima and Michelle are responsible for the design of the Fox & Chave collection — an autonomous silk accessory business, creating over 500 designs, and known for its simple charm and enduring style.
The company’s origin story goes back to 1990. Fox & Chave was a purveyor of silk ties to the British gift market. Fast-track to 2001, when Jemima acquired the company. She leveraged her business acumen from her previous management experience at Alan Hutchison Ltd., a gift stationery business that zeroed in on fine art products, and founded Fox & Chave.
With a trusted team of 8, these two enterprising women have forged and melded Fox & Chave into the art-inspired, hand-finished silk powerhouse it is today. Design and marketing is their metier. They know what they’re doing. With a combined total of 29 years in the Fox & Chave business, this isn’t their first rodeo.
If you’re scouring for some 2020 creative inspiration, or you’re seeking to launch your own small business with your nest egg savings, you’ve come to the right page.
We went behind the curtain and sat down with designers, Michelle and Jemima. We had the distinguished privilege of chatting all-things Fox & Chave. Pen and paper at the ready! Take copious notes. Jemima and Michelle dispense granular tips and sage advice on how they keep the creative engine of their business alive.
Jemima Sabini Haddock
- The Day in Review: What Does a Day in the Life of a Fox & Chave Designer Look Like?
Life isn’t a total cakewalk for a creative manager. These industrious designers typify this with their daily grind. At Fox & Chave, there’s no such thing as mediocre, half-baked design ideas.
AM: To-Dos & Laundry-lists of Follow-ups
Jemima and Michelle punch their own tickets to success. They don’t outsource the ‘weed work’ of meeting clients and approving designs. They do it themselves.
First thing in the morning, they start by checking emails and taking follow-ups with buyers and producers.
PM: Afternoon Top-Billing Priorities & Creative Planning & Zhuzhing
The brunt of the day consists of spinning different plates and pivoting with design work. They meet or correspond with their bespoke clients and ascertain their design needs. Talking with clients is the crux of their business. Jemima has diligently mined contacts for over three decades. As a result, Fox & Chave supplies and services galleries, palaces, stately homes, literary sites, racecourses, luxury trains and many other cultural landmarks worldwide. Their reach is expansive on account of their rapport and interplay with their contacts.
Next on the docket is conveying ideas to the team succinctly. This is done through a wheelhouse of designs and blue-chip art fabrics. This collection of prospective designs requires green-lit approval.
The ’true north’ objective of the day comes mid-afternoon: creating deadlines and deploying producers to create the art-inspired accessories and products. As designers, it’s paramount that they have a low-maintenance, high-producing team and delegating control to them. They create hard deadlines for projects and send approved artwork to producers. To maintain creative governance, Jemima and Michelle inspect samples and modify designs. They want to ensure all their products have a through-line of aesthetic continuity.
They bring their day to a landing and finish with new product creation. The two designers pour over new product specifications like colour schemes, materials, and construction.
- Design Inspiration
For their own ranges, the design process begins, in earnest, by looking at major exhibitions and anniversaries in their calendars. This is a point of departure for Fox & Chave designs. It informs what they want to develop for that impending year. At a flyover level, the designers look for sizeable industry gaps they want to fill, or tired areas in their collections that need to be revitalized with new designs. Jemima and Michelle never peak in their creativity. They always look for areas of design improvement.
Fox & Chave’s colour palette hinges on some creative crystal-ball gazing and predictions. They extrapolate and conjecture what colour themes will be in vogue for that year. By that same token, the designers also harness their focus on art-inspired designs. They reject the trend of fast fashion and disposable clothing. As such, Michelle and Jemima are always looking for timeless designs rather than contemporary, up-to-the minute, forward fashion.
- What’s the Designer’s ‘Plan B’ Outside of Fox & Chave?
Unequivocally, Michelle would still be designing. If money wasn’t a deterrent, she’d like to live simply and be a prototypical artist. The ivory-tower ideal would be, cultivating her creativity by whiling away the day painting in her garden shed.
Jemima is not to be outdone in her professional life — she keeps things busy and maintains a no-nonsense sensibility when it comes to work ethic. One of her favourite pastimes, when she isn't traveling or at book club, is hanging out with her two favourite people: her grandsons, who have enough unbridled energy to rival an entire Olympic team.
- What’s the Origin Story Behind Fox & Chave?
The genesis of Fox & Chave begins with Jemima. The daughter of a diplomat, Jemima is cut from highly creative and cosmopolitan cloth. She spent her formative years exploring the Middle East. Specifically, she lived and traveled through Lebanon, Syria, Greece and Turkey. She developed a deep-rooted appreciation for bold colours, intricate tile patterns, transfixing pottery and homespun rugs. As a child, Jemima had a natural love of design and ornament and an unerring eye for detail. She’s been able to use this competitive edge of travel and life experience and transpose it to Fox & Chave’s beautiful silk designs, reflecting centuries of decorative art.
Eighteen years ago, Jemima bought a small tie company called Fox & Chave. Before she reinvented it into a sartorial silk collection, it had a humble provenance. It was nothing more than a trading enterprise, simply buying and selling of silk ties to high street gift shops.
Jemima is a creative prowess and not risk averse. She also espouses robust knowledge of the art and gift industry. She gravitates to elegant designs like William Morris patterns and Art Deco styles. In equal measure, she’s also astute and highly perceptive. She noticed something that was glaringly absent in the gift industry — an appetite for unique designs on the high street and in the heritage market. Like most creative entrepreneurs are apt to, Jemima took a leap of faith and created the Fox & Chave we know today, with its stunning array of sustainable silk accessories.
With Christmas now behind us, we’re torpedoing headlong into the New Year. If you’re feeling listless or rudderless about what goals to make for 2020, why not start with a creative intention? We hope Michelle and Jemima’s creative trajectory marshals motivation within you, to make some grand decisions of actionable change — whether big or small, to start your own business, to vigorously sketch out your own designs, or to obliterate the notion that you can’t do it. Embark on your own creative adventure.
As arbiters of style and success, you can bank on Jemima and Michelle’s practical tips. As self-made makers, they’re a ringing endorsement for aspirational creatives. 2020 can be your year of creative breakthrough.
Tell us in the comments below how you plan to practice more creativity in the coming year.