Meet Alexander E Jones and Lauren Emily Wilson, two designers from Hull, who design and create garments that are steeped in narrative and local heritage. Through their designs, Alexander and Lauren want to re-address our rapid consumption habits and disposable culture, and promote a deeper attachment to our belongings.
Today’s material culture is awash with objects without histories, without their own identities. These are the things we are convinced we need, the things we love for a month and then discard; things easily substituted for something else. When we founded Studio Kettle a year ago we were two Northerners, foreign to London, who liked clothes and who liked making things. We intended to pay homage to our roots whilst starting a conversation to address the relationships we have to what we consume. Crucially, we wanted to make things that couldn’t easily be substituted for something else.
Maybe it was homesickness that led us back to Hull for inspiration, maybe it was that you can only truly appreciate a place once you’ve left; once the fog has cleared. The city has a feisty underbelly. It’s shown a lot of resilience over the years, which is probably one of the reasons we are constantly drawn back to it, back to the “gull marked Mud” Larkin talks about. During WW2, Hull suffered the worst bombing raids of any UK city, bar London; then in the 1970s, Cod-Wars with Iceland devastated Hull’s once thriving fishing industry, putting many trawler-men, gutters, smokers and mongers out of work and out of pocket.
Folk from outside of Hull have a nickname for us, they call us Codheads. The first hat we ever made was called The Codhead. With a wide brim and extending peak its shape is reminiscent of hats designed to shield Codheads and trawler-men from stinging rains and howling winds out in the North Sea. Many historical reference points like this inform our work. The folk traditions and social heritage of where we come from is embedded in our practice.
Intrinsically, we think of garments as narrative objects. The story of a garment begins with the process of its creation, it is loaded with the history of honest workmanship. Many of our items are cut from abstract paintings on canvas and thus their narrative begins as a work of art. When a person comes to own a garment this narrative evolves as it integrates into their life. It becomes a chronicle of the wearer, a constantly evolving record of habits and of life. If, culturally, we can view clothing in this way we can be conscientious about the purchases we make and in turn come to value and respect our belongings in a deeper way.