An Interview with Ellen Brookes of SIDELINE
Designer Ellen Brookes is something of an indigo pioneer. With a background in casualwear design gained in the States and the UK, the denim aficionado, trend consultant and self-professed lover of all things blue launched contemporary womenswear label SIDELINE last year. Delivering a concise but versatile collection of woven pieces in indigo fabrics, the clever cutting and exceptional level of detail in the design give SIDELINE its unique aesthetic.
What made you decide to launch your own label?
After years of designing for other brands I wanted to do something I could be in control of from start to finish, to design and produce clothing I would love and feel proud of. I have always valued getting into the detail of a garment but also love simple, clean and tasteful clothing – I wanted to create a collection that combined these two ideas, that was simple and easy to wear but each garment was full of thoughtfulness in the detail.
How would you describe SIDELINE’s signature look?
Thoughtfully designed modern shapes with subtle, understated detail. And lots of indigo.
What influences did you bring with you from previous places of work and where do you take your design inspiration from?
As part of my previous jobs I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world for research including places such as Russia to Japan. I think I have been influenced by the places I have visited and things I have seen, without even realising.
I am constantly inspired by the things I see and collect. There tends to be a meeting of two opposites like the clean lines of modern architecture combined with heavily embroidered vintage textiles.
All of this said I am mostly inspired by the women around me – these are the women who I am designing for and I have them in mind with every piece I design.
You were based for several years in the USA what impact has this had on what you do and how does American design ethos differ from that of the UK?
I learnt so much during my time in the US. I think the most important lesson was how to build a brand and stay true to its ethos. I created the tagline “understated detail, thoughtful design” to be a constant reminder to myself when designing each garment.
The design ethos in UK tends to be much more about fast fashion and always buying the next thing before anyone else, you have to be constantly ahead of the curve. In the US there tends to be a slower evolution and brands will stay true to their core, even the fast fashion retailers.
I value the experience I have gained from both sides.
You also work as a concept and trend consultant. Is the trans-seasonal, non-trend lead nature of SIDELINE clothing a direct reaction against this?
Yes. The most important idea behind this aspect of what I do is wanting to design clothes that last, not only in the design but also the quality of fabric and construction of the garment. I want to produce clothes that people will wear, love and return to season after season. I want the shapes in my collection to be modern so I guess there is an element of trend direction in this but they are modern shapes that will last timeless modernity.
I have specialised in denim for many years and wanted to use the experience I have in this area but didn’t want to go into the business of 5 pocket jeans. I wanted to create a collection out of the beautiful fabrics I know and love. Indigo is the foundation of the collection but I have built on this to create a whole look incorporating complimentary fabrics.
I also have an inherent love of all things indigo too; vintage African fabrics, Japanese Boro textiles and French work-wear. I have dressed head-to-toe blue for many years.
Understated design and subtle, minute detailing is at the core of your label, what things do we need to look out for in the AW15 Collection?
For AW15 I have taken influences of patchwork and quilting (something I always love whether it is on trend or not) and some of the garments in the collection are all-over embroidered to create a quilted look. There is a lot of work that goes into each garment, from me sketching the designs by hand to them being embroidered in the factory in Istanbul. The shapes I design tend to be quite simple so the detail becomes very important to make each piece feel special.
The best thing(s) about designing your own label?
The freedom. And the satisfaction of seeing it all come together for the photo shoot. I work with a team of friends and family for the shoot and its so much fun!
The worst thing(s) about designing your own label?
The stress and never being able to “leave it at work”, my work is with me constantly, and always on my mind.
How would you describe your personal style (both fashion and home décor)?
I’m very casual and like to mix vintage finds with new items. I am a big fan of jeans and white tee or vintage sweatshirt. My mum says I still look like a student.
I love interior design and get so excited when I see the new interiors magazines on the shelves each month. I love to collect things from around the world. I have a thing that everything in my house needs to mean something to me and have a story. It makes me so happy to look around my house and every item create a memory. I do get bored easily though so I am always changing things around at home much to my husbands frustration.
Sarah Connolly as Sarah Williams in labyrinth. I so wanted to be her when I was a kid and still do now. I loved her skinny jeans, billowing silk shirt, waistcoat and flat shoes, casual but so cool! I’m just waiting for my next BIG birthday so I can have a party that gives me the excuse to dress as her (in the masked ball scene obviously!).