Sarah Angold started her career with a commission for Hussein Chalayan and never looked back. She is an entrepreneur, mathematician and designer who seamlessly transitions from Toyota to technology to Thomas Heatherwick. Sarah’s cultivated approach — informed by technology and textiles — can be seen in an oeuvre which includes an unconventional jewelry collection, thermochromatic handbag designs and innovative lighting designs. Forbidden from following trend reports, her studio is renowned for setting new design standards.
You started out studying textile design – what is this exactly? How did you know it wasn’t for you?
Textile design explores principal practices like weaving, printing and knitting, and often falls into either fashion or interior categories. My key aesthetic in textiles incorporated building multi-layered fabrics that had acrylic inlaid into them, and these gradually became more and more three-dimensional. To explore my sculptural skills, I moved to Japan to be a concept car designer for Toyota, returning to the UK to spend a year as a designer in Residence at the Design Museum. My work here went on to inspire my first jewellery range. It certainly isn’t the case that textile design ‘isn’t for me’ – it’s the backbone of my training. However I want that, and more: I’m greedy.
Please tell us about the fascination you have with Hussein Chalayan?
Foremost, my first ever commission was for Hussein Chalayan. I’ve always admired his ability to fuse technology; meticulous pattern cutting and fashion seamlessly. His moving pieces are beautiful, integral and surreal – not just a gimmick. It’s truly contemporary fashion design.
Your designs are unlike anything we’ve seen before – which is very rare for us – was your goal to design truly one-of-a-kind jewelry?
Absolutely. I love working with unconventional materials and processes. My team is forbidden from following trend reports – we set trends. I have no doubt that our wide variety of projects in other creative sectors like vehicle, product and electronic design enable us to innovate in a way that we wouldn’t happen if we were only influenced by the fashion market.
Where do you start when creating your designs?
My design process begins with a carpet picnic of research photos and materials. From this starting point, my team and I work instinctively, combining textures with drawings, collage and digital renders. Sometimes we work on a mannequin, sometimes in the park – whatever we feel like! In this way, the pieces develop with their own natural momentum and dictate their own design destiny.
What materials do you use?
Our pieces are hand-assembled from acrylic, brass, resin, gold and various three-dimensional printing materials. We use a variety of industrial processes to create our shapes. Our limited edition designs are all engraved with a production number – it’s like fine art collectables meets high fashion.
How does mathematics play a part in the design process?
Angles, symmetry and equations play an integral part in our graduating aesthetic. For example, for our Super Relay necklace, the degree of rotation for each piece was calculated precisely to aid motion in the necklace.
You recently added handbags to your repertoire. Can you please tell us about your approach to that market?
Our approach is not dissimilar from the way we work with jewelry – limited edition pieces, using stunning material combinations – in this case Italian calf skin with our signature laser cut acrylic and acid etched brass. Material innovation and technology is never far from our minds in any project, and our signature handbag collection launched with a honeycomb embossed, thermochromatic calfskin that changes from a vibrant pink to white under a warm hand.
How did you come up with the Wild Clutch Bag?
The wild clutch was another of our collaborative projects, this time with Kzeniya London. We had so much fun fusing Kzeniya’s luxury leather designs with our geometric sci-fi aesthetic.
You said in an interview with Business of Fashion: “I am confused by the idea that you have to be a ‘something’ designer. I want to be a designer and an artist and everything else as well.” Can you please elaborate on this comment and concept?
Certainly. I think that true creativity can be channelled anywhere. If you have good ideas, you can apply them to any brief, whether it’s creating a beautiful shape for a sculpture, designing a new material for digital tech or problem solving for corporate business. I am a better designer for having experience in all these fields.
What’s in store for Sarah Angold for 2015?
We’re already working on two collaborations that will be unveiled mid 2015. One is with an LA-based aeronautical company and the other is for world-renowned trend agency WGSN. We’re very lucky to work on a huge range of projects, and challenging ourselves across a variety of design disciplines, whilst cementing our position even further within the fashion sector, is a key target for 2015.
Who is your next dream designer/collaborator?
Thomas Heatherwick. I wish I had invented his Rolling Bridge.