Last Monday I was in conversation with Rachel and Manina from Red Leopard, we discussed all things colour theory, scarf styling and how I design my collections, discover key points from the interview below. You can also watch the full conversation on Instagram here.
Emma Hi Manina, thanks so much for joining me this evening, so we wanted to basically introduce our collection which is a collaboration with Red Leopard and myself to create 4 scarves, so as an introduction I’ll talk a little bit about how I came across Red Leopard and how the collaboration came about.
So I actually became aware of your work through one of our stockists, Claudia Sebire (fabulous Claudia!) and I found out you were colour experts and that you were incredibly good at being able to match people to the scarves that would suit them and make them their most radiant, then once I found out a little more, I started following you on instagram, and I think you had seen my scarves via Claudia, so that’s how the collaboration came about. We created this collection of the scarves using my designs and your colour theory with each one being one of the 4 seasonal palettes.
So firstly Manina, do you want to just tell everyone a little bit about the concept behind Red Leopard and if you like a little bit of the background and what it’s all about?
Manina Well I have spent my entire life being passionate about dressing people and even as a child I used to dress people at school, but it wasn’t really until I’d done lots of other things, like I’ve worked in the travel industry, I’ve worked at the V&A etc, I suddenly realised that I wanted to work within this field.
What we always find is that most people wear 10% of their wardrobe 90% of the time. So what’s happening is people are going shopping and they're randomly choosing things which they may have seen in a magazine or on their best friend and they're buying these things, that they really like, but when they actually get them into their wardrobe they find that whatever it is doesn’t quite work for them.
And there’s a reason for that because when you find things that look fabulous on someone else, they may very well not look fabulous on you.In order for things to look really great on you, you need to get 3 things right, 1) the colour, 2) the shape and style & 3) the personality, and that’s what we teach at Red Leopard, and the most important of those 3 is colour.
"In order for things to look really great on you, you need to get 3 things right,
1) the colour
2) the shape and style
3) the personality - and that’s what we teach at Red Leopard"
Emma And do you just want to talk a little bit about one of the things I found really fascinating when I had my consultation, which was about the colour theory, that it originated in the Bauhaus which is where you take the 4 seasonal colour palettes you use?
Manina Yes, so the man who was in charge of the painting school at the Bauhaus in the 1920s was a very weird chap called Johannes Itten, who was a Swiss artist and he was the person who actually started the idea of the 4 colour palettes and the names of the seasons. He would actually tell his students which colours they should be wearing, and actually, I just saw last week, a documentary on Johannes and his students who are still alive and they were being interviewed and saying 'well we remember when he used to teach classes he would throw pieces of fabric at us and say you should be wearing that.' So really interesting and he was the person that really started research into colour theory as we know it in the modern age.
”The man who was in charge of the painting school at the Bauhaus in the 1920s, Johannes Itten, who was a Swiss artist and he was the person who actually started the idea of the 4 colour palettes and the names of the seasons"
Emma Great, and so in terms of scarves then, I know you work a lot with scarves, so why is that and is there anything in particular that you find interesting about them as a piece?
Manina Well I am a scarfoholic, I have been all my life and I have a room which is dedicated to my scarves, but for our clients, scarves are so important because when we do colour analysis they’re going ‘oh my god I’ve got nothing in my wardrobe that’s right for me, where do I start?’ Well we say you start with a scarf because the scarf is the thing that is right next to your skin, it will illuminate your skin and it will immediately make the difference. You don’t need to change your entire wardrobe, all you have to do is buy the perfect scarf for you, but it does have to be perfect.
"Well we say you start with a scarf because the scarf is the thing that is right next to your skin, it will illuminate your skin and it will immediately make the difference"
Emma Yes, absolutely and so once your clients know their best palette and the colours that are really going to bring out the best in them, as well as the other aspects, the style and the personality, what are the changes you see in people?
Manina Well it’s really remarkable Emma because, you know, we get people who come in and they look really dreary and drab and they’re frightened of colour and after a couple hours of consultation they change and they suddenly go ‘oh my god I didn’t realise how easy it was’ or ‘I can really wear those colours?’
And the excitement and pleasure that they immediately get from the consultation and the freedom and permission that they’ve got to go shopping and buy these amazing colours that they were too frightened to buy before is fantastic. And of course when somebody puts the right colour next to their skin it really makes an immediate difference. They will start to look 10 years younger and will look radiant, they will look slimmer and it’s so exciting to see that. And that’s what I think gives us the thrill every day.
”After a couple hours of consultation they change and they suddenly go ‘oh my god I didn’t realise how easy it was’ or ‘I can really wear those colours?’"
I’d love to ask you what your inspiration is, you know your incredible designs where does this inspiration come from? How do you design a new scarf? Why do you get them made in a certain place? You know, tell us about that?
Emma Yeah, so for me the design process always starts with inspiration and research and I love to travel obviously when it’s possible, to locations where I can really see animals in the wild, I’ve always been inspired by nature. So I love to go to places where I can see wildlife in its natural habitat and really immerse myself. But then I will always mix that inspiration with elements of fantasy, and sort of fairy tale, so there’s always those 2 elements that bring my work together. I’ll go out and do lots of research and gather Imagery from all sorts of places, it might be from books and films as well as my own photography and sketches.
"I love to go to places where I can see wildlife in its natural habitat and really immerse myself."
And then I’ll bring that together and that sort of gives me the basis of what the designs going to be or at least what is going to be in the design. I then start to sketch on paper, I do everything in pencil on paper, so everything really comes together in quite a manual way.
And I just build up the design in layers through drawing and then afterwards I add colour digitally which is a fantastic way for me to work, especially for something like these scarves. They're such different colours and I draw in black and white so then I can add any colour and I can change them into lots of different colour ways, so that I can have that amazing variation. And that’s what I’ve really delved into with this collection and exploring colour palettes I hadn’t used before and partly sourced by the Red Leopard seasonal palettes and the collaboration which has been really exciting to work with colour in a different way than I usually would do.
"And that’s what I’ve really delved into with this collection and exploring colour palettes I hadn’t used before and partly sourced by the Red Leopard seasonal palettes"
I often look to nature for colour inspiration and I was still doing that here, but I was also tying it in with the 4 seasonal palettes so then I know that this inspiration I was drawing from nature would also be perfect for someone in particular.
And then after the design process I get the scarves made in Italy. So they are master crafts people who have been doing this for, not personally, but in the are of hundreds of years and they’re the experts in silk. And this collection in particular is all in this Satiny soft silk chiffon they’re all hand rolled and beautiful printing giving a great colour saturation front and back which just makes them gorgeous to wear.
Something else we discussed a while ago Manina was about some people being a bit scared of wearing silk scarves and wanting to save them for best, but I certainly just find that actually they’re so resilient you can wear them any time, what do you think about that?
Manina I think that’s a really good point a lot of people go ‘oh I don’t wear that I keep it for best’ when actually the things that you love you should be wearing all the time. We always talk about cost per wear actually, so you might have spent a lot of money on something but if you wear it over and over again, it is a really good investment. And yeah, don’t save your things for best, wear them every day and as Emma says scarves are very resilient. I mean you can have scarves for 10, 20, 30 years. You can wash them by hand, iron them but don’t treat them like they’re something very delicate because they’re not.
”Don’t save your things for best, wear them every day and as Emma says scarves are very resilient."
Emma Definitely, because they’re just pure silk you can hand wash them, wash them cold when you need to and iron them and they’re pristine again meaning you can wear them again and again and love them, which is brilliant. So we are now going to join Rachel who is going to talk all things colour theory.
Rachel So I thought I’d start by just showing the colour wheel slightly closer, and really thinking about the colour wheel and the colour theory with the cooler colours and the warmer ones and that’s really the base of creating a coordinating wardrobe which is why having these scarves in the right colours for these different palettes is just going to work so well for people
Emma Yes so there are 2 cool palettes and 2 warm palettes is that right?
Rachel It is, so the Autumn and the Spring are both warm yellow-based, but the difference between them is the Autumn is rich, warm and earthy, it can be vibrant whereas the Spring is lighter and clearer and flashier - so the Spring scarf has the lovely Corals and Aquas. It has a real freshness and clarity to the palette that you see with the spring colouring, so worn with the bright navy’s or the brown end of the palette, it’s beautiful. And the one that you're wearing, the Autumn has that richness, it’s slightly heavier, it’s more saturated than the Spring palette, because you have that lovely rich vibrant colouring.
"Autumn and the Spring are both warm yellow-based, but the difference between them is the Autumn is rich, warm and earth, it can be vibrant.”
Emma And then we’ve got Summer and this is is cool.
Rachel So the Winter and the Summer are both blue-based and cool but the difference in the Summer is it has that sort of soft richness, almost similar to the Autumn palette with the vibrant tones but on the stronger end of the palette so you’ve got the burgundy, jade greens and the lovely teal and a summer person has that slightly smokier look about them. The scarf looks great with Navy’s and muted Greys, absolutely gorgeous.
"Winter and the Summer are both blue-based and cool but the difference in the Summer is it has that sort of soft richness, almost similar to the Autumn palette with the vibrant tones”
Emma and then Winter?
Rachel okay so the Winter which is both Manina and Myself, we’re both Winters. A winter palette is blue-based, it’s bright, it’s clear it has a lovely contrasted tone I absolutely love this scarf and I will be wearing mine lots. They’re all the jewel-tones as well, Rubys, Sapphires, Emeralds, Pale icy skies. Which is lovely as the Polar design is a real nod to that icy look.
"A winter palette is blue-based, it’s bright, it’s clear it has a lovely contrasted tone”
Emma Yes I was thinking winter berries as well, the richness of jewels and berries. And so do you have any tips for how people can find out if they are on the warm or cooler side, and which would suit them best?
Rachel Yes I would say obviously if you want to get your colours done professionally then you get the real experience. If I was going to give hints and tips of what really you should look at, then firstly I would look in natural daylight because, the lighting will change your skin tone, I would then look at comparing a warm colour and a cool colour.
So you just look at your skin and take something like a coral and then a pink and just see the effect of those colours against your skin and which one makes you look energetic, which one gives you that vibrancy to your skin tone. That’s when you start to see and understand.
What’s been really interesting as we’ve been doing virtual consultations, we’ve been looking at people’s photographs and as they’ve taken their sequence of photographs, they can see something happening but not quite sure how to articulate, you’ve just got to see which one makes your skin look smooth, your eyes really stand out. The ones that aren’t right will make you look tired, sometimes under the weather and bluer in the skin and that’s a really good way of seeing whether you should steer to more warmer colours or cooler colours.
”You’ve just got to see which one makes your skin look smooth, your eyes really stand out.”