Ethical Design Ambassador, Illustrator and Rare Bird: Aase Hopstock
Ethical Design Ambassador, Illustrator and Rare Bird: Aase Hopstock
Founder and Creative Director of the House of Hopstock, Illustrator and dear friend, Aase Hopstock was next in line for our prodding and questioning in the name of The Social Delinquent Issue. But all that was revealed was Hopstock’s ethical manufacturing, her simple and practical ethos in having a team who had a high-quality work life which then resonated in the product, as well as being inspired by the women through time who were not afraid to take the light and bloom.
Tahmina Begum: How did it feel, emotionally and physically, during the gestation of your launch? Did you feel as though you were ready to be the face and soul of a personal brand, the House of Hopstock?
Aase Hopstock: I did and do feel ready. I have done so many different things in my career; costume design, fashion styling, shoe design, and illustration. The common denominator has always been my take on aesthetics and my love for drawing. It made sense to create a brand around this core passion. Making products that you could surround yourself with, such as homeware, fashion and accessories. Items of comfort and joy.
It was quite a long process of setting up, of putting myself and my artwork at the centre of the new brand. But I think after almost eighteen months of preparations, I felt very comfortable. I felt ready to launch. I think when you create a brand like this, it becomes very personal, so you can become quite vulnerable in turn. But I feel confident in what I am creating. That it is a true representation of what I want to say and how I want it to look. I was (and still am) excited more than anything else.
TB: What did you want to say?
AH: I wanted to be able to create pieces that are about beauty. And I think beauty is about telling stories. Any product can tell a story on its own in terms of inspiration and utility. But when someone takes ownership of it, they incorporate their own story, so the story changes and continues. I wanted to bring these stories into the home, into everyday life, which, as a Scandinavian, is important to me. How you decorate the world around you. How you create your own personal universe. I wanted to share my universe of beauty and playfulness and glamour, and hope that it could start a conversation. An aesthetic conversation, if you wish. And mostly, Scandinavian design is all minimal, diffuse, delicate and clean. I suppose I wanted to have a different conversation, about maximalism rather than minimalism.
TB: With the conversation of shopping consciously appearing time and time again on our news feeds, and some of the wealthiest business people in the world benefiting from fast fashion, from a designer’s perspective, why did you choose to produce in the UK instead of elsewhere?
AH: I think it was important to me to have a supply chain I could be proudly transparent about. There are a lot of elements to choosing the people you work with; one was location. It is easy in terms of distance and shipping to work in the UK. I don’t have to travel halfway across the world to check on production, which I think is important not just in financial terms, but in terms of air miles, in terms of green issues.
There is a long history of textiles and pottery in the UK. Because of this, they have the entire setup in one town or one region. Whether I need the raw materials, the decorating, the screen printing, it’s all in one area. I think that it is important to sustain local industry. It also means the people who make my products work in an environment that has good health and safety conditions, are paid well, and are all adults. You can easily lose control over your supply chain when you outsource too far. It’s important to me that the product, in terms of the components, how it’s constructed, and who it is constructed by, is a quality product all around.
TB: As in quality for everyone all around.
AH: Exactly. I really do think people should buy better, full stop. Buy less often, fewer things, but buy well. Another aspect that relates to this is, if you can repair something, do. We live in a culture that encourages us to throw away faulty items and buy new ones. I despair at this. I think it’s even starting to translate to how we approach broken relationships. So if we properly invest in something, both in terms of monetary value and in terms of a story, we care about it more, and we care more about the product’s lifespan.
TB: I find the problem in this conversation of unethically creating pieces is that the blame is passed around on fast fashion. Whether it is the copycat production companies or the need to buy it now once we have seen it on the runway, how do you think the fashion industry can move forward so we are becoming more and more aware of how products are made?
AH: I think fast fashion is a problem. I know more and more designers are struggling to keep up, and I’m delighted to see that there is burgeoning trend for a reversal of this. Part of the drive behind starting House Of Hopstock was to be able to create a product that wasn’t bound to specific fashion week or sales season deadlines, or bound to a particular season. To create a product that had longevity and would keep its relevance, no matter the season or year.
When it comes to ethics, I think each company has a responsibility to be transparent. You have to be proud of your story and tell it. I think the more you have the conversation about how things are made, the more people will care about that process. Whether or not more transparency on the high street will translate to the concern of the end consumer, I don’t know. Will they care if their Primark t-shirts are made in unsafe countries by underpaid children in Bangladesh or not? I hope they will if the conversation becomes loud enough.
TB: So, back to you. Tell me about your new collection: Rare Bird.
AH: The Rare Bird collection is really true to all the things that make me happy and what I’m constantly inspired by, which is exotic creatures, in all shapes and forms. I’m always drawn to people with a distinct sense of style. What I was particularly interested in for this collection was sensational women from the past and the present who had both amazing style and personalities.
The title and the spark of inspiration came after reading Isabella Blow’s biography, in which her husband continually referred to her as a “rare bird”. And I thought, ‘It’s true’. This woman was remarkable, and so were so many women like her, who just celebrated all the beauty and eccentricities of life. So I wanted to do a playful and slightly literal take on this, and portray actual ‘rare birds’. Playful and glamorous birds, with a humorous and quirky feel. I wanted to create a print and a world that made you feel happy just looking at it, and inspired you to bring more sass and colour into your life.
TB: – For yourself.
AH: Exactly, as a treat to yourself. Never underestimate the emotional power of beautiful things. These women lived in this fabulous self-created universe and it was infectious. I wanted to convey some of that exuberance. Isabella Blow, Frida Kahlo, Elsa Schiaparelli, Marchesa Luisa Casati, they were strong, glamorous, powerful, fragile, awe-inspiring, quirky, odd, rebels. They are the inspiration for this collection, but they also serve as permanent inspiration for the brand whenever I start working on a new feminine and glamorous print.
TB: Out of all these muses, who would you class as the “Social Delinquent” of her time, who stood up for what she believed in and was not afraid to voice it?
AH: I’ve never been a person who idolises people in a god-like manner, I sort of pick and choose qualities from various people. In terms of beauty, I look to people who channel ‘old-school’ glamour; and in terms of attitude, I like a bit of a rebel. Vivienne Westwood and Frida Kahlo – women who don’t give a shit, pardon my French. They look fabulous, they have an incredible self-belief that they are fabulous and that they are the best, and nothing else compares to them. And it’s infectious. You can’t blame them because, in essence, they are right, we should all be doing what they’re doing.You might not always adore everything that they did or do, but you see that they did it with such passion and integrity and true belief that you can’t help being inspired by it.
And that’s what House of Hopstock is all about: being true to yourself. It is 100% me, how I interpret the world, and how I wish the world would look. It’s both playfully and sometimes darkly humorous (I’m working on an ‘adorable rodents’ print, as well as one based on lethal blooms), and most importantly, it is bold. If you’re going to do something public, to share with the world, then do it well, and make sure people notice. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Written by Tahmina Begum,
CEO and Editor-in-Chief
Photography by Lloyd Ramos
Assisted by Vanessa Moore,
Background: Aase Hopstock’s apartment