15 mins with...sustainable fashion designer Flo Bolton-Smith

In an exclusive interview, we chat to sustainable fashion designer Flo Bolton-Smith. She explains how recycling influenced her to create her debut collection at this year’s Suffolk Fashion Show. We think Flo looks set to make big waves in the style industry and we gain a valuable insight into her hopes and dreams for a sparkling future in fashion & interior design. So read on and enjoy!

How did you come up with the idea for your debut collection, which was showcased at this year’s Suffolk Fashion Show?

The concept was formed as the perfect collaboration between my family business, Bolton Bros Ltd, and my BA Textile Design degree. I have just begun the second year of my degree course. I was excited by the opportunity to combine the two, by creating my own collection. I’ve gained lots of insight into the business through working there part-time over the past few years. This opportunity provided the perfect opportunity to push boundaries and challenge my own ability and creativity.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 3 Heffs Photography

Do you have a favourite outfit from this collection?

I absolutely love every garment that I created for this collection. Each one took a lot of time and preparation to make. It was essential to me that each garment was equally impactful, and individually made a clear statement on the catwalk. However, the most significant piece would probably have to be the CD top and skirt. This oozed the most wow factor on the catwalk. Taking old, battered CDs and using them to create something that radiated glitz and glamour was a challenge, but also a joy. It taught me a lot about curation and determination. I had to work out how to navigate something so structured, and make it work around the figure. There is always a way to rework and remodel something, in order to achieve the desired effect.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 8 Heffs Photography

Your fashion is deliberately unorthodox. What sort of response has it provoked? 

I just couldn’t predict the response I received after showcasing my collection – people seemed to love it! It definitely gave the catwalk something new and innovative, sparking conversation and intrigue from the audience. Even the models loved the pieces I’d created. Their enthusiasm gave me such confidence, because my collection was undeniably alternative to the other garments they were modelling. Creating outfits that look great and promote such an important message within our current climate, was an honour. People constantly hear about how important it is to recycle. And we are often shown how recyclables can be used to remake practical items like garden furniture and hoover covers. Being able to reuse and rework recyclables to create such a beautiful aesthetic is really exciting. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to underline the importance of recycling, but in a sophisticated, stylish manner.

What were the most valuable lessons you learned from your debut show?

Undoubtedly, the most important thing I identified through my first showcase was how essential it is to snap up opportunities that come your way. I’ve also learnt to never be afraid of new challenges, because the learning capacity that they offer is priceless. I have endless amounts of gratitude for this experience because it has excelled both my knowledge and my confidence.  So, I feel completely inspired and motivated to now go further with my learning opportunities. As a result, this will enable me to consistently built towards a creative designing career post university.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 10 Heffs Photograph

Are there any plans in the pipeline for your next show? 

Currently I am dedicating time towards university and ensuring that I get off to the best possible start of Year 2, to set me up for my fast approaching final year. However, I do still have some exciting things in the pipeline. I will be delivering a presentation to the Year 1 & 2 Fashion & Textile Students at West Suffolk College, for example. Here, I hope to inspire them to similarly embark on challenges and opportunities with the design realm. I am also creating premium silk scarf designs at the moment. In fact, I will be printing them in the next few weeks. I find it a really positive experience to have something creative going on alongside my university briefs. This way, it provides opportunities to expand on a selection of ideas that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to develop. In the meantime, I can create a lot of inspiration and other ingredients that can then be fed back into my university practice.

Looking to the future, how do you plan to evolve and develop your vision of sustainable fashion? 

In terms of development, it goes without saying that I’d love to be involved in next year’s Suffolk Fashion Show. In fact, I hope to work on something a little bit different next year. This may involve a focus on accessories made of recyclables. I may even print some of my textile designs onto a new fabric made entirely out of recycled water bottles. I hope to then use this innovative fabric to create luxury scarves, handbags and shoes. Couture and bespoke design can really work in sustainable fashion, especially on accent pieces, like accessories for the wow factor when creating an ensemble. I’m already working on a statement shoes and handbags collection made  from used CD’s. I really feel these designs look absolutely fabulous. However, they also have the potential to provoke real thought and consideration about fashion’s way forward in our current climate.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 2 Heffs Photography

In your opinion, how can sustainable fashion grow its appeal to a wider audience? 

In my opinion, the key to promoting this kind of fashion arrangement is by transforming the techniques and materials I have used to create my garments. So, these can produce accessories that people will find easier to accommodate within their wardrobes, adding a more couture and decorative flare to any outfit. This way, these designs instantly become more versatile and will subsequently appeal to a much wider range of audience. Sustainable fashion is changing at the moment. Fur, for example, is now being labelled as cruel and unnecessary.  Therefore it leaves a perfect gap in the market for luxury, bespoke and eco-friendly designs to carve the way for future trends.

Who/what are your fashion inspiration(s)? 

Undoubtedly my fashion inspirations are derived from a wide range of sources, including runway, social media, magazines, galleries, even just day-to-day life. Shop windows and department stores are a huge inspiration for me whenever I feel uninspired, especially taking a trip to London and having a browse around Selfridges. I find this can really stimulate your senses and provide new and exciting idea development. Sometimes, inspiration pops out from the most unexpected of places, whether it be graffiti on a wall or a flyer on a telephone box. You just have to be a sponge and soak up everything that’s around you, but immersing yourself in interesting environments and surrounding yourself with intriguing people will definitely spur your creativity on.

Virgil_Abloh_Paris_Fashion_Week_Autumn_Winter_2019 from Wickipedia sustainable fashion

Which designers’ work do you most admire, and why?

At the moment, I have complete admiration for Virgil Abloh who currently leads the artistic direction for both Louis Vuitton and Off White. His creative ability is remarkable and the way he has taken two huge power house brands and created such a distinct and effortless aesthetic is really inspiring. I particularly admire the way in which he plays with structure and colour and in my opinion, he is currently leading the fashion world in terms of innovative, modern designs. Another, very contrasting designer who’s work I deem as simply sublime is Zuhair Murad. His bridal creations are mesmerising and the attention to detail and beauty of each piece truly leaves me breathless.

How would you describe your own personal style?

My personal style is quite effortless chic, where ensembles have been thrown together. However, they actually look beautifully balanced and really complimentary. I love contrast within my outfits, such as pairing leather trousers with a crisp white shirt and slightly more delicate heel. Or, I may wear a beautifully detailed, intricate dress with chunky black boots and an oversized leather jacket. Balancing a traditionally female silhouette with masculine structured accents is something I often do within my own personal style. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with complimentary luxury accessories to elevate any outfit.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 6 Heffs Photography

Please describe your all-time favourite outfit? 

My all time favourite outfit would have to be one of Zuhair Murad’s designs. I think his Spring 2019 bridal gown ‘Roxanne’ is the epitome of a dream wedding gown. In fact, every time I see it I feel overwhelmed by its beautiful intricacy and stunning A-Line silhouette. It’s gorgeous and just drapes and falls in the most perfect of places. The shimmering Art-Deco embroidered gown, paired with a perfectly plunged V neckline encompasses all that I deem essential for any bridal gown; elegance, embellishment and ultimate wow factor.

Who in the public eye would you most like to style?

My top two public figures that I would love to dress are Nicole Sherzinger and Lady Gaga. In fact, both offer such a distinctive and beautiful aesthetic to style and dress. Lady Gaga has carved the way for A Listers to become innovative and limitless with their fashion choices. In addition, she has produced countless controversial and unorthodox fashion statements throughout the last ten years. In terms of experimentation and potential creative scope, she would be my initial choice. However, Nicole Sherzinger is the definition of a strong, independent, extremely talented and beautiful women. She understands herself and her style to such a degree that collaborating with her on an ensemble would be a truly insightful, wonderful creative experience.

sustainable fashion Suffolk Fashion Show 12 Heffs Photography

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

In ten years, I hope to have built up a bulging portfolio. This will include progression in both fashion but, more importantly, interiors. In fact, interior design has always been my ultimate passion. I plan to set up my own interior design practice, after working within a commercial interior setting. I find the transition between fashion and interiors very fluid. In addition, the ability to apply my passion for quirky and bespoke, eco-friendly designs to an interior setting is extremely exciting. From working on the interior design of a large-scale, upmarket hotel to residential projects, I can fully showcase my passion for decor, from iconic design work through to creating gorgeous, liveable homes.

Missed this year’s Suffolk Fashion Show? Well, our director was invited to attend and she enjoyed every minute of it so you can read her highlights here!

Suffolk Fashion Show photos: Heffs Photography