Photography / Editorial / Print

Age of Reason

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 06

We speak to Ali Mapletoft, the designer behind Age of Reason Scarves, an accessories label in the UK that offers wearable luxury with a playful punk twist

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what made you decide on becoming a designer?
I grew up in a passionately creative family so I don' t think there was ever any question of me not doing some sort of design one day. I also know how hard it is to survive the creative industries, which might have put me off, but seeing your own intentions translated into material things is very rewarding.

What is a 'scarf' to you?
A scarf is versatile shape, which can transform your appearance instantly. It should be striking, beautiful and exciting whether it is subtle or loud. And if you live in Britain, it's nice to have a scarf that's made in Britain.

What is the importance of Silk as your main fabric, is it its versatility of uses, or something personal?
Silk just feels beautiful against the skin. It has a luminosity which makes it feel like precious treasure. It also regulates body temperature really effectively, so you never feel too hot or cold wearing it.

The use of pastel shades with cheeky imagery makes for an interesting, if hidden statement. Could you describe the design process and influences behind your choices?
For AW11 I pictured a demure lady with a dirty secret or a double life as a punk. The bondage doll scarves are an expression of that personality. They can be styled to conceal or reveal the bondage doll motif. This season, SS12, we are using stronger colours but the base is always soft and flattering. We've continued with the collectible bondage dolls in neons, turquoises and rich berry shades on a silvery grey background.

Could you describe your most recent collections?
The main collection, which is separate to the bondage dolls, is inspired by two seafaring novels; Gulliver's Travels and The Potato Factory. The legend "I Will never Surrender" is the motto of Potato factory antihero Ikey Soloman. As a defiant slogan, it sums up the attitude of the season. We have used subtle union jacks again in SS12 and will continue to use them through the permanent collection. 

Describe the design process?
Simple things like drawing very early in the morning and writing ideas down by hand help my design process. I draw in pen and ink on watercolour paper. I usually start somewhere like the British Museum or National Gallery. I take inspiration from books, films and music. I avoid television, magazines and other peoples fashion design as a source of inspiration. If designers are too introspective fashion will eat itself and become too homogenised. In the UK we have an immense fashion heritage and we can't let the side down.

Where are your materials sourced?

I source everything in the UK, even our imported silk is bought from a British company. 
Keeping our immediate supply chain local is one of our principle philosophies. 

To you, fashion is....?
Fashion is a creative expression of yourself. For me it should have humour, be interesting and enjoyable. I'd much rather look interesting than cute.

To you Art is...?
Art is everything.. Without it we'd have no civilisation; we'd be crawling around in the mud.

Where are you based and have you drawn on the local environment for imagery and ideas?
We're based in Brighton. The beach is wild and windy,which is inspiring. You can just imagine the old sailing ships on the horizon. Brightonions tend to be quite non conformist, which I like. 

Do you have any favourite designers?
I wouldn't say I had any favourites as such but I admire Emma Cook and Jonathan Saunders. Earl of Bedlam and A Child of The Jago do some great menswear. 

What is the hardest part about making scarves?
Screening the advice you get at first can be hard. Having said that, I did get some excellent advice from a small group of people including Jonathan Saunders and Susie Lau very early on, which I am grateful for. 

And what is the best part?
The best thing is seeing the scarves go out into the world and take on a life as part of someone else's look. Seeing hard work pay off is very satisfying. 

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Finding the right manufacturer in the UK can be a challenge because it's more expensive to do here. But ultimately, the quality is so good in Britain, that it pays off. Getting other people to work to my insane schedules is challenging. I just keep on cracking that whip.

Photographs by Capture Factory 
Photographer: Rory T Seddon 
Stylist: Lydia T Seddon

Interview by Nardip Singh
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