Photography / Editorial / Print

Suicide Blonde leather accessories and jewellery collections, designed by founder Estelle Lordonne, are beautiful hand made creations that utilise novel techniques such as digital printing onto leather and a keen eye for detail that rebels against fast fashion.  Made in small to medium quantities in England, the label has a strong belief in quality over quantity, with Gothic themes and cinematographic imagery used to great effect.  Born an only child, Lordonne tells us she "never felt alone," and "grew up with dragons, witches, heroic knights, demons, vampires, beasts and fantastical creatures. The most memorable encounters were made through the old books I devoured. I guess that’s where it all started. Immortal Highlanders and Beings, post-apocalyptic road warriors, closely followed by intergalactic prophetic Heroes sprung to extra-ordinary life on the big screen; enthralling me in their wake." It is from this vivid imagination that her "artistic sensibility was fired-up, quickly followed by the need to design and create. If many years were spent as a classical musician, I was rarely seen without a pencil in hand, drawing away, making things." Having taken many detours, Lordonne "retrained as a leather accessories designer at LCF. This was a good stepping stone to learn about pattern cutting, leather and to get acquainted with my own abilities." A few years later, she added jewellery designing and making to her skills. "Suicide Blonde was the natural progression of it all."

You describe your style as “Gothic Tale of Utilitarian Leather Accessories & Eccentric Jewellery”; describe your approach to design?

Designing for me is the automatic result of a vivid imagination, always engaged in overdrive. Like most design processes, I would think, it springs from a lack or a need. I like to toy with an idea in my mind for a while, sometimes a long while, before even putting anything down on paper. When this obsessive Leitmotiv of an idea is finally ready to reveal itself under the pencil, the design completion is usually quite urgent and natural.

I, on the one hand, my imagination is continuously running wild, I am most pragmatic where form is concerned. I champion very simple and practical shapes for my leather accessories.
Foremost, my creations must serve a purpose. They have to be, in one word: utilitarian.
I guess this is the direct legacy of the post-apocalyptic hero: the elements are rough; the get-up must be altogether tougher. Everything is stripped down to the bare essentials. No place for frills, save for a few studs, here and there, reminders of a punk influence somewhere in a distant past…
For instance, I like to consider ways in which my accessories will be utilised and carried. You have to develop a clear vision of who their owners will be, and never take your mental eye of this image. You become acquainted.

I therefore anticipate practicalities such as the height of the person, if they will be wearing a coat of not, the weight of the load, the durability of the leather and fabrics used, in order to accommodate their needs.

A lot of thought is given to even what might appear to be a most simple shape or design. Nothing is left to chance. The Gothic element in Suicide Blonde, in an ethereal fashion, reconciles beauty and utility.

The Collections are handmade.  Where do you source your materials and how important is sustainability and ethical fashion?

All Suicide Blonde creations are handmade in London and England in small to medium quantities.
Sustainability is the foundation stone on which the company ethos lays.
In the day and age we are living, where overproduction of poorly made items out of cheap fabrics and components is the norm, it is easy to ride the wave and be carried away with the flow, ensnared by the prospect of capital gain. Suicide Blonde is going against the tide.
I am proud to be part of a minority of people to recognise and work with diminishing few talented craftsmen remaining in England these days.
Ethical fashion starts at home. Trying in our small way to make a difference and help this trade remain a part of English heritage.
As the leather goods manufacturing trade has slowly moved abroad, it has become increasingly difficult to source components and fixtures. The majority of these now available in England have been imported.
This is one of the reasons I have been trying to keep the use of fixtures in Suicide Blonde designs to a minimum.
The new collections I am currently working on will see the use of Victorian fixtures which, after having been re-worked, have been given a new lease of life or cast to create new and unique Suicide Blonde ones. This is a most green and sustainable way to create: using our English heritage whilst respecting Fauna and Flora.
The digitally printed leather used in my creations has been exclusively made for me in an Italian tannery, which also provides some of the textured leather.
However, Suicide Blonde tries to keep its carbon footprint to a minimum.
Although I work with leather, there is an evident respect for the animal: I hand cut each individual piece of the accessories, keeping leather waste to a very strict minimum.
Importantly, most my Studio’s work furniture are Antiques or vintage finds of some sort or other.
Suicide Blonde is part of the Sustainable Angle at LCF.

Who is one person you would love to adorn your work?

Ummmhhh… In an otherworldly place, it would have to be Theda Bara and Bela
Lugosi’s boy and girl love twins … Or the imaginary offspring of Edith Sitwell and Edgar Allan Poe.
But in our cruel and real world, I would have to say a man & a woman who have found themselves and are not afraid of their choices, because they know they will never go unnoticed. Quite adventurous creatures, as a pair or individually.
If I must cite celebrated persons, it would have to be… Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Smith and Anna-Varney Cantodea. Perhaps… You? Surely.

Could you describe your most recent collections?

After a year residence at the Shop @ The Fashion and Textile Museum in London Bermondsey, I was invited to design a collection that would go exclusively on sale at the Museum shop. The outcome was two collections: In Memoriam and A Tale of Fear and Obsession.
In Memoriam, a vivid and surrealist homage to the Silent Screen actors and actresses, Gothic writers and Symbolist poets, is also a “clin d’oeil” at the world of Fashion but mostly a reflection on the fleeting, ephemeral condition of life.
A Tale of Fear and Obsession, directly inspired by Gothic writings and art, is a modern tale of sacred and profane love.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration comes to one. Inspiration cannot be bought, nor acquired.
Inspiration is not unlike a feral, fickle animal that comes to visit you and goes as it pleases. The best you can do is feed it to try to tame it, hoping it will remain by your side for as long as needed.
The lures for mine are numerous and varied.
Something arresting, mesmerising originated from Nature and Men.
A tree, a cloud, a forest, literature, poetry, a song.
An antique piece of handmade fabric, a faded Stereoview, a treatise on Gothic Architecture, Venice in winter, Religious art, The British Museum, Strangers on the street, a Fairy Tale, a Nightmare… Endlessly.

What was the first piece of jewellery or accessories you designed?

The first jewellery piece to be ever designed and made by me was a multi-strand ring in oxidised silver with a green nephrite cabochon stone. I don’t know why, as I don’t much favour green nephrite … As for my first leather piece, it must have been a small coin purse. I absolutely love coin purses. They are so versatile.
It must be the reason why I keep featuring them in my collections… Even though I have been caught dropping loose coins in my pockets in a very (bad) boyish manner!

In some of the pieces, there are several materials used in their creation. How important is the use of different textures, shapes, colours and forms?

Again, I design in a most selfish way but with a natural intuition of the outside world. I continuously search for sensual fabrics which will fit in with the practical side of the items.
One of the constant criteria in my selection of the various leathers is the strength.

I favour soft Nappa leathers for their creaminess but use them mostly as lining which gives a very decadent and luxurious finish to the accessories. Other times, 100% cotton lining is used instead.
I also adore working with textured leather such as distressed and washed ones. They are slightly more challenging and interesting on the eye.

In other words,a strong, soft and textured leather summarises the Suicide Blonde
predilection. And even though I might be partial to black, grey and dusty pink hues make appearances. So do neon colours, blood and Burgundy reds, even multi-coloured prints such as in the “To Each Its Own” collection.

The choice of jewellery and wearing of is very personal. How difficult is it to create a commercial line with wide appeal?

Most of my creations have a Gothic undercurrent. The Gothic aesthetic has always been tantalising to me. It seems the two of us have this very ambiguous and criminal liaison. I doubt Goths of this world would call me as such, but many others are quick to cast me as walking on the dark side. However, it would be too restrictive to label Suicide Blonde as essentially a Gothic Label.
In truth, Suicide Blonde is my very own Gothic vision, imbued with post-apocalyptic punk-Rock, Middle Ages Grungy undertones which in turn can appeal to both worlds: the believers and the yet to be converted more timid gentry.

I strongly believe the real challenge is not to create a “commercial line with wide appeal” but for a beautifully made collection to get the wide spread commercial recognition it fully deserves.
More so, to awaken people’s awareness to the facts that quality and higher cost often walk alongside, and quality should always prevail over quantity.

Are there any client commissions or personal projects that you are most proud of?

It is quite easy to get lost in your own creativity and at times, I have been the victim of an overbearing self-induced discipline in order to thrive. After walking for too long on the razor’s edge, I now permit myself time to reflect and acquire a view from above.
I have single-handedly managed to create a company from off the ground, designed & made collections, sourced different products, experimented with high tech processes, met some inspiring people, some less so.
Over the years, I have come to surround myself with an ever growing team of skilled craftsmen, web and graphic designers, UK and Italy based PRs, whose professional and personal help has been, and still is, a great asset to Suicide Blonde.
To me, these are wonderful enough achievements in which to feel proud and grateful.
Overall, I’m proud to have become who I always was meant to be and to finally make sense through my work.

I am also very pleased with the exclusive collections I have created for the Fashion & Textile Museum Shop. I am humbled to have been given the chance to showcase Suicide Blonde in such a well-respected space.
Commissions have been undertaken for private clients and renowned creative people alike.
The latest projects to date have been the creation of a laptop bag for an International DJ, bespoke with his personal logo digitally printed on the front.
And last but not least, I have designed a one off bag for a film producer on the occasion of the 2012 Baftas.
A similar design is available for purchase on the Suicide Blonde website.

What does digital printing on leather bring to your work?

The digital printing of the leather is a high tech process which is the most advanced alternative to screen printing. This technique allows a clearer and more defined image of the artwork to be produced but also ensures the durability of the print. Unlike a heat transfer, it will not rub off. The print is actually “tattooed” into the skin and finished off with a protective sealant.
This is one of Suicide Blonde’s USPs as this technique is still fairly new and barely used as yet.

What plans do you have over the coming months?

In the last month or so, I have been designing some new jewellery and leather pieces, which will be added to the past and present collections before Christmas.
We will be introducing some new fabrics too, alongside the use of antique Victorian beading and trimmings.
We will also be promoting Suicide Blonde to reach a wider and most discerning audience.
A selection of Suicide Blonde leather accessories is now on sale at “The Storeroom” at Wall & Jones, Studio-Boutique-showroom, 340 Hackney Road, London E2 7AX.
We are looking forward to working closely with them on special events over the up and coming months.
More importantly, I will keep on challenging and thrilling myself daily, whilst taming the feral beast to stay with me for that little bit longer…

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 10

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