AW21: Q&A with Lorna Watson
Our AW21 range is imbued with a strong sense of nature’s cycle at this unique time of year. We sit down with STELAR’s founder, Lorna Watson, to unearth the inspirations and creative processes behind the collection, and discover what drew her to the rich autumnal tones and versatile shapes of this season's designs.
What's the first thing you do when you begin designing a new season's collection?
I start by putting a colour palette together, and I develop that alongside new bag silhouettes. It takes quite a bit of time, as the colour palette has to work across all of our materials - leather, atta, bamboo and jacquard. I look at some trend forecasts but am guided more by what feels intuitively right for me - so there’s some background information in the mix but the process isn’t formulaic. I then settle on a couple of key shapes per season and work on translating them into the different materials, ensuring continuity between them all. Then it’s time to dive into the story, which slowly pulls it all together.
What's your favourite part of the process?
I think it’s when I begin to see it come together - once I’ve honed in on colour, theme and shape, the depth of the collection’s story starts to translate visually, which is really exciting. The sampling process is also one of my favourite parts - bringing together woven samples, leather, natural grasses and jacquard really brings it all to life for the first time.
How does the idea of 'autumn' manifest in Bali, given its year-round tropical climate?
I witness it in Bali as part of Indonesia’s ancient irrigation system that dates back to the 9th century, and is UNESCO protected. It's considered to be one of the most intelligent man-made ecosystems in the world. When the rice is planted, the fields are flooded, the rice then grows and the water is drained, the rice is harvested, then it dries out, before the cycle begins again. In that respect, the landscape here (which is very much defined by this process) has its own ‘seasons’ - a cycle of colour, growth and regeneration. My home in Bali backs onto rice fields, so I see this cycle every day; Bali’s ‘autumn’ is the parched land after harvest - rich in colour yet resting until the process begins again.
You split your time between the UK and Bali. Where do you like to be best over the autumn and winter period?
Autumn is actually my favourite time of year, and I like to be in the UK at this time of year. I was born in Autumn, and there’s something about the melancholy and resonance of the air. When I was a child I used to say I could 'smell halloween' to my parents - and I can still smell it! It’s a change of season you can really sense and feel, as everything's muffled by the leaves falling. We were very much in nature where I grew up in Scotland - we would play in piles of leaves, stack them up, kick them in the air... I really miss this time of year if I’m not in the UK, and it can feel quite discombobulating not to experience it as part of my own yearly cycle.
Can you tell us a bit more about the colour palette for AW21, and the inspiration behind it?
It’s drawn from the autumnal seasons in both Bali and Scotland, as I really appreciate the parallel relationships to the land that exist in both places. The power and resonance of the land is very primal in both countries as is living in harmony with the seasons - eating seasonally, and recalibrating with the change in atmosphere - these things all informed the palette. In Bali, reverence for the land is very resonant in day-to-day life and I have reconnected with that on a much deeper level over the past few years, and ignited a deeper appreciation for my childhood in Scotland, so it felt quite natural for me to bring the two together. Both share a slow shift in colour change through their natural worlds, and so the palette reflects that natural evolution.
Nature is a central theme for AW21. Where does your appreciation for the natural world come from?
I live in nature in Bali, as I did as a child in Scotland, so I'm very exposed and connected to it - I seem to have come full circle. I spent a big period of my life based in London and travelled internationally, but would always holiday in nature wherever I could, going anywhere where the mountains meet the sea for my own regeneration and respite. Now I balance my life in nature with time in London, but the dominance nature has in my lifestyle definitely has a big influence on the work I do.
How much of the design is guided by the artisans STELAR works with and/or their specific skills?
A lot. Our artisans’ skills drive the creativity; their weaving techniques guide the development of our range from the very outset. That's what inspired me to start this venture in the first place. It's highly collaborative - I have ideas and our artisans bring ideas to the table too. Whether it’s a little detail, or ideas for a new shape or structure - we work on it together. We've been training our artisans to make 3D models in card, to help them to visualise a new shape and plan how to create it by weaving, as the weaving process is so complex. Now that we have the ability to conceptualise in 3D it’s easier for us to develop our ideas together, so we can truly co-create.
You've introduced more key and bag charms and small accessories for AW21. How did these come about?
These are a great example of us both bringing ideas that we’ve been playing with to the table. I wanted to create little charms as key and bag accessories, that would enable our customers to personalise and customise their STELAR bags, or update their existing favourites. The bumble bee charm was created by our master atta weaver, Wayan. He’s a beekeeper as well as a 5th-generation weaver, and he developed the bumblebee on his own as a result of our creative brainstorm.
Do you have a favourite piece from the AW21 collection?
It's so difficult to decide! I suppose it has to be the new Amara (pictured below), as I've been using it obsessively since we launched it. It's a really practical size, so it's my go-to for everyday as it fits everything. I also love that you can wrap the strap around your wrist as well as wear it over your shoulder, both of which provide a very different look. And I’m also in love with the Lilis clutch - it has a structured clasp to support the body of the bag which is in our signature unstructured style. The woven leather is super soft and luxurious - perfect for the party season.
If you had to sum up STELAR's AW21 collection in three words, what would they be?
Tactile, versatile and heartening.