My West End sub-brand was originally conceived to appeal to a wider demographic, to be accessible to the, perhaps, younger man about town by featuring designs which were directional, pared down, less opulent, good word coming up – unostentatious. And I would say it has fulfilled that brief rather well over the years.
But then, I have been thinking about this:- I rather enjoy designing within the limits I have set myself for this project. One is constrained somewhat by considerations of cost and time but I find that, rather than hampering the creative effort, it seems to enhance it. It demands a very focused way of thinking, pushes me into certain byways of engagement that turn out to be fruitful. Lest any should suppose that West End is designed to a budget (it is) and that that constrains the ingenuity (it does not). I think, as designers, we need our self-imposed limitations: makes us dig deeper, search for the surprise. You might say the limitations, if they have integrity and are sincerely formed, help to accelerate the intention into a new space.
This season for West End cufflinks I have returned to the apparently inexhaustible aesthetic of 60s and 70s pattern; ballooning geometrics writ large, the idea that pattern can go beyond decoration and become something like a backdrop as we see in wallpaper design of the period. The slightly dizzying op, pop, play of forms with their hallucinated depths and bold, bold colours.
We have some people to thank for bringing this brave new aesthetic into our homes and into our fabrics: people like Tom Worthington. Tom was Heal’s Design Consultant during the sixties. He was among the first to invest in contemporary textiles. Worthington had an open-minded approach to buying fabric designs. He chose new schemes from freelance designers and recent art school graduates. Heal’s then worked together with the designers to come up with a range of colourways in which to print the fabrics. An article in The Guardian (December 1970) reports that: ‘Tom Worthington …aimed to meet both contract and domestic requirements and include designs which he knew would not be commercially successful, but believed would set trends for the future.’
Trends, I think we may conclude, were duly set. This season West End gives me a small space and a reduced set of tools to explore what ‘retro’ actually means. Well it certainly doesn’t mean ‘nostalgic’ or ‘archaic’. Because people like Tom Worthington were looking forward and their vision, it seems, had enough momentum to end up on my desk, still fresh, classic and perfectly adaptable for my younger man about town today wanting a more directional edge.