I have a particular fond memory of getting into London Fashion Week before it got eyeballed heavily from 2007 onwards (basically when Christopher Kane came on the scene). It was probably 2004-ish and I was slavishly learning the ins and outs of who was showing and what was going without of course going to shows. Following shows on the internet back then was pretty limited and I had to rely on Getty and The Fashion Spot for first dibs on pics.
Tracey Boyd was the girly one without ever overdosing on femininity. Boyd started her business in 1996 and was voted British Designer of the Year back in 2000, way before I had even dipped my toes into designer mnemonics. I do remember an lovely alphabet lookbook that Boyd did with Lily Cole, tapping into her prior profession as a childrens book illustrator. She then decided to take a break from her label, lived the good life out in the country growing vegetables and inevitably ended up missing London and itched to get back into fashion but on her own terms.
Boyd makes a salient point about the burn of the fashion industry that threatens to tip designers over the edge. “I loved my time doing the catwalks but I felt at the end of it, I was sort of a hamster on a wheel. You feel that there’s no time to rest back and think about things and get truly inspired because it’s always so fast. The bigger your company gets, the more intense it gets. I wanted to get back to real joy of design. I’d been doing it for thirteen years but the designing became the secondary thing to running a business. You miss the smallness of things and the real hands-on approach.”
That’s how the seed for A Boyd Bazaar were planted as she then took on some consultancy work and in particular began to travel India quite extensively, meeting manufacturers and small craftsmen, which is where she started commissioning intricately beaded cushions. “I thought actually I don’t want to just do cushions, I want to do my world. If you were going on the best trip and you came back with the best things that you could possibly imagine that nobody else had, that’s what I’m trying to do, in a very small way. It’s nothing in particular but everything that I love.”
Everything that she loves just so happens to be everything that I’m lov-ing due to my recent burst of travel. There’s an element of ethical production as Boyd worked with SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), the only women’s trade union in India to embroider Indian vintage blankets with a shell design as well as some beautiful beaded cushions. All in all, it’s a mix of limited edition homewares, staple styles of embroidered shirts, jewellery and one-off items upcycled from Boyd’s personal collection of textiles and objets - a haven of chaos that sits well in Boyd’s converted garage home that I think needs a Homes & Gardens profile.
Her shirts reflect a shift in Boyd’s own design aesthetic. “My taste has changed a bit. I’m much more geometric at the moment.” Little beads and figures resembling paper cut-outs make up these embroidered designs that are almost no-brainers.
A note about these beaded cushions, I loved hearing Boyd recount the tale of how these cushions would come back with these grey marks because the beaders have to prick tiny holes in paper and blow ash through it to mark out all the positions of the beads, leaving their trail behind and demonstrating the handprint of handcraft.
I love these hand painted beads and tigers, which Boyd has used in bags along with the mirrored textiles and some beautiful Rajasthani tassel holders. Whilst doing “ethnic” or Indian-looking bags of this sort aren’t necessarily anything new, they’ve been given a renewed life by Boyd as she handsourced all the components to compile them together in small quantities.
Which brings me on to the question of how she Boyd can manage the scale of Boyd Bazaar. She says she’ll need a month to go find more things but she definitely takes relief in the lack of time scale and quantity demands. “They’re not things to be mass produced. They are one-offs and everything about it is special and unusual and that’s what’s appealing and the prices are fair but not insane.”
The jewellery is made in Brazil and Bali, comprising of sleek looking chequered cuffs and some very charming bottles of love beads.
Boyd Bazaar has yet to put these very special treasure dresses up online yet but they definitely were my favourite part of the collection and the part that taps into Boyd's sense of design the most. She cuts up vegetable hand block prints and Rajasthani textiles and splices them with delicate French chantilly lace for a combination that feels extremely modern and again, upcycles these hundred year old textiles into style relevance. “It’s almost sacrilegious to cut them up and put a zip down the middle but this breathes new life into it as otherwise these textiles would be sitting there, doing nothing.”
Likewise, she does the same with three beautiful Indian Kutch skirts sewn together. In a field after the Holi Festival, Boyd saw three women all together wearing these skirts carrying baskets on their heads which inspired this three-skirts-in-one collaged piece. I love that inside shreds of Indian newspaper remain because it was used to add support to the fabric for the embroidery.
Next up on Boyd's design agenda... a vintage Versace shirt cut up with a kutch Gujurat skirt to make a dress. A terrycloth bathrobes turned into Moroccan-esque bjellabas. 1950s floral patterns combined with beading. Some sort of a dress made out of a very Marni-esque Indian handblock print fabric. It's all slightly haphazard, happy go lucky and completely free of commercial constraints. Further travel will no doubt provide even more inspiration and Boyd is relishing her next trip. She did plan on going to one place a year and bringing back treasures for her annual bazaar but she’s quite taken with India at the moment and feels she’s only scratched the surface. I’ll be creaming tips from her when I make it out there, which seems pretty much inevitable now that I've taken a look at all Boyd's wonderful finds.
Other oddities in Boyd's house... A bale of twisted chiffon that Boyd has made into a heavy doorstop.
An embroidered blanket that is strangely backed onto a 101 Dalmations fabric...
A wall hanging created when Boyd went on a glass decoration course with jeweller Andrew Logan that has inspired Boyd to create larger scale pieces. Like I said, I've already added Boyd's garage interior to my inspiration list for this imaginary dream house that I've got built up in my mind as I aim to get out of my hovel pretty soon.
I love how Boyd's inherent aesthetic runs through her early illustration work as well as through her collection of textiles and home.
Her love of salvaging and reusuing textiles is evident in this satin cushion, which saved a disintegrating silk kimono robe.
Boyd Bazaar began this year as a physical event that took place as an actual bazaar in a shop in Maddox Street London but Boyd has plans to take it online, initially as an enquiry-only basis as she is keen on being hands on with the selling of her precious wares, communicating with customers, telling them the stories that she told me. Boyd Bazaar has also just gone online with a few products on Gift Lab and as for selling things into stores, she’d like to try and keep all her Bazaar finds together in their own little world, bound by the connecting thread which is Boyd’s own personal taste and aesthetic. Here's hoping a Boyd Bazaar pop-up of some form comes to us very soon.
It's a refreshing venture (or ad-venture?) for a designer who was at the top of the British fashion design game, which confirms that time away from the cycles of fashion can be hugely rewarding. Boyd is having the last laugh as she'll be beavering away over the next two months designing within her own time frame and feeling the freest she's ever been.