17th March 2020
Our 2020 Cockpit Effect Impact Report features a series of case studies to illustrate the diversity of makers, their practices and business journeys at Cockpit Arts. Over the coming weeks we’ll share these with you.
In translating the vision of designers into fabric, Alice Timmis is elevating the status of the maker in the fashion world
Alice Timmis works with thread like it’s paint. Taking inspiration from fine artists, she manipulates the surface of fabrics once they are off the loom, producing textiles that challenge the linear conventions of weaving. It’s an approach that has won her a legion of high-profile fans, including Vogue writer Suzy Menkes and several well-known fashion brands. It’s all part of her effort to ensure that the handiwork that goes into making textiles doesn’t get lost in the process of clothing creation. “Seeing my fabrics used by fashion designers each season at London Fashion Week is among the highlights of my career,” she says.
Work from the fashion world started rolling in quite soon after she graduated from the Royal College of Art, which led to her moving into Cockpit a year later in 2017, with the help of an award from the Clothworkers Foundation. “I had begun to take on commissions and I needed access to a loom as I wasn’t able to afford one of my own,” she says. Cockpit’s support was crucial in helping her market her ability to translate a fashion designer’s vision directly into fabric, and in giving her the practical and legal advice she needed to manage difficult clients. “I now have a more professional approach to my contracts, for example, I have established terms and conditions and a more systemised process of collaboration,” she says, adding: “Running a business alone is a lonely position – Cockpit Arts makes you feel less alone.”
In association with Cockpit, Alice completed a residency last year at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, where she developed a new collection of hand-woven fashion fabrics and ways to hand-weave using pre-consumer waste from textile mills. The aim was to show off the importance of craft processes and techniques for the fashion and textile industry – inspired by such names as Zandra Rhodes, known for her printed textiles, and printer Celia Birtwell, whose name features next to Ossie Clark on his clothes tags.
“Textile designers normally work behind the fashion designers and often my work doesn’t get credited,” Timmis says. “I am interested in trying to change the way that textile designers often don’t get a mention for their work and contribution to the catwalk.”
Timmis has since scaled her handcrafted work to an industrial scale and developed a relationship with a mill in Italy to produce samples. She has also moved from a shared space to a private studio at Cockpit, with her own loom, and has no plans to leave anytime soon.
portrait photo: Abby Butcher