Last year, leading Italian handbag and suitcase brand Carpisa challenged three BA Fashion graduates to design a Spring/Summer 2016 capsule collection of five women’s handbag designs. The brief asked the former CSM students to produce something with a younger, trend-following customer in mind.
The winner was Natasha Somerville, whose work has now gone live on the Carpisa website.
Natasha’s research started with the turtle, Carpisa’s iconic symbol. Keen to develop a humorous aesthetic, she invented a “silly cartoon character, Baby Tartaruga”. The results reflected the inspiration she took from the inflatable flower gardens of artist Jeff Koons and Vernor Panton’s plastic, futuristic interiors interiors. From there she decided to use the softer shapes for the bag silhouettes and refined her research to three main concepts: neon, webbing and spirals.
Natasha perfectly represented the ideal creative partner to work with. She possesses an outstanding international background, trend research capability, great vision, imagination, professionalism and creativity. Carpisa and CSM set a difficult challenge won by a talented designer.
(Simone Padrin, Retail Merchandising Manager, Design Department, Carpisa)
We spoke to Natasha about her inspirations, the importance of fun, and what she hopes people will take from her designs.
After graduating from Central Saint Martins three years ago, you entered the world of accessory design. Have accessories always been your main interest within fashion?
I guess you could say accessories have always been at the heart of my interests since I undertook an internship with Mulberry at the age of 18. I am very focused on technique and interesting materials, so accessories design seemed like a natural place for me to explore my passion. After all, a good accessory can compliment any outfit.
What does your creative process look like? Do you usually go straight to the point or change your mind a lot?
I have a highly imaginative brain. I can’t really describe it but sometimes it’s as if I see the completed designs rotating around in my head before I’ve even started. When Carpisa gave me the brief, I knew I wanted to bring the Carpisa Turtle into my world, which is when I had the idea to create a short story of a cartoon ‘Baby Tarturuga’ going on a summer adventure.
Working three dimensionally is very important for me to get an overall feeling of shape and proportions. I make multiple samples of techniques I am exploring, and this hands on work informs my design process. I guess you could kind of compare it to a sculptor with a block of stone in front of them.
Have you been inspired by other cities besides London for this project?
L.A is a city that I fell in love with since interning for Jeremy Scott in 2013. The freedom and laid-back attitude really inspired me, and the beautiful weather and food definitely helped. I would not be surprised if some of the influences of that period have filtered into my designs, as I met a lot of very individual people out there.
Were you given any indications about a specific mood or was everything was on you?
I knew I wanted to shoot the campaign with photographer Henry Gorse, having previously worked with him for a lookbook for my own accessories brand MORMO. I first saw his work when he borrowed a pair of my thigh-high latex boots from my graduate collection and styled the model in a high-vis vest and Pikachu hat.
It was exciting to have creative direction over the campaign shoot as I had a very clear idea of what I wanted.
Has art influenced your creative process? Which artists specifically inspired you?
Of course I have always looked to art and artists for inspiration, there is so much to learn from and often in unusual places. I would argue that fashion, in its pure form, is a form of art in that it helps convey a mood or quality of visual reality. For this capsule collection I worked on three separate concepts, each had influences of an artist’s work that I had researched.
Your MORMO handbags are made for people who want to stand out and be noticed. Which is your favourite design?
Everyone wants to stand out and be noticed; to be acknowledged for their talents. You do that by taking a stance on a situation and deciding for yourself what you want to be doing and where you ought to go in life. I generate content – I try to create new aesthetics that have my personality stamped on them. Creation is always much more noticeable than imitation.
I’m a bit backpack obsessed, mainly because I rollerblade a lot to keep fit so other styles get annoying, so ‘Drool’ is definitely my favourite!
What reaction would you expect from people that see your bags for the first time? What kind of feeling would make you happy?
I really try to let my personal identity be visible in my work because I value individual expression above all else. In a way I feel everything that I put out is a reflection of at least one aspect of who I am as a person, so people’s reactions are very personal to me. If they’re happy, I’m happy!
You put a playful twist on popular British symbols to disrupt their traditional meanings. Your designs seems to remind us we don’t have to sacrifice our humour ever.
For sure, being a Londoner it is inevitable that I want to draw on some of the icons that make it such a special place. London is an incredible, multi-layered place to live- just around the corner or underneath so many famous landmarks and tourist attractions is an entirely different world. It really makes you think about perceptions, and all of the different areas with their unique feel allow me to affect my every day reality. The British also have a very dry and sarcastic sense of humour, which can spill over into being very irreverent about any topic. This ability to have a laugh at an establishment or scene makes me feel free and opens up creative pathways. I genuinely believe that humour is at the heart of creativity.
Having fun when working is a serious matter! What’s your secret?
Having a sense of humor definitely helps. I think humour and creativity are not just complimentary, but integral to one another. I am at my most creative when I am having fun and toying with an idea. The key to working hard is committing yourself and overcoming personal barriers, and to keep producing. A good artist knows that satisfaction comes as much from the process of work as it does from the end result.
What did you enjoy the most about this collaboration with Carpisa?
As a designer it’s always exciting to be presented with new challenges, working on this capsule with Carpisa did just that. Learning to streamline my creativity to design less complex products than I am used to was an invaluable experience, and the idea of my designs reaching so many people via a known and respected brand makes me very pleased to be a part of the process.