Designer Spotlight: Creature Clothes

Founded in 1999 by designer Cosima Pole, Creature Clothes was born out of a collar Cosima made for her black Labrador Vodka from an old necklace. Creature Clothes creates beautiful, ethical and environmentally aware products for you, your pets, children and your home.  They design everything in-house in their Suffolk workshop.

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What is your background and how did Creature Clothes come about?

I left school aged 17 with A levels in Design, French and Spanish and a solid determination not to go university.  I was bursting to get out of school and into the world.  My mother is a designer and model – she has made mirrors for Ringo Starr and used to be the Regent Petrol Girl – and at the time I left school she was running her own successful lampshade factory.  The lampshades generated a lot of waste card which I was determined to get recycled. When I couldn’t find anyone who would help me, I decided to give the waste a new life by making the parchment and card into Christmas decorations and greeting cards. I called my company ‘Scrap’ and my first customer was Liberty who helped me to develop my business and ideas.  I went on to supply and work with a very interesting and diverse selection of people and shops, supplying major department stores and independents like Scribbler and Paperchase to working on commissions from Aveda and Virgin Records. The highlight was making the greeting cards to accompany the Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, who I still work with to this day and we went on to develop a doggy collection around the work of Craigie Aitchison and his Bedlington Terriers.  Another highlight was my work being featured in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum about the emerging handmade greeting card movement.  We even made the poster!

My dog collars came about through a necklace and a misunderstanding.  I always used to wear a silver star on a chain around my neck and after visiting a friend, he found a similar necklace to mine in his room and sent it to me thinking mine had fallen off.  I went to the local pet shop and bought a simple black leather dog collar, cut the necklace up and tied the silver stars to the collar with black grosgrain ribbon. I wanted my dog Vodka to match my style.  I loved her more than anything in the world and this felt like a way to show it.  It was only when people on the tube started offering me hundreds of pounds in cash for Vodka’s collar that I realised I wasn’t alone in wanting an interesting collar for my dog.  I never sold the collar, but I did go and do an apprenticeship in traditional handcrafted leatherwork in Menorca!

What inspires your work?

I design things that I need, so I would have to say that my life inspires my work.  My love for my first dog inspired Creature Clothes and now my family – 2 kids, 2 dogs, husband, living in London, working in Suffolk & travelling a lot is where a lot of my inspiration comes from.  My head is very full of ideas, so often it is giving the ideas space to come out that is the key.  Running is good for this.  Sometimes I will wake up with a crazy idea that I have to get down on paper and then make it, there and then.  Our new tea towels came out of a recent bout of insomnia. I had finally gotten to sleep and then a light bulb went off in my head and I could see them and had to get the graphics down immediately.

Any designers or artists that you look to for inspiration?

There are so many! Lichstenstein, Herge, Shultz, William Wegman, Georgia O’Keefe, Mark Rothko, Miro, Johnny Swing, Danger Mouse, Graffiti on the school run – Stik & Malarky.  Phillipe Stark and all of his creations – he had me at his lemon squeezer!  Ralph Lauren always manages to raise the ordinary to the extraordinary with such elegance and style.  Stella McCartney.  Illustrations in children’s books and book covers.  Beautiful Vogue photo shoots inspire me – I have a box full of Vogue cuttings that I have collected since I was a teenager.  I love Kemistry Gallery in Charlotte Road and Shoreditch for a blast of graphic design culture. The biggest inspirations of all though are my children, my wonderful family and life lived with your eyes open.

What is your favourite piece that you have created and why?

It all comes down to that first accidental collar. It changed my life, so it has to be the Classic Black Leather Dog Collar with Silver Stars.  Of recent creations, I am very proud of our Dog Bed Cover (a cover that fits a standard single quilt/duvet).  I am often told that it is an ingenious idea, and that is a nice thing for my ego!  I like the environmental, reusing/recycling focus.  They look awesome too and are a really great product.

What has been the highlight of your career?

I’m not sure if it’s happened yet!  Having taken time out to have my children, I feel so inspired and full of drive – there is so much that I want to achieve.  I’ve had a lot of really great bits such as working with the Royal Academy of Arts, working with the V&A, working with Ben Fogle on our Fogle & Pole collaboration. I am really very proud that I was one of the first people in this new and emerging market of interesting and well-designed pet products – even more so that we’re still here!  When we get wonderful feedback from customers it really is a highlight.

Favourite animal and why?

My favourite animal is my dog, Stolli.  She is a black Labrador and is Vodka’s daughter.  She was one of 12, born into my hands.  I love her so very much.  She is awesome.

Fashion item you couldn’t live without?

My Fogle & Pole Emergency Treats Pouch!  Mine is clipped onto Stolli’s neon pink lead and contains my phone, poo bags, dog treats, kids treats, keys and gum!

Of items not made by me, this summer it’s been all about my fake neon Rayban’s to match Stolli’s lead.  Now autumn is here it’s my very old and very beaten up leather bike jacket that I adore and have worn to pieces.  It came from Mango many moons ago.  It looks great alongside Stolli’s neon collar too.

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