Jo Bee is the sole knitwear designer at luxury fashion house Julien Macdonald.
Liaising directly with Julien, she designs and manages the development of the knitwear garments for each collection and responds to VIP requests. This year's designs have adorned celebrities including Beyonce, Kylie and Rita Ora.
1. What made you decide to become a designer?
Becoming a designer was something that just sort of happened… from picking my GCSE subjects through to A-Levels then uni courses I just picked things that I liked to do and just pursued that. I never set out or thought that I would become a designer, particularly not a fashion designer, but it is where I have ended up because I realised it is what I love and am passionate about.
2. How would you define being a designer?
Being a designer you have to constantly be inspired by your surroundings, things you see and events in your life in order to fuel your mind to generate ideas for developing and creating new and interesting stitches and designs.
3. What’s the best kept secret in the design world?
Now that would be telling…
4. What are the most common myths about the design world?
That it’s glamorous! It’s not as glamorous that you would think. It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. Seeing the end results always makes it worth it though!
5. How important is your studio and how do you use it?
The studio is incredibly important. It is a creative environment filled with creative people. It is important to be able to be surrounded by the things and people to help inspire and motivate personal creativity and to be able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other to get a successful end result.
6. What’s your daily working pattern (how many hours a day do you work)?
My work pattern varies depending on deadlines. 9.30-6 is my official work hours, but I am usually in early, as I like to deal with my admin work early so it doesn’t interfere with my creativity throughout the day. During the 2 months leading up to a fashion show week by week my work hours increase. The week before a show it is rare for me to leave the office before midnight and the night before a show is usually an all nighter and power through to the other side of the show. If there’s a deadline to meet then it has to be met!
7. How do you balance the demands of trends against responding to your own inspiration?
Obviously it is key to keep up with what is going on in the design world now, but it is important to stay true to the brand. Using our own inspiration along side current trends allows for new ideas. Knit is an integral part of the Julien Macdonald brand, so it is vital for me to push and develop stitches in new ways from our own inspiration. For me current trends really help to push design silhouettes. When we bring current trends together with our own development and inspiration they balance each other out and work together in harmony to create new trends, which is then something to build on the following season.
8. How important is accident in your work?
Happy accidents are how some of the best ideas and successful stitches are created!
9. How important is it to establish networks of peers in order to succeed in the design world?
So important! It is a tough industry to get into. You never know when you might need the help from someone you have met along the way, or when someone may need your help which could open up new doors to new opportunities.
10. What was the most significant experience you had at art school?
For me learning to use a knitting machine on my art foundation year was a vital experience for me. It was where the passion for knit started and without that I wouldn’t be where I am now.
11. What music are you listening to at the moment?
Matt Corby (quite often on repeat).
12. What book would you recommend to a young design student?
For knitting my bible is ‘Hand Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters’ by Susan Guaglium. I have this book out every season… It’s great for those moments where you are running out of ideas. It takes me back to basics and sets me off down new routes.
13. What film would you recommend to a young design student?
Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby. The costumes are amazing, and I really enjoyed the artistic style that it was shot in, along with the mix of past with present.
14. Which contemporary designers do you think every design student should be aware of?
I always love to look at Balmain for inspiration; I love the direction that Olivier Rousteing has taken the brand in the last couple of years. For knitwear, Sandra Backlund I always find incredible as she uses knitting in new ways and pushes techniques to the extreme.
15. What is the best bit of advice you would give to a young designer?
Do what you enjoy and trust your judgment. If you are passionate about it then it will pay off in the long run.
Image Design by Jo Bee