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Intoart + John Smedley Capsule Collection

For 18 years, South London art collective Intoart has worked with people with learning disabilities to achieve equal recognition in the world of contemporary art and design. For over 230 years, Derbyshire-based John Smedley has been producing the world’s finest knitwear, and is heralded the world over for its dedication to quality, British craftsmanship and luxury fibres. This November, the two will come together to launch a new capsule collection of garments designed by Intoart artists.

Launching in John Smedley stores in time for their flagship Christmas window displays, this collection represents the first collaboration of its kind for both Intoart and John Smedley, as well as the biggest commercial impact that Intoart has had on the design industry to date.

"Intoart is delighted to collaborate with such a well-regarded British knitwear brand to develop a collection of handcrafted garments, with high production values and integrity, that mirrors the values and ethos of our own studio practice. When the opportunity arose, we were excited to take drawings from the Intoart studio into a knitwear collection to create something truly exciting." – Ella Ritchie, co-founder, Intoart

The collaboration came about through renowned designer and creative director Holly Fulton, who, alongside her partner, illustrator James Lambert, have enjoyed a long-standing collaborative relationship with both John Smedley and Intoart. Three of the 21 artists currently working in Intoart’s Peckham studio have each produced three designs for the collection, which includes unisex jumpers, woollen dresses, a scarf and a shawl – all featuring hand-drawn designs, expertly translated into intricate pieces of knitwear by the John Smedley team. The three artists each have a distinctive personal style, but are united by a strong visual language that readily translates to fashion. Having seen the preliminary drawings, the John Smedley team were happy to work alongside Holly Fulton and James Lambert to guide each artist to explore their existing interests and ideas.

"We are extremely proud to be working alongside Intoart and their artists – this collaboration is our first partnership with a charity and it was incredibly important to work with an organisation whose principles are closely linked with our own. The artists and our knitwear designers have done an incredible job. The collaborative garments showcase a fantastic blend of creative design, talent and craftsmanship and all in a wonderful crescendo of colours and the highest-quality materials. We can’t wait to see the consumer reaction when they are launched in store!" – Jess McGuire-Dudley, Marketing & Design Director at John Smedley

Ntiense Eno Amooquaye joined the Intoart collective in 2007. She works across the visual, written and spoken word through print, text, image and live performance. She has exhibited and performed in galleries and museums around the UK and internationally, and her bespoke placement-print silk dress was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s fashion galleries as part of London Design Festival 2017. With accents in Cerise Pink, Amooquaye’s three designs explore the iconography of fashion and its embodiment in the image of the fashion model. Yoshiko Phillips has a bold, graphic illustrative style full of complex motifs, dazzling colours and engaging characters, which she deploys on fashion items, accessories, stationery and prints. Phillips’ ink works on paper are inspired by traditional Japanese embroidery, textiles and block-printed Ukiyo-e art. Since joining the collective in 2015, Phillips often draws on mythical creatures and animal imagery – and for John Smedley, she has created a series of eye-catching patterns in Blaze Orange that evoke the notions of predator and prey.

Andre Williams has been a member of Intoart since 2010. His work is characterised by arresting imagery and dramatic, often humorous typography. Williams applies his graphic drawing style and striking use of colour to screenprint and painted laser-cut wood reliefs of masks, robots and mystical creatures. His John Smedley knits feature his attention-grabbing typographical style and wry wit, using Azure Blue to add emphasis to his high-impact comical messages. In early 2018, they visited the John Smedley mill in Matlock, Derbyshire, to learn about the journey from design to finished garment and gain an understanding of the creative limitations and possibilities of knitwear production. With the guidance of Holly and James and the technical expertise of the John Smedley design team, the Intoart artists worked on their designs to realise their unique vision. This process ensured that the final designs produced are true to the original lines drawn by each artist, and that their distinctive styles are preserved throughout the transition from paper to wool.

With the nine designs now finalised and the garments approaching launch, the Intoart team is celebrating the success of its highest-profile collaboration thus far – and the realisation of its mission to nurture new opportunities, challenge preconceptions, and champion the extraordinary talents working in the Intoart studio. John Smedley may be the first major design brand to realise the potential of Intoart’s artists and designers, but it certainly won’t be the last. The collection will available to buy from johnsmedley.co.uk and John Smedley shops on Brook Street, Jermyn Street and New Cavendish Street, London, from 15 November 2018.

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