Ever wonder what would happen if an illustrator and a jeweler created a fashion line where the TV show The EastEnders could be mashed up with the movie Tron?
Longshaw Ward is a London-based contemporary womenswear and accessories label designed by the husband and wife team of Kirsty Ward and David Longshaw. Before these talented designers became a duo, Kirsty received her MA in 2008 from Central Saint Martins of London, and David received his MA in 2007 from The Royal College of Art in London. They didn't cross paths until they were working in the Italian studio of Alberta Ferretti.
Before joining forces, they both set out to start brands of their own. But, with Kirsty's talent for statement jewelry and David's strong illustrative techniques, Longshaw Ward was just meant to be. Based in their London studio, they are known for a strong aesthetic and designing with sheer fabrics that have been thoughtfully sourced along with other various design materials. All their beautiful, detailed pieces are designed in-house at their studio and handcrafted in the UK for a modern, intelligent woman.
Longshaw Ward has been worn by the likes of Gigi Hadid, Poppy Delevingne, Sophie Turner, Helena Christensen, Mabel, Zoe Kravitz, Isabella Blow, Naomi Harris, Jorja Smith, Daisy Lowe, & Hannah Peel.
And they have been featured in world-renowned fashion publications such as L’Officiel, Vogue, Nylon, Elle, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar, WWD and many more.
Longshaw Ward has shown on the runways at London Fashion Week and in China, Kiev, Belarus and exhibited in Milan and Paris during Fashion Week. Recently, I got to sit down with both Kirsty and David in their London home/studio to discuss everything from their start in the fashion world, their couture-esqe techniques and process, and how fashion is changing. I even got to see the Spring/Summer 2019 Collection, which was breathtaking, and also left with an amazing pair of their handcrafted ornate shoes and placed an order for a custom pair.
Explore their collections
Explore their last 5 collections with in depth photos, details and more.
Longshaw Ward in conversation
An in-depth interview with David Longshaw and Kristy Ward conducted at their studio in London.
How was having your own individual brand different from joining forces?
K: From the beginning to the end of having our brands, it did feel like a lot of hard work. When there were things that we thought were worth celebrating, it didn’t get as exciting anymore. But now that we work together it feels like having this freshness and a bit of newness. I think we have got a renewed excitement about designing collections again.
D: Particularly near the end of having our labels, it was just so much work, even though you have different people and places helping you make things. It was at this time that we decided to join together. At this time also, I was the artistic director of a label in China, so I was flying back-and-forth a lot.
K: This was the first year of our marriage as well.
D: We weren’t getting to see each enough and we were also just working all the time. Part of the thing as well is that with the China experience it was quite an interesting role. It was a big high-street company in China setting up a high-end, catwalk type label and they wanted me to come in to help them. They have 700 stores in China including concessions. They got me to come in and I was the only one there who spoke English and since none of them spoke English, all the conversations were through a translator. It was supposed to be one of those design jobs where I would fly over there for 3 weeks to a month and then be back here in London for 1 ½ to 2 months. But then each time I went there they would be “Oh no, we need you to stay longer.” Unfortunately, the translator I had while in China had previously been the translator who was the head of Carrefour (a French Grocer) in China, she was lovely but she was used to translating about milk prices as opposed to garments.
K: You need the terminology, even if you speak English. If you don't know the terminology for fashion, how are you going to know what I am talking about if I ask for a toile or some other kind of fabric?
D: Being able to travel together and do these things together is the reason why we decided to design together. Also, with the China experience, in theory, the idea of the job was quite interesting. Being able to set up this thing that had the potential to be quite a big label. It became hard because you didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of and the Chinese fashion education and the background is very different from the way it’s taught in Britain and other countries. A lot of their design is coming from a high-street background so they didn’t understand certain ways of designing. At least if Kirsty and I go together somewhere, then we can bounce ideas off each other. Then you can figure out together how to get your opinion across.
K: It’s nice to travel together. Before, if we were offered something for one of our own labels we would end up helping each other out. It is a bit more exciting when we are doing it together and we both are benefitting from it.
Was there a point where it just clicked and you both said, ‘it’s time’?
D & K: Yes!
K: We have a friend who is a fellow designer who would always say to us ‘when are you two joining up?’ And we would say ‘no, our stuff is so different, I don’t think we will’ and then we got to a point where we said ‘we should just do this’. We share a studio and everything else so why not? Even though our design aesthetics are different, it works together now.
Kirsty with your strong jewelry techniques and David with your Illustration techniques, how does it all come together?
K: Obviously, David does his beautiful illustrations, so that ends up in all our embroideries, which we have done for the past two seasons. It’s nice because we both work together on each and every aspect. Even though originally David did more illustrations and prints, I will then work with him on those. And even though originally I did more of the jewelry, he will work with me on those as well. And we always work together when it comes to colors and techniques.
D: For example, take our John Smedley knits, I’ll draw up something and then Kirsty will work on the computer and make certain elements more graphic, which then will work into how they knit the design.
K: We also have a lot of lists of what we are going to be inspired by.
Spring / Summer 2019 collection
Where do you find your inspiration?
D: Sometimes it is trips that we go on. We will even go for walks through stately homes.
K: We are members of the National Trust so we go to all the old stately homes and walk around the gardens and look at all the old artworks.
D: We find really beautiful things to draw and really interesting colors to take from them. We pick and chose what we use. One season we were inspired by the 80’s film TRON, where we had TRON vs Doc Cotton, who is a fictional character from the British TV, show EastEnders. So we wondered, ‘what would happen if Doc Cotton ended up in the Tron film? Maybe even Doc Cotton opens a launderette for the riders in Tron.
K: Doc Cotton does actually have amazing clothes that she would wear in the ’80s and she even wears them now. We kind of thought, how would you make a sci-fi version of an apron.
D: Another stately house, which inspired us, was an estate called Fenton House in Hampstead Heath. At this estate, they had these weird porcelain birds that were also candlesticks where the candle came out of their heads. And we thought about how that could be interesting as a print along with some of the colors from them. We started drawing these slight sci-fi flowers coming out and making them a bit more bionic. And then they worked into some of the prints but then also into some shapes, which were much, more fluid.
K: But then there is always a bit of weird or crazy going in our designs. Like one bird in a design was based on an emu and some of the birds were bionic. David would use the inspiration from the birds but then we would use our imaginations and would think, 'wouldn’t it be amazing if one had a bionic leg.'
I love the shoes from every season do you design them together?
K: We buy the base of the shoes and then we work together on putting on the embellishments. I will probably put all the final pieces on but we do work together.
All by hand?
D: The bags, garments, knitwear, and jewelry we make are often sold to shops. With the shoes, we just started doing them for photo shoots and then we started doing them for the runway shows. We also do special customized ones for different people especially if they have worn our clothes.
K: We don’t usually sell them but we have had so many people contact us about them. And we are currently embellishing a pair for an actress who is getting married.
D: All the shoes are made with jewelry techniques, they are attached on with wire and that is how our jewelry line is made as well.
K: Our jewelry this season will have mounted Swarovski crystals.
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We have talked about your sheer designs but, you mentioned about how its kind of turned into your signature.
D: Yes, definitely. We have always had sheers from the first season.
K: My MA was half sheer as I am obsessed with it. Especially since we make sure everything is made nicely so, we like the fact that you can see all the construction coming through. It’s not just raw-edged and overlapped together.
As I said, I think your designs look like a map of a body.
D: Yes, because so many designs now are just churned out by factories that are badly overlapped. And sometimes even when you go to amazing stores, you look at other people’s designs and think, “How are you charging this for this level of finish?” So that is why we like the sheer fabric because you can actually see all the details that went into making each piece.
K: And we obviously like layering the pieces together. So many people can wear and interpret the way they want to wear it. And it is also a good way of getting certain colors into the collection. Although I do worry about the sheers, it has become a trend and I don’t want to be looked at as if we are doing it because of a trend.
But you and David do in a much more elegant way.
K: We never copy anyone on anything. We might think it would be amazing to do a trench coat this season but, that’s a much more classic piece. It is not like we have seen a designer do something, and think yes we need to do a version of that. I mean what is the point of that.
You design and make everything in the UK, right?
Does that have something to do with you working in China and seeing how processes worked over there?
D: A little bit but it’s also actually quite good to keep control of the quality. Not just in China, but even when we were in Italy. You see other friends who have labels and how they work; where they each had their own factory so, they have complete control over the quality. And then we have other friends that work for different labels where they fly off to different parts of the world just to see things every so often. But you aren’t there to keep an eye on the whole process. And then the designs get shipped to a store and you don’t see the quality that’s going out or you don’t have time to even see a sample. You don’t have control over the first creative process and things are being made for you and then they show up and they can look quite flat. So at least if you can work with people or do it in-house, you can actually properly design it rather than it being just another design that gets chucked out there.
K: When we are designing things and doing samples we might want to change a seam to a different color to make it more interesting.
D: It becomes part of the design process.
K: As someone who would love fashion, I would love to look at my garment and see something unique there. And every time you wear it you discover something new.
What’s the best advice you have ever received from a colleague in the world of fashion?
D: I have been told to trust your own vision. Obviously, you can take on other different people’s opinions, but you have to trust your own vision. Loads of people will give you lots of different advice and everyone loves to give you an opinion on something. Everyone loves to tell you “this is how fashion is moving” or “this is what’s going on, you need to do this and this”. I think obviously you have to continually educate yourself so that you can improve but I also believe you have to have your own point of view or what’s the point.
K: At CSM, on the MA, Louise Wilson was always saying, ' do not look at trends, you guys should be creating the trends and not following them.' Trust yourself and challenge yourself by working with something that makes you uncomfortable, or a fabric you might not like the aesthetic or the feel of.
If you could describe you brand in one word, what would it be?
K: I am awful at describing our collection, even with 20 words.
D: Would you say layered? We do have a lot of layering and sheers, don’t we? Detailed?
Okay, I will give you three words. Detailed, sheer, layered.
K: I don’t know it is so hard because there are different parts of the collection as well.
D: Maybe we can loop back to that one.
If you could change one aspect of the fashion world what would it be?
D: It’s tricky that one because there are so many different things you would change.
K: I think people are so eager and that’s great because you get support. More people are inspired and excited about fashion but not as many people buy it.
A lot of designers I talk with say more time and maybe not as many collections.
D: More time definitely would be a big help. We only do two collections a year but it still looks like a lot of designs.
I think designers in the US dream about doing two collections a year.
D: On top of our collections we also do a lot of special projects at the same time as well.
K: I also think now that a lot of big brands don’t really give time to their creative directors. They look at sales and then determine if that creative director is in or out.
D: I was reading this article about this label that has a new creative director and the creative director was talking about introducing even more product. So then there would be more drops of products at the store. And I’m like what’s the point? The creative director said it was about smaller collections and more drops. But then I think, surely you are not having time to think and consider, you don't have time to edit the collection or bring something cohesive, its just stuff.
I think what I would change for us would be having more time. I think even though we only produce two collections, as I said before, we are still working on loads of other projects. And also our designs are very labor extensive, etc.
I think the one thing I would change about the industry, in general, is just the amount of stuff that is produced. There is so much random product that makes no sense at all that might sale possibly for a while. But you see these stores and go into them and you are wondering who is buying this stuff. It feels like a lot of the big brands are just following one another.
It’s such a cliché thing to say but, I also think there need to be fewer celebrity designers.
What does Chic mean to you?
K: Someone who has something about them and knows their style. But it also depends on the person, and what they have on, they will have something about them that’s not too much, but it’s something that’s just right.
D: There is a way I see chic and how some people determine chic. The average person on the street could come across someone they think is chic and they could be conservative. They would be in a design that is beautifully made, as a woman in Chanel or a man in a Savile Row tailored suit.
K: As well as someone comfortable in his or her skin.
D: Yes, someone that is comfortable in his or her own skin. Buy, it is also the way they carry themselves and put themselves together.
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