Supporting British design, Theresa May wears Megan Ferris scarf


We were all thrown into a bit of a frenzy this week when Theresa May debuted a new scarf at the despatch box during Prime Minister's Questions. Gorgeously geometric, the scarf featured blue hued triangles, the colouring reminiscent of Spode pottery, with a similarity to leopard print thrown in!

Lots of readers contacted me to find out who designed May's beautiful scarf, and I can reveal that the creation is by Megan Ferris! Megan is a printed textiles student currently studying at Winchester School of Art in her third year. She adopts an experimental approach to her work, using a wide range of materials to create an interesting array of marks. Megan has recently taken an interest in surrealism and has been creating weird and wonderful designs using collage and painterly patterns for her latest project "Dreams & Hallucinations", which conveys a variety of juxtaposed objects and animals.
May's scarf is the Tavira design, made from silk twill and 12.5mm with hand rolled edges. Made in England, Tavira is inspired by the architecture and azulejo tiles from the town of Tavira, Portugal. The decorative hand painted tiles were the stimulus for this design, which is formed from an array of marks using a range of materials. It is a fantastically striking design, and May wore it with her usual panache this week, using it to accessorise a navy Escada suit for a busy day in the Commons and at Downing Street.

The scarf has similarities to Hermes (another of May's favourite,) but I was so pleased to see the Prime Minister again championing an up and coming young British designer. Ferris herself was excited to see one of her scarves being worn by May, and I caught up with her over the weekend to chat about what inspires her as a designer and her thought on the Prime Minister's support.

Why did you choose to study printed textiles?

My earlier work was more three dimensional but I realised it was the patterns and intricate details of my sculptures and installations that most intrigued me. Printed textiles encompasses everything that I enjoy about design so it was the perfect pathway for me. It also involves a huge variety of techniques and processes and I was keen to develop my skills. The main thing I enjoy about print is that each time you need to put something into repeat it’s different because the imagery always behaves in a different way when repeated so you have to manipulate the layout to make it work as an all over repeated design.

 What are the inspirations behind your designs?

‘Tavira’ which was worn by Theresa May was inspired by the the blue and white azulejo tiles and architecture from the town of ‘Tavira’, Portugal. The town has many churches and their interior walls are tiled with beautiful blue and white hand painted murals. My design takes an abstract perspective on Portuguese architecture and ceramics to create my geometric blue and cream scarf. I have just started my Final Major Project for my degree where I am looking at ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymous Bosch. Recently I have taken an interest in taxidermy, anatomy and surrealism. People who have influenced my work include Alexander McQueen, Polly Morgan, Salvador Dali, and Kandinsky to name a few. I enjoy black and white film photography which has inspired some of my work and I love cinematography.

How do you create your scarves?

Each design is unique and I have used a variety of different methods to create each one, some are collaged, scanned objects, hand drawn or painted. I then send a digital artwork file to my lovely manufacturers in Macclesfield. I always get a test scarf printed first to check the colours are accurate. I chose to use digital printing to conserve water and reduce dye waste and it also allows me to create highly detailed designs which would not be possible through screen printing. The silk twill I use has no optical brightener, no chemical treatments and has been sourced ethically. The printing machines used are rebuilt from retrofitted technology from obsolete equipment to reduce land fill. None of the printing inks are environmentally damaging and all print machinery inks are recycled. The fabric is steamed and washed using high pressure jets rather than tanks of fresh water to reduce water waste. My scarves are then hand rolled in London by artisans using a traditional method.

What are the highlights and challenges in your work?

Researching for a new project is always very exciting, with a vast amount of resources available in archives, museums and libraries, it’s always stimulating finding new material to inspire me. My main highlight would be the design process. I really enjoy the challenge of putting a design together, it’s like doing an evolving jigsaw. One of the main challenges I think is trying to think sideways and create thought provoking and standout prints whilst still appealing to peoples’ taste.

Where do you source patterns?

I create my own patterns so I either draw, paint or collage from a range of materials such as books, photographs, films and then I work with my drawings digitally or by hand to find a suitable layout. I have mirrored most of my scarf designs but I use a range of repeat methods for my other fabric designs.

What is your best selling design?

Botanicals is my best seller currently. The design was inspired by Damian Hirst’s “It’s a Wonderful World”. I picked flowers and then arranged them digitally to form a kaleidoscope pattern. I spent a particularly long time on this design to ensure each flower was carefully cut out and mirrored the way I wanted, the colours are lovely too.

Why is it important to create your scarves in the UK?

A sustainable future is a really big consideration for me, I wanted my scarves to be made in England to reduce my carbon footprint. As a small business myself, I think it’s very important to support local businesses, local crafts and trades. I produce limited runs to reduce fabric waste and ensure exclusivity.

What has been the reaction to the PM wearing your scarves?

The support from family and friends has been wonderful. I am rather overwhelmed that Theresa liked my scarf design and I thought she wore it wonderfully. The colours looked excellent on her, it really suited her complexion.

What do you think of the PM’s style and her support of the UK fashion industry?

She’s an excellent supporter of British designers and up and coming designers and realises the importance of the British fashion industry to our economy and the many jobs that it provides. She has said she is aiming to lead a government that helps and encourages new and upcoming talent, whatever their background. I think it’s great that she has her own fashion flare. She is particularly good at accessorizing and always adds lovely additions of colour to her outfits. I love her signature kitten heels and she has some fabulous coats.

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What are your thoughts on the future of the British fashion industry?

For the last two years I have been studying design futures and it’s enlightened me to some amazing new technologies and social innovations that are being developed. Smart and interactive textiles are particularly fascinating to me and I love Suzanne Lee’s ‘BioCouture’ fabrics which are grown using bacteria. I believe that there is huge scope with the innovative technologies available for some amazing new fabrics to be developed if engineers, scientists and textile designers collaborate. Overconsumption is a huge issue and as designers I think we have a responsibility to encourage people to invest in buying fewer better quality items. Nike and Patagonia are particularly inspiring to me. Both use some revolutionary technologies to create their products and show an excellent commitment to sustainable practices.

What are your plans for your design business?

I am hoping to expand my range of products. I have a few ideas in the pipeline and some exciting projects coming up. I am hoping to learn how to pattern cut when I finish my degree so that I can translate my prints into garments. I am very interested in sustainable fashion and I would like to make my brand as low impact as possible so in the future I hope to look for ways in which I can do so right through the production line.

Find out more about Megan's designs here

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