Simon Mitchell, Alfred & Wilde05-Apr-2016
Top Drawer: Tell us about your company
Simon Mitchell: Alfred & Wilde is an East London-based design studio founded in 2013. We create wall art, homewares and gifts with bold graphic patterns, illustrations and typographics. We sell online and wholesale, and also produce bespoke collections for retailers including the Science Museum and Southbank Centre.
TD: What made you start Alfred & Wilde?
SM: I studied Fine Art at university, but like many broke and disillusioned arts graduates I didn’t immediately pursue a career in the arts. Instead I gained a Masters degree and started working in the non-profit sector in project management and marketing roles. I enjoyed working for charities, but ultimately it didn’t satisfy me creatively, and I started to consider a career change. After thinking long and hard about where my skills lay, and how I could use the business knowledge I had gained, I decided to set up Alfred & Wilde in order to sell my own designs. I was very lucky that my employer allowed me to work part time for a year while I grew the business.
TD: What current or past designers do you particularly admire?
SM: There are just so many inspirational designers around now, how do you choose! At the moment I can’t get enough of Lakwena Maciver and Camille Walala. They both have an energy and confidence in the way they use geometrics, colour and pattern that makes me genuinely excited when I see their work. Closer to home, Archie Proudfoot, also based at Hackney Downs Studios, is a brilliant signwriter and typographic designer. And I love Kitty McCall’s colour composition in her textile designs, and Tom Pigeon’s perfect use of metallics. I could go on.
TD: What keeps you awake at night?
SM: At the moment: cashflow. I have recently moved into a new studio and hired an intern, but most of my sales come towards Christmas.
TD: What are you most proud of?
SM: Producing the bespoke ranges for such high profile retailers has been amazing. The range for the Science Museum is going to be difficult to beat. I remember visiting the museum when I was growing up, and it holds a special place in my heart.
TD: Any tips for upcoming designers?
SM: I think it is worth remembering that being a designer and running a small business are very different things, with different skill-sets. It is easy to build a website or set-up an Etsy profile, but if you have your mind set on building a business, then try and learn as much as you can about how to do it. There are a lot of resources out there to help (The Design Trust are amazing). But equally, there is nothing wrong in deciding you just want to be a designer. Concentrate on building a brilliant portfolio, and use your energy trying to get it seen by the people you want to design for.