The London Pattern Bureau is one of the latest suppliers to join the Sqetch platform and we’re very eager to introduce them. They offer pattern cutting and sampling services as well as sourcing and consultancy. London Pattern Bureau was created by Renée Lacroix, a Canadian-born designer who moved to London to pursue her calling. We’ve called Renée for an interview about her journey, learn more about London Pattern Bureau and her vision on sustainable fashion.
Was working in fashion always a dream of yours?
My interest for fashion and clothing started during my early teenage years. My mom was my first teacher: she taught me how use a sewing machine, read patterns and encouraged me to make my own clothes. I then moved to Montréal, Canada’s main fashion hub, straight after high school to study Fashion Design. A technical diploma and a bachelor’s degree later, I starting working for a major Canadian apparel brand, but soon realised I didn’t fit in the corporate world. I wanted to make a difference in the world and this job made me feel like I was merely a number.
I had learned about sweatshops a few years earlier, and was very interested in learning about this new phenomenon called ethical fashion. I was so excited when I discovered that the London College of Fashion offered a Master’s degree specialised in sustainable fashion! I packed my life in two suitcases, donating everything else, and moved to London. Five years later, after running my own womenswear label (Antithesis, co-founded with a classmate from LCF) and freelancing as a pattern cutter, I started London Pattern Bureau.
How does the process work when someone walks in with an idea at London Pattern Bureau?
Our aim is to be a one-stop shop for fashion designers and start-ups: they arrive with a sketch and leave with a final sample. A lot of our clients work with a designer (or are designers themselves) and come in with professional CADs, but many of them don’t have a fashion background and need to be guided in the right direction. We can work with anything from detailed tech packs to existing samples or pictures. We also have a relationship with an Italian textile warehouse that buys surplus rolls and dead-stock fabrics from mills and can help them find the right materials, as fabric sourcing is often the most arduous step of product development.
Once we have been through every little detail of their designs (fit, pocket type, interior finishing, etc), we make a pattern and a toile (a first prototype in a low-cost material). We then invite the client over for a fitting session, where we put the toiles on a fit model and discuss the any necessary amendments. Once the patterns have been altered, we’re ready to go into sampling, which is often the most exciting part of the job: seeing the final results. We also sometimes do micro-production runs.
What did you learn from having your brand?
Having had my own label for four years has really helped me gain a deep understanding of the industry and the challenges that come with setting up a fashion brand. I believe this is one of the best assets of London Pattern Bureau -I know exactly what our clients are going through and can guide them in the right direction, whether is it by recommending a label supplier, a local grader or manufacturer. Another of our strengths is attention to detail: as a perfectionist, I am very meticulous in my work and expect the same from my staff.
You have a masters in sustainable fashion, Antithesis focussed a lot on sustainability… Why is sustainability so important to you?
I was raised in a family with strong positive values such as kindness, justice and a respect for the environment. We are currently over-consuming our resources and, with the global population increasing by the second, I believe businesses need to put more efforts on reducing their carbon footprint and trading ethically. In my opinion, making sustainable choices should be part of a lifestyle, not a business strategy. I also try to apply those principles to my everyday life, for example, I cycle to work, eat mostly vegan and buy second-hand when possible. And of course, let’s not forget the 3 Rs: Reduce, Re-use and Recycle!
How do you feel about big fashion houses adapting the fast fashion business model (ex. Having their collection ready to purchase right after their runway show)?
Shows were traditionally reserved to a closed industry-only audience, but now with the omnipresence of the Internet, anybody can go online to see a designer’s collection almost immediately after their show. This has allowed high-street brands to get heavily inspired (ahem, copy) and market a cheaper version of their designs even before the original pieces hit the shelves. To stay ahead of the curve, fashion houses have come up with very clever marketing campaigns. For example, from September Burberry will start presenting seasonless collections combining both mens and womenswear. On top of that, their pieces will be made available instantaneously in store and online!
After your studies, you went to Peru where you taught indigenous women how to make patterns and increase their sewing skills. How was this experience?
It was an amazing experience! In rural Peru, a lot of women get their income from handmade weavings while their husbands are working in the fields. They often live in very remote places, making it difficult to sell their products. Awamaki, the NGO I was volunteering for, started a co-operative with the women of Patacancha, a tiny village up in the Andes. Every week, we would travel there to purchase their woven, which were then sold in their shop in a touristic town near the famous Machu Picchu.
Since these women had little or no knowledge about pattern or machine sewing, their product range was limited to decorative items, for example placemats or table runners. So I developed various patterns for functional accessories such as mobile and iPod cases, yoga mats and basic garments and organised a few sewing workshops to teach them how to make it themselves.
You moved from Canada to London. Canada’s fashion scene is not very known in Europe, what are some big differences and who is your favourite Canadian designer?
I think the main reason why Canada is not (yet) on the fashion map is probably because we’re a country with a relatively young heritage in comparison to Europe. With a population of 35 million, it’s also quite a small market. In general, I feel like Europeans (or at least Londoners) have a more inherent sense of style than North Americans, and its part of their culture to invest in high-quality clothing and bespoke pieces. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying Canadians don’t know how to dress, but they will often choose comfort over style. And in a country where winter lasts 6 months, who can blame them?!
My favourite Canadian designer is Marie Saint Pierre. She is one the pioneers in Quebec’s fashion scene and I’ve been following her since I was a student. She produces incredibly sophisticated womenswear, which can be a real challenge in a country where there are limited material suppliers and resources.
If you have an idea or sketches that you want to turn into a collection, you can visit London Pattern Bureau’s profile on Sqetch.co and get in touch with Renée. She can make sure you will get an amazing pattern to start your collection!