Fashion is a notoriously tough industry to operate within and survive, even with extraordinary creative talent, the finest British fashion education and an address book full of contacts. Yet, up and down the country, there exists a swathe of self-taught designers who operate on a small scale, supplying boutiques at home and abroad with highly desirable, distinctive, niche-market fashion clothing. And, their collections in small boutiques give our more interesting shopping streets a desirable 'edge' - enticing the shopper with the potential for a special 'find'.
SULA is one of these labels. The designer and owner is Alison Taylor. SULA clothes are predominantly made from silk especially dyed in pure, vibrant and exquisitely subtle colour: many garments are reversible and combine striking juxtapositions. Signature styles are bias cut, layered and tiered: the intention is to wear layers according to the climate and occasion. Silk camisoles; hand-quilted silk skirts; smocked blouses and crinkly ballet wraps; 1930s style 'wash' frocks and glamorous, belted dresses are supplemented each season with directional pieces. SULA garments are made in Vietnam, where the silk is woven and dyed. Many items are embellished with hand-crafted detailing such as understated, yet ornate, hand stitching.
After taking a fine art degree, Alison drifted into waitressing: the years passed by and it was not until she endured a leg injury in a car crash that she made life-changing decisions. In 1996 she had travelled through Vietnam where she was overwhelmed by the colour and sheer beauty of the silks. She had adored fabrics and sewing since she was a child and, in 1997, using her hard saved wages, she took the plunge and returned to Vietnam with a few sketched designs. After finding somewhere cheap to stay, she asked four tailors to make up a garment, the best was invited to make a small sample collection…
To read this article by Amy de la Haye in full, order your digital copy of Selvedge issue 29 here.