Clothing Collection 010, 2018. Photo by Tom Johnson. Campaign image, The Painter top and The Tinker trouser

How Faye Toogood brought country life to the city

In creating her beautiful, diverse works, this London-based designer draws on a bucolic childhood

Faye Toogood might seem best suited to the city. After all, this British designer excels in a variety of big city disciplines, from sculpture to clothes, design and interiors. Yet as our new book Faye Toogood: Drawing, Material, Sculpture, Landscape, makes clear, Toogood’s earliest creative awakenings took place far from those madding, urban crowds.

“Faye was born in 1977 and raised with her sister Erica, in Rutland in the East Midlands of Britain,” states the text in the book. “Their parents instilled in them both a respect for the countryside and for the value of craft. Most evenings after work, their father would make pottery, while their mother cooked homemade dinners served in crockery that bore the imprint of her husband’s hands.”

This creative combination of craft and countryside clearly stayed with her. “Faye’s work reflects her idyllic childhood in rural England, rooted in nature and creative explorations with her family,” writes the American curator Sarah Schleuning in our new book. “The bleak, elemental landscape – a stark environment of windy, often sunless days – was a formative playscape for Faye and her sister Erica.”

Schleuning goes on to quote Toogood, who says, “We were just thrown outside most of the time and entertainment was about finding things. Picking up sticks and obsessively rearranging things, and then making something else out of them; or collecting white stones and then making a pattern out of those, and finding your creativity out of natural objects. That has definitely shaped the way I see things and the way I think,” she concludes. “Starting as a young person, that collecting of nature is a way of making sense of the world.”

You can see this careful curation of the natural world in her work. Assemblage 1, her studio’s first collection of furniture and design objects, included, among other things, a bag inspired by her father’s love of bird watching. “She sourced vintage leather binocular cases and adapted them with a gold lining, a travelcard pouch patched to the back of each case, and small circular vanity mirrors set into the interior of the lids,” explains our new book. “As much as the bag was created as a tribute to her father, it also speaks of how things change and how lives are renegotiated through objects.”

How Faye Toogood brought country life into the metropolis

Faye Toogood, House of Toogood, Redchurch Street, London, 2020. Portrait by Philip Sinden

It’s also present in her fashion designs, such as 2018’s Clothing Collection 010, which drew on the manmade landscape of allotments for inspiration; it’s there in her 2016 wallpaper designs for Calico, for which Toogood collaged and painted landscapes harking back to eighteenth-century hand-painted scenic wallpapers.

Squint, and you can also detect the countryside in her otherwise deeply cosmopolitan interior that she created for luxury leather-goods brand Mulberry’s flagship store in Regent Street back in 2018.

“The brief was to develop a contemporary interior with a richer and warmer atmosphere than is typically found in traditional retail environments,” reads the text in our new book. “Toogood was inspired by the painterly qualities of bucolic British landscapes and the robust geometric forms of Brutalism, developing a palette of materials and colours that ranged across both natural and artificial worlds, both hard and soft. It conjured a post-war pastoral of poured concrete, gestural abstract landscape paintings, fluted glass walls and English antiques.

“Wall coverings and bespoke tufted rugs featured hand-painted designs, made by the studio team to reflect the raw power of the Somerset landscape that surrounds the company’s headquarters,” the book goes on to explain., “while the exterior was clad in bespoke Mulberry Green glazed tiles.”

How Faye Toogood brought country life into the metropolis

Faye Toogood: Drawing, Material, Sculpture, Landscape

Shoppers might be in the heart of the city but, with Toogood’s help, they can, perhaps for a moment, get back to nature. To see all the projects mentioned here, as well as many more of Toogodd's multi-faceted designs and projects from all her practices, order a copy of Faye Toogood: Drawing, Material, Sculpture, Landscape here.