SUIT YOURSELF INTERVIEWS DESIGNER AND SHIRT MAKER
Lisa Stanley is fast becoming one of the UK's most exciting designer / shirt makers, her nod towards the Ivy league look has had cool modernists flock to buy and be seen in one of her creations, hailing from Birmingham Lisa's designs are taking the Mod world by storm, in this exclusive interview we find out what lies beneath the needlework of this emerging tailored icon, her clothing influences, her love of the scene and where our readers can buy one of her dazzling creations.
Hi Lisa, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and how you became a seamstress.
Hello Cris, I'm Lisa as you know, I was born in Birmingham in the early 90s. I probably first began making 'clothes' in the late 90s for my Barbie dolls and from then on I was always making or creating something. In 2010 I ended up studying fashion design at the University of Central Lancashire; having always been a keen sewer and with a love of heritage menswear, that was the best path for me to follow at the time. I found a course where there was a lot of making involved rather than just designing and it was here where I honed my skills in clothes making; I spent a while on placement at a fashion house, which was a great experience. I was able to toile up designs that were going to be put out on the catwalk. It was probably thanks to the placement that I realised the avenue i'd eventually want to go down with my career. After university I got a job doing alterations at a dry cleaner and then started to take on shirt orders, I left the job in 2017 to work for myself full time.
Can you tell us about your early attempts at design/tailoring
The first shirt I ever made was for my brother back in 2010, I'd just finished my first semester at university and decided with some new found skills i'd make him a shirt. It was a green check button down and the collar buttons were wonky and the locker loop abnormally large but at the time I was over the moon with my first attempt. Before that, I'd only ever really made myself a few dresses and altered a few bits here and there. The second shirt I made was a popover, again for my brother, he was desperate for one at the time and apart from John Simons struggled to find them, this popover paved the way to my first few shirt orders.
How did your connection with the Mod/Modernist scene come about?
I've been around on the Birmingham scene since 2008. My dad is a massive fan of The Who and in my early teens I started listening to The Who, he was always more 70s who and left to my own devices I discovered more of their early stuff and then other bands like The Small Faces and The Kinks and then on to R&B and the Mod scene in general. This is where my love of clothes and the mod scene started, having an older brother who is also into the scene was a bonus too as he'd let me tag along and go to things with him. I bought my first scooter at 16, a 50 special, and started to attend local ride outs. We'd have a lot of the mod revival bands playing in Brum around then too and there was always something going on. Hipshaker on the Isle of Wight was probably my first introduction to a proper Mod do, before that, I had only really attended scooter dos and a few gigs, from there I started to travel to other Mod do's up and down the country.
Why did you decide to concentrate on the heritage style of design instead of more contemporary work?
I suppose it was accidental in a way; I started making shirts for myself, friends and family and then through uploading pictures onto Instagram and Facebook got other inquiries and it's organically grown from there. The majority of my clients are from the mod and skinhead scenes so a lot of what I make typically has a nod towards heritage styles.
You are fast becoming the go-to person for hand made shirts in the UK, can you tell us about your influences and inspirations.
8/9 years ago my influences were purely mod, Mods! by Richard Barnes was my bible and i'd only ever wear John Smedleys and trousers or a shirt with a pinafore dress.
Nowadays I'm still influenced by the mod scene but my tastes are a lot broader and include a lot of Americana, I love everything from western wear to west coast hip hop. I’m mostly inspired by places I’ve visited and I love things that have a history and identity behind them!
Can you tell us about your design process, how you go from fabric to form?
The design process varies for every individual, some start with a cloth in mind and others an idea of a shirt they'd like. There are always more details to consider with shirts than you'd initially think. I have cloth books which shirting can be selected from, from a few different suppliers based in the UK and Europe. Design details from collars to cuffs, locker loops and pockets are discussed and if its something I've not done before I'll always experiment to see if it works.
Once cloth and details are selected the shirt is ready to be made, I start with a basic block with a standard chest and collar measurement but then I tweak the pattern block for every individual's measurements as no two people are the same.
The whole process from start to finish is done by me.
Some people bring you their own fabric, can this be more challenging/exciting?
It can be exciting to work with a client's own fabric. I once made a shirt out of fabric the client had bought while on holiday in India, they'd had it a year or so but was just looking for a shirt maker to turn it into a shirt. Its exciting knowing there will most likely only ever be one shirt like that, in Europe at least. But the nerve-wracking part is then cutting the cloth and even worse was putting the shirt in the post to Italy where they live. I also recently made a shirt out of fabric that had been purchased in the 80s, it's nice to know that some of these shirts are definite one-offs.
Can you tell us about some particular pieces you are proud of?
I'm most proud of the first shirt I ever sold, it was a classic blue oxford cloth popover.
One of my favourites is an Elvis replica shirt I made, Its a velvet pleated popover with bishop sleeves. Trying to sew a popover placket in velvet is definitely not an easy task but after a lot of tacking and patience I managed it, it was also completely different to anything I'd ever made and being an Elvis fan it was nice to recreate some of his clothes.
I also made myself a shirt inspired by one that Roger Daltrey wore, it was the shirt I’d always wanted as a 16-year-old, so being able to make something like that for myself is pretty cool. But what makes me most proud though is seeing shirts I've made out and about.
If you could have been the first to design one iconic piece of clothing which one would it be?
Hard question, probably the Wolf Fleece, I'd have my work sold on every market and worn on local high streets and Wetherspoons across the UK.
Have you had and surprise celebrity customers?
Not yet, I'm working on it! I've been lucky enough to make shirts for people who I respect within the scene and I think are cool!
Katy Stevens has become a legend within the British Mod culture for her shirt tailoring in the ’80s, you are becoming iconic yourself, how does it feel?
It doesn't feel quite right to be called iconic but doing what I do is definitely exciting.
You don’t just make shirts, can you tell us a little about some of your other creations.
I've made wedding dresses and prom dresses in the past but I always come back menswear, the cloth in menswear is usually a lot friendlier to work with. I make most things but I stay away from smart jackets and trousers, I've made the odd one or two but since I'm not trained in tailoring I don't take orders for those items. Casual jackets such as windbreakers and Harrington's are not a problem and I enjoy a challenge and making something different to my usual. One of my favourite things to make are bucket hats, if I've got cloth left over from something I've been working on it tends to end up as a bucket hat.
What advise would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Don't doubt your abilities! Something I do more than I should, I still feel as though I'm starting out myself so not sure how much advise i can give.
Where can our readers find out more information on your brand?
I have a website www.lisastanley.co.uk, my social media pages are more regularly updated with pictures of shirts I have been making and they can be found under Lisa Stanley Birmingham on both Instagram and Facebook.
For shirt enquiries, the best thing to do is contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does the future hold for Lisa Stanley?
I’ve got quite an exciting year ahead so far, I’m going to be at Riviera Touch in South Shields this July, I’ll be at Pow Wow in Sheffield too this August not with a stall but if anyone wants a chat my cloth books will be close by.
This October I’m heading to Lavarone in Italy for the All Saints Mod Holiday to take part in the Art Showcase. I’m really looking forward to that as it’s a great weekend. In the meantime, I’ll be glued to my sewing machine making shirts and other garments.