I moved to Spain last year straight after I finished my Masters in Design. Since then I’ve been finding my feet in a new country, learning the language, adapting to a different culture and exploring different avenues of work. Apart from continuing to freelance remotely on a knitwear design project, I’ve also been able to continue teaching yoga and I’ve set up a design studio space in Poise.
Poise is a studio space that offers dance, yoga, health and English classes. This is where I teach yoga (in English!) and now I’ve taken over a corner of the space to set up my design studio. When I moved in a few months ago I chatted with Abby (the co-founder of the space) about yoga, design, fashion, sustainability and life in Pamplona…
Abby: Kate, what brought you to Pamplona in the first place? I have a feeling your story will be a fun one.
Kate: Love! First I fell in love with Swing dancing and then I fell in love with a Swing dancer! I was living in Bristol at the time, so after a period of long distance I moved to Pamplona to be with him. I still get to dance here, because my boyfriend is the co-founder of Big Kick, a Swing Dance Studio. They also teach at Poise, so all of my passions, dancing, yoga and design are coming together under one roof.
A: Isn’t it wonderful how things work out like that? And it makes me so happy that you’ve been able to combine your passions under our roof! So how did you come to be a knitted textile designer?
K: I’ve always been creative and I started playing around with textiles and making my own clothes when I was a teenager. I didn’t really discover and become passionate about knitting until I left high school. I vaguely remember trying to hand knit something as a child, but I think there were more holes than stitches! Ha! I improved my skills at University where I studied Fashion Design and specialised in Knitwear. After graduating I was offered a job in New York as a Knitwear Designer, which I couldn’t say no to. I moved there thinking I would stay for 18 months, but it turned into 5 years! It was a fantastic experience where I learnt a lot, but it was also very hard work and I missed my family, so in the end I moved back to England. I worked in London for a while and then moved to Bristol to study for a Masters where I went even deeper into the knitted textiles world, but this time I focused on interiors, rather than fashion.
A: I love hearing the stories of people who found their passion at a young age. I too was fascinated with fashion and interior design as a kid, but I never saw myself as a designer. I was more into the reporting side – the writing about and showcasing of the work. And between interiors and clothing design, do you have a preference? Which area do you find more challenging?
K: My preference is always switching. Sometimes I like the challenge of garment construction and creating something that people want to wear, and other times I like to focus more on the fabric itself and develop patterns and textural surfaces. Both are equally challenging, but in different ways.
A: What is your process? Do you have strokes of genius in the middle of the night or work with a diligent schedule? What’s your favorite part of creating a piece?
K: I always start a new project with research and drawing. I’m usually full of ideas and I find it hard to edit down and focus on one, so the beginning is challenging. Once I get into it I often become very absorbed in my work and find it hard to stop. When everything is flowing and the designs are coming together, that’s my favourite part! I’m a bit of a workaholic, and for the last few years I’ve worked from home, so there has been no getting away from it. That’s why I’m really excited about having my own design space, so I can have more of a routine and create a divide between work and home life.
A: Isn’t the “flow” part the best?! I love it when you’re working on something and time ceases to exist. And on the business side of things, what could you tell us about the fashion industry becoming more sustainable and ethical in its practices? Do you think real change is happening or are we stuck with the new fast-fashion cycle?
K: One of the reasons I am not working for big fast-fashion companies anymore is because I felt uncomfortable with being part of an unsustainable future. It’s also a reason why I was drawn to interiors, because there is more of an opportunity to design things that last. The life cycle of clothing is so short now, but we can’t always blame the fashion companies, because the consumers are equally responsible, they create the demand and the brands meet that. To really see change and a move away from fast-fashion, I believe it comes down to individuals being conscious about what they buy. We should be questioning where things come from and buying less, but better quality and making it last. There are a lot of small businesses that are trying to do things differently and addressing sustainability and ethics. I hope that the fashion industry will move towards a more sustainable future, but consumers need to start supporting that.
A: I couldn’t agree more. In Pamplona there are several small shops doing amazingly high quality work right here in their own studios. It’s exciting to see them thriving. And joining your passions now, how does teaching Yoga help with your design process?
K: Teaching yoga has meant studying yoga and having a consistent personal practice. This has helped me to find more balance in my life and design work. If I skip a few days of yoga I really notice it in my mind and body. Practicing regularly reminds me to live in the moment and I feel more creative, relaxed and patient. And believe me, knitting requires patience!
A: Tell me about it! I’m still trying to knit my son’s baby blanket and he turned 4 this summer! Ha. I don’t think I have what it takes. Maybe I’ll have it done by the time he goes off to University. And how’s the Spanish coming along?
K: I think learning Spanish is going to require more patience than knitting! Ha! I moved here 6 months ago and I could only say a few basic words. Now I can string a few words together to make a short sentence, so I suppose there’s been a little bit of progress, but not much. I’ve never learnt another language, so it’s a new process and very slow. I need to increase my confidence, so I’ll have to start practicing with everyone who comes through the door at Poise!
A: It will be excellent practise! I’m sure some people will mistake you for me, being another female native English speaker, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities. One last question, what is your favorite thing about Pamplona so far? As resident “guiris” (foreigners), we must be prepared for this question at all times!
K: I’ve moved around and lived in quite a lot of different places. In the past I’ve been really drawn to big cities, but I’m actually appreciating the qualities of a smaller place. Everything is a lot more convenient, a bit cheaper and the pace of life isn’t as crazy. I also like that it’s a green city with lots of parks and it’s not far from the mountains and the coast. If I could change anything, it would have to be about transportation. I wish there was a quick easy way to get to an international airport. Pamplona is great, but sometimes I want to go home!
A: I agree. Pamplona is a very liveable city and is truly a mix of city activity and the relaxation of nature. I also find it to be an easy place to raise a family, full of life and activities for families. Well, thank you, Kate, for letting me pry a bit into your creative life and sharing it on the Poise blog. Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the Poise Community?
K: I can’t wait to start spending more time at Poise, designing, teaching yoga and swing dancing. If you see me around, please say hello, or hola, and we can try and chat in Spanglish!
A: Well, we are incredibly happy to have you here! It’s so rewarding to see Poise grow and evolve to include more diversity of creativity in our space.