Hand-drawn silk scarves featuring kittens riding unicorns, flying pigs, corgis and crowns – print designer Vicki Murdoch’s trippy, pretty designs were discovered by London department store Liberty last year and the range is rapidly growing to adorn clothing and homeware. Wonderland talks to the Scottish designer about caravans, Diana Vreeland and cats…
You started out in the fashion industry as a model – how did you come to be a print designer?
I’ve always drawn since I was tiny. Then, when I was travelling the world as a lonely model, I took a journal with me and filled it with sketches. I enjoyed the modelling lifestyle for a while, but I was never really that into it and never really that good at it. So when I made some friends from art school I ditched modelling full-time to pursue that. I much preferred art school to the Chinawhite party scene that typified the modelling world at the time.
How did animal and botanical prints come to be the defining motif of your designs so far?
I’ve always been inspired by nature. Growing up in Scotland, we used to holiday in our caravan along the west coast. I dreamt of one day owning my own caravan and realised my dream when I purchased a 1960s Cheltenham to contain my final degree piece for Chelsea Art School. This is where my obsession for cats broke out. My degree piece was called ‘The Catavan’ with over 30 design prints dedicated to cats. Not an inch was left bare. It was so much fun to create, but sadly my Catavan was stolen from outside my Hackney studio…
How are the scarves produced?
Well, the process starts with my drawings. I normally use pen rather than pencil for a stronger line. I then manipulate the drawings on Photoshop and Illustrator, adding colour and positioning the images in a design I’m excited about. The designs are then sent to be digitally printed here in the UK and are finished in east London, and I collect the samples on my bike to save on postage!
Who are your inspirations?
I recently went to see ‘The Eye Has To Travel’, about Diana Vreeland’s life. Wow. She’s amazing! I don’t think I want to be like her, but she is fascinating to watch and to listen to. I would love to be able to talk that slowly and precisely and rule every room.
Silk scarves can carry connotations of older women, or a bygone era. How do you like to see your products worn today?
I’m obsessed with the 1970s, everyone wore a scarf back then. I own a magnificent book from that decade called ‘The Naughty Look’, that shows hundreds of ways of using a scarf, most of which are pretty awful. But I like that a scarf has so many uses. A perfect silk square where you can display your personal take on life. I’ve framed a few, and I wear them on my head or round my neck. I think everyone should own a scarf.
The scarves come with a poem each and have witty names – is a sense of humour important to your designs?
There were parts of the fashion industry I was happy to opt out of when I stopped modelling. I think when people take themselves too seriously they can become a little boring and shallow. I didn’t really want to go back into that world again, but here I am on the other side. I want to design and create objects that make people smile, and a kitten riding a unicorn on a sea of tie-dye makes me smile.
You can purchase Silken Favours scarves from Liberty or from www.silkenfavours.com.
Words: Olivia Gagan