In conversation with Adam Jones
Shauna Knapman sits down with rising designer Adam Jones to discuss his journey into the industry, his creative inspiration and plans for the future.
Nope, you’ve not entered the local pub, you’ve stepped into the world of Adam Jones, the Welsh designer who is renowned for transforming beer-soaked bar mats to old pub tapestries into unique, wearable garms.
S K: Thank you so much for speaking with me today, it's so lovely to speak to a fellow Welsh creative. Firstly I wanted to ask how you’ve been coping in lockdown and how has your day to day been affected due to the pandemic?
A J: I was furloughed at the beginning of lockdown so effectively I was just being paid to do what I love. I just cracked on and focused my time on making, but I have recently moved into a Studio which is a nice change from having my three industrial machines squashed in the corner of my one-bedroom flat haha.
S K: Was it always a goal of yours to own a studio?
A J: Definitely, it was just cost I guess that stopped me - when I lived in Wales I had a studio space which was £60 a month but down here in London it's just so expensive. I focused on making loads of stock and luckily in lockdown people kept buying so I was able to make enough money to get a studio.
S K: Where would you say your fashion journey began? As I know myself, being from Wales, the struggle it can be to break into the creative industry.
A J: South Wales I feel is a little more openminded, you have a city with a few more opportunities whereas North Wales is a lot more countryside and you don’t want to stick out, you just want to fit in - everyone's the same. I remember non school uniform day was a chance to express yourself and I'd dress up crazy to gain attention. I guess that was my first experience with fashion. In school, I didn’t do textiles or anything because it just wasn’t the done thing. I left High school in 2006 but back then everything was frowned upon, you just did everything you could to fit in. So I kind of did everything creative on the sly with my Grandma, she’d get me drawing, show me her old clothes and I’d dress up in her things, but it was all very much behind closed doors I guess.
S K: It's so lovely that you had that connection with her and you felt you could be whoever you wanted to be around her.
A J: Yeah she was the only person I knew that was creative like me, she was an artist, so she’d be painting and showing me old films, she was the only person who I felt, thought the way I did.
My parents wanted me to do Art History, English and French so I signed up to all of them but the day before, I was just like right that's it, I’m going to do fashion instead. So the night before college started I signed up to the fashion course and spent two years there and it was amazing. I’d say that's where I learnt everything rather than at uni tbh. I then took a year out before studying fashion design at the Manchester School of Art.
S K: So how would you say growing up in Wales influenced your creative process?
A J: Growing up, it's not like we were poor but we weren’t spoilt, we were always making. There was always a making box in the house, filled with cardboard tubes and things, it was about making use of found things around you. We would always go to the car boot sale every Sunday, we’d have our £3 pocket money and just rummage around in peoples old things. We didn’t have shops like Topshop or whatnot so it was all about going out and making do with whatever you could find. I definitely think that influenced my creative design process, not at the beginning of University though. When I was unleashed into the city I had my student loan and was surrounded by all these fabric shops and I kinda went a bit mad. My first few projects were all a bit glam and gross haha but in the third year I reverted to how I used to be, I found my niche after being distracted by the bright lights of the big city and found my way back to my roots.
S K: What are you passionate about?
A J: Oh gosh you can't say fashion can you, haha, passion for fashion, umm I mean the thing that makes me happy is just making things, making with my hands like you're a kid again. Yeh, that's what I’m passionate about, old school making.
S K: We are no strangers to the damaging effects the fashion industry has on the environment, how do you feel the industry needs to change moving forward?
A J: I think it just needs to slow down, it doesn’t need to be as scheduled. I always say, make what you can, when you can, deliver it when you’re ready and in as much quantity as you like. I only make one of everything and just replace it when it sells out, I think working more like that. It just needs to go back to the beginning again, do what you want, when you want, when you’re ready, I enjoy just making one of one and if people have to wait like a week, a month that should be fine. People need to just appreciate things that have been made, there's more value to it.
S K: I agree it's so important for people to just appreciate clothing again, it a lot more authentic and is a must to get rid of this throwaway fashion mentality.
A J: Yeh totally. I don't wanna sound cringe but customisation, if someone brought me something and said “do something with this” I’d love that challenge. People could take things to these young designers and say, do something with this, there's just so much we could do.
S K: I think you’re on to something there, you should start up an up-cycling scheme haha.
A J: Yeah not like in a cringe way when you take something to your aunt or something and she puts a patch on it, haha, but I think more elevated customisation. People need to be more open, not like you need to present this collection on this date, this time.
S K: With sustainability becoming a bit of a buzz word, what does the term mean to you and how does it impact you as a designer?
A J: I’ve always said sustainability comes second to me, I’ve always been sustainable just by accident, kinda without realising. Just because of the things I use and enjoy using - yes I’m sustainable, but I didn’t ever really set out to be.
S K: Do you think as a smaller designer there’s more pressure to be eco-conscious/sustainable? - with many bigger fashion giants claiming to be more aware, and how do you think greenwashing plays a role in this?
A J: I think there's defiantly more pressure, people think with these big brands it's a bit too late for them now and question will they ever change, they are already established, people love them and will just keep buying from them but with young designers, they are the ones that can create change. Get to them while they're young and make sure they are doing it now before they become huge. So yeh I think the pressures good.
S K: Obviously the British pub culture is a huge influence within your work but would you say that's your main inspiration behind your designs?
A J: It was kinda something I stumbled into and now I feel that's just what everyone knows me as, which can be annoying but I guess I don’t help myself haha, I keep doing it, but yeh that's very much me. It started with me wanting graphics/text in my work and like I’ve said before I’m shit on the computer so I just found it elsewhere. I discovered all the graphics and text on the beer towels and things at the pub and was like, this could work and with them being so old and in the public domain, nobody owns it and there's no copyright attached to them so it worked out perfectly.
S K: I’ve read in an interview that you call your aesthetic ‘a British take on Wabi- Sabi’ can you expand on this and explain how this take on the Japanese aesthetic is a driver in your design process?
A J: It was something I read about whilst doing my dissertation and thought okay this is very me but in my own way. For the Japanese it's like appreciating a crack in a wall or the beauty of a rock, so seeing the beauty in things people usually wouldn’t. Its usually quite clean and more about nature and not man-made things. Whereas my take on it is like looking at a crushed beer can and taking the beauty from that, a British version.
S K: Would you say you’re proud to be British/ Welsh?
A J: There were many frustrating things that came with growing up in Wales, and I couldn’t wait to leave but as I got older I began to miss it and I appreciate where I came from. I felt a little held back living in North Wales because we were told not to speak English and could only speak Welsh in school which really frustrated me but I do look back on it fondly.
S K: Do you think the way we as a nation are dealing with the pandemic will change British culture or bring a shift/ divide between countries?
A J: It's really weird isn’t it, Westminster has the final say whereas they have no real idea what’s going on in Wales and Scotland. It's odd because a few months ago it felt like we were all together again but now it's like we’re all separated and it’s all really negative, people are becoming frustrated with London and that's not what we want. At the end of the day, it's frustrating and I’m fed up but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do and I can still go to the pub so it's okay haha.
S K: Goals for the future?
A J: I’d love to go into home-wear, with very small runs, similar to the clothes so they are very special items, I’d also love to get into ceramics or jewellery.
S K: That’s super interesting, so you’re definitely into making anything, rather than just focusing on fashion?
A J: Yeah, 100 percent I see myself as a maker, I’d never want to design a collection and then just send it off for someone else to make, I don’t see the joy in that, to me, it's all about making something then being proud of it in the end. - I wish people respected the art of making, because not many designers make there own clothing, which is bizarre.
S K: How can people order something from you? And any exciting plans for the future?
A J: I'm stocked at 50-m, but people can just Dm me as well, I like that connection with the customers because I get to interact and chat with them, it’s a lot more personal. I'm going to be stocked in some stores in New York, Korea and France which is super fun, so we’ll see where that goes.
Adam’s approach to the industry offers hope - his emphasis that young designers can make a change within the industry allows us to envision a new way of moving forward. From consumers to companies, we all need to change the way we value clothing. Adams view that the process of making clothing should be appreciated again is a take we should all approach. In the 21st century, we are consumed by clothing, this idea that we can have whatever we want within the few clicks of a button is something we have grown accustom to, however, if we are to tackle the extreme amounts of clothing waste and the damage the fashion industry has on the environment, we must change. We need to fall in love with clothing again, be appreciative of the process and be patient. The view Adam takes as a designer is unique, creative and inspiring. From his hands-on approach to old school making, Adam is inviting all of us to change the way we view clothing.
Words by Shauna Knapman