Getting to know Green Thomas May 30 2017
From his studies at The Glasgow School of Art to working in the industry and setting up in business, the lovely Alan Dibble of luxury knitwear venture Green Thomas has plenty of insight, and shares his design inspirations and top tips for running a successful brand.
The GSA Shop stocks products designed by students, staff and alumni of The Glasgow School of Art…Can you tell us a bit about your time studying at GSA?
I graduated from Printed and Knitted textiles in 1992 and my time at GSA continues to inspire and inform my creative approach to design. We probably didn't realise at the time the level of freedom we had to research and develop ideas based. CAD was very clunky and slow then so everything was worked up form sketches and through sampling. Having access to the studios and being surrounded by artists, architects and designers was exciting. Glasgow was full of energy in the arts, music and the city was going through a regeneration with a new found confidence that still exists today.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas for your designs?
Green Thomas are inspired by the heritage of the Scottish knitwear tradition. We then play with scale, pattern and colour to create something new. We create fashion accessories that complement contemporary outfits and create conversation.
Can you tell us a bit about the kind of processes and materials you use?
It all starts with a sketch. Next Green Thomas work with a small family run factory in the Scottish Borders who take our sketches and graphed up designs and translate them into knitting patterns. We aim to use only the best natural yarns such as merino lambswool and cashmere in our production. Special care is taken with the finish of products to get a soft and luxurious handfeel.
How long have you been trading for and what led you to start your business?
Green Thomas was founded in 2015, with my business partner Emma Green. We met during our MA at Central Saint Martins and founded our brand after working for other brands as designers for over 20 years. After getting together over a G&T we decided it was a good time to do something for ourselves that would be creatively fulfilling and allow us to run our own business.
What are the hurdles you face as a maker in starting and running your own business?
A wise man once said to me you need patience and persistence to start your own brand. Planning your time is key to make sure you spend time not only designing but also on sales, marketing, logistics and also keep on top of the books. It's not going to happen overnight but with a lot of persistence and a lot of patience it will.
And tell us about the high points that make it all worthwhile?
It’s always great to meet people who appreciate what you do and really exciting when you get that first sale, first retailer, first view of someone wearing what you do in the street. Our best moment so far was being approached to design an exclusive range for a Japanese retailer. They loved our work and wanted to support us launching in that market, it felt good to be appreciated.
What advice would you give to makers starting to design products for retail?
Focus on the making something unique and always concentrate on quality.
How are you finding the independent retail scene currently?
It’s an exciting time, there are more people beginning to create curated individual local boutiques. Apart from the few large quality retailers it seems that is the only place you can find new design now. Craft is cool again and the consumer is interested in the artists and designers behind the work.
How long have you been supplying us?
We’ve been supplying GSA shop for 2 seasons now. The team there are very supportive and have a great eye for something new. The shop is always beautifully merchandised, we've noticed an increase in sales on our website due to the exposure the GSA Shop has given us online and in the shop.
Give us a sneaky taste of things to come, what are your big or small plans for the future?
We are planning to launch a homeware range to sit alongside our fashion accessories and would love to collaborate with a ceramicist to develop a range of vases and plates.
What’s your favourite new material to work with or colour combination just now?
Anything yellow is inspiring at the moment. We’ve been looking back through old sketchbooks and want to start playing with print and knit also.
Which other designers or makers products impress you?
There are so many...Pam Hogg is always an inspiration with her approach, Humanoid in the Netherlands is a great brand and retailer and we love the jewellery of fellow GSA alumna Ruth Hollywood.