Interview with Elizabeth Emanuel on creativity and inspiration

In 2014, my company Grain Creative worked with Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer, Elizabeth Emanuel, when she was launching her new brand, Art of Being. Elizabeth kindly agreed to an interview for Design & a Dog on her inspiration and creative drive.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
You can take ordinary photographs, but then by processing them, you come up with extraordinary effects. That’s fun – I like doing that – it’s just coming across stuff. I can’t really plan it. I came across on Pinterest some pictures of beautiful calligraphy and that got me thinking about wanting to learn it. I’ve always been into fonts, different fonts. That’s what I like collecting: fonts. That’s my big thing at the moment. Not necessarily for actually writing, but as a design, as a graphic device. There are some beautiful things around. You can express things with the fonts you use: it can be very delicate, or it can look very grungy. All of that adds tone to what I am doing. It’s all tied up with the designs of my dresses. I work in the same way, which is in layers, adding layers to things. That translates into the clothing designs that I do, the graphics that I do. It’s about balance and colours. I suppose it’s the same kind of effects I use throughout all my work.

Do you find inspiration outside the creative world?
I could be looking at a painting and be inspired by the effects. I’m inspired by the natural world. Through graphics, making beautiful graphic elements. A lot of it comes down to the graphics, even doing embroidery, because you’ve got to lay it all out beautifully and it’s got to look good. I like things which have got a story to tell. It’s difficult to actually seek it out. You usually just come across it if you’re in that frame of mind, or if you’re working in a certain way: you’re attracted to things that fit into that scheme.

How do you balance your personal life with your working life?
It’s one and the same. I find it really therapeutic: it’s part of who I am. I love playing around with concepts. It’s a really nice feeling when you can really get into something and you can concentrate and it comes out as you want it to come out.

Are there certain times of day when you work best?
I suppose I’m more of a day person than a night person but sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and then I have to write it down somewhere. I’ll always forget, I’ll say, “Oh I won’t forget this – I’ll go back to sleep,” but I always forget. I have to keep a notebook by the bed so that I can write things down. I think it’s just a way of working. It’s quite fluid and in layers.

When we worked together, I was impressed how you have a drive to constantly create things – it seems really authentic and deep-rooted.
The only time I’m happy, really happy, is when I’m doing stuff like that. It’s just so satisfying, when you come up with something and you know it works. You can’t even say why something works, and it might not work for everybody, but with me to feel, “that seems to work,” is a really nice feeling. It’s fun, trying to express yourself in different ways. It’s all part of the same process, whether it’s dresses, or books, or anything really. Fashion is art. Everything is an art form, expression. I have my own way of doing things.