Vikki Lafford Garside is a wearable art and accessories designer working out of her studio in a grade II listed, converted brewery in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
Growing up in the Cotswolds, Vikki was surrounded by beautiful, rolling countryside that has inspired centuries of artists and craftspeople. Vikki’s early introduction to embroidery was through a Primary School project at Kelmscott Manor, home of William Morris. The use of colours, textures and embellishments captivated Vikki and set her on a life-long journey into the world of embroidery.
Vikki’s first contact with the world of fashion was as a young child, through her grandparents who worked for Sir Hardy Amies, dress maker for Queen Elizabeth. Vikki’s early interest in fashion and embroidery evolved in parallel with her interest in nature and faery folklore and she went on to study Art at college in Cheltenham, then an Embroidery Degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. Following her degree, Vikki worked for several years as an embroidery designer and digitiser, where she developed the technical skills of computerised embroidery digitising. Working in the ‘real’ world of industry was a shock at first, but Vikki embraced the challenge and relished learning technical skills.
Driven by a desire to combine creativity with the technical skills she had developed in industry, Vikki returned to university in 2006 to complete a Master’s degree in Textile Design at the prestigious Chelsea College of Art in London. Vikki’s beautiful creations featured intricate embroidery, print, dye and hand crafted embellishments and represented old versions of popular fairy tales.
Upon graduating, Vikki initially worked out of a shared studio in Kew, opposite the beautiful Kew Gardens. There she began to build a collection of stunning, unique and colourful wedding dresses and her first range of wearable art accessories. There she also created the Woodland nymph dress which was awarded second place in a national textile art competition.
In 2009 Vikki returned to her native Cotswolds and set up a dedicated studio in the centre of Witney, a bustling market town famous for making blankets.
Vikki was invited to the board of the Oxfordshire Craft Guild and became increasingly well known locally for her unique and bespoke wedding dresses. Vikki’s brave techniques include spending hundreds of hours building and embroidering a wedding dress and then applying unique finishes including hand painting, sprayed on dyes and even precision burning hundreds of tiny holes to create the subtle effect of fairy like opulence.
Vikki has been commissioned to contribute to costumes at the Royal Ballet in London. Her work regularly features in newspapers and magazines, in the UK and overseas. In a project to take dress design to a new level, Vikki went on to win best designer at the British Art Couture Festival, with her stunningly elaborate and strikingly bold environmental protest dress “Ocean’s Last Gasp”.
Meanwhile, Vikki’s focus shifted towards developing new techniques for creating elaborate, detailed and enchanting fabric jewellery and accessories, inspired by the nature that Vikki sees around her along with her love of Art Nouveau and classical architectural details around her native Oxfordshire. The historical art of Soutache along with semi-precious stones started to feature in Vikki’s more formal classical jewellery.
Hand painting fabrics had always been part of Vikki’s wedding dress designs, complementing the detailed embroidery, artistic burning and hand stitched beadwork. Hand painted fabrics now became a trademark feature of Vikki’s hand crafted fabric accessories, leading to her stunning and iconic British Butterfly collection and followed by her Tropical Butterfly collection and British Birds collection.
Hand painting brought new depth to Vikki’s skeletal leaves and experimentation with mixed media techniques led to the creation of her oak leaf and acorn pendant necklace, earrings and brooch collections.
Inspired by scuba diving adventures with her husband John, Vikki brought out her first Ocean Collection, featuring sea horses and star fish, again incorporating her trademark detailed embroidery and hand painting.
Vikki’s range of unique fabric jewellery and fashionable accessories continues to grow, limited only by time. True to her ethos of hand crafting, Vikki continues to hand make her entire range from her Cotswolds Studio with the regular help of her mum and occasional help from other family and friends. A collection from the range is now available on line, along with over 50 galleries and boutique shops across the UK and a select number of overseas galleries. Vikki also attends numerous exhibitions and designer-maker events around the UK, where she loves to meet customers, chat about her work and collect suggestions for new designs.