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In The Hothouse with Lorraine Acornley

In The Hothouse
with Lorraine Acornley

In The Hothouse… this month is Begg x Co’s Creative Director Lorraine Acornley. We have collaborated with the Scottish knitwear brand on a wild meadow installation currently on display at their London store.

For this edition of our monthly interview series, we find out about Lorraine’s love of cashmere, ceramics and seasonal flowers and we get the inside track on the inspirations behind her latest designs for Begg x Co.

The Mens Filigree Clan Stewart Tartan Cashmere Scarf from the latest Begg x Co collection, photographed by Robbie Lawrence.

Do you have a favourite flower and why?

It depends on the season, but snakeshead fritillary are up there in Spring. Charles Rennie Mackintosh painted the most beautiful watercolour, which is where I discovered them, I then sought them out in the wild.

How do you like to display flowers around the home?

I adore flowers and always have some in the house. I have various vases and ceramic pots dotted around so, even if it’s a single stem from the garden or a simple magnolia branch, there’s always a place for them whether it’s in the hallway, the snug, the lounge or the kitchen and there’s always a little bud vase in the bathrooms.

Do you have a favourite vase and what’s the story behind it?

My favourites are my ceramic head vases by the artist/illustrator and my good friend John Booth. They are funny and cheerful and take on different personalities depending on what flowers adorn them. They also look just as wonderful sitting empty on a shelf.

Is there a connection between flowers and your creative process?

I most definitely look to flora and fauna at the start of each season. Often colour palettes found in the natural world feed into our collections.

The Begg x Co HQ is located on the west coast of Scotland in a town called Ayr, where we have the sea and rural landscapes with cinematic skies right on our doorstep. This contrasts beautifully with the more brutal urban architecture surrounding the mill and this paradox never fails to inspire us.

We have also been looking at beautifully muted, flower-dyed cashmere shades in our spinners’ collections for a few seasons now, so watch this space!

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s watercolour of fritillaria from 1915.
One of artist John Booth’s characterful head vases.

What’s the most memorable occasion that you were given flowers and how did it make you feel?

Any flowers given at any time are fine with me! My daughter Elke picked up a fallen branch of cherry blossom in the park last week and brought it home. For me, it’s the thought and the simple gesture that’s really touching.

 

What flowers do you like to gift? Do you have a signature bouquet?

Right now, I would gift a cheerful bunch of tulips, otherwise a hand-tied bunch of white roses or even a simple bunch of peonies from the garden.

“I most look to flora and fauna at the start of each season. Often colour palettes found in the natural world feed into our collections.”

LORRAINE ACORNLEY

Tell us about how you got to this point in your career and perhaps some of the key learnings you’ve picked up along the way?

I studied Printed & Knitted Textiles at Glasgow School of Art and then moved to London to study for an MA at The Royal College of Art. It’s so important to love what you do as a person working in the creative world. The fashion industry is hard graft. You don’t really switch off and your work becomes a way of life.
 
Knitwear was my specialism with cashmere and noble fibres being my preferred medium. My first job was in Italy with Alberta Ferretti and then I was Knitwear Designer at Joseph working across men’s and women’s for twelve years.  I continue to work with Joseph co-founder Isabel Ettedgui on the knitwear for Connolly alongside my role as Creative Director at Begg x Co.
 
I think it’s important to always feel you continue to learn with your work. I’m still constantly learning after 23 years in the industry. I feel so lucky to work on exciting projects with great people and I love what I do. The cross pollination of creative ideas from all the amazing people I get to work with is continually inspiring and I love working with creatives across different areas of specialism.

“I think it’s important to continue to learn with your work. I’m still learning after 23 years in the industry. I feel so lucky to work on exciting projects with great people and I love what I do.”

LORRAINE ACORNLEY

Name a favourite or particularly memorable collection or a piece that you have designed and why it stands out?

Two things really stand out for me. One is the blanket and scarf collaborations we’ve done with John Booth + Begg x Co – they are fantastic. I love everything about them from the design, the handle and the colours to the whipstitch detailing and the technical wizardry involved. We produce them in small, limited runs and they have become rather collectable.
 
I also loved collaborating with Penny Martin and The Gentlewoman which culminated in a great travel blanket that we launched at an event at The Fife Arms in Braemar, Scotland (pre-Covid ). It was beautifully crafted in an intimate blend of silk and cashmere and exquisitely jacquarded with typographic details from the magazine.
 
A detail of a Begg x Co blanket designed in collaboration with John Booth.
The touring blanket born out of a partnership between Lorraine and Penny Martin of The Gentlewoman.

Tell us about the current Begg x Co. collection and the inspirations behind it.

The spring/summer 2021 collection is very special because it was designed remotely by our small but mighty team during Lockdown Part One. It’s called METAMORPHOSIS and is inspired by the beauty of evolution in the natural world.

We were talking a lot about the ways we had to adapt, respond, reset, re-evaluate and recalibrate. Our busy lives narrowed and our worlds shrank.  Having had more time to appreciate the small things, we were inspired by everyday beauty in the natural world, how our gardens changed through the seasons and the different local wildlife and insects that visit. We named the drops within the collection Admiral, Moth, Bedlam and Common Blue – each one a nod to native butterflies.

The current collection is a celebration of our craft; weaving the most beautiful sustainable cashmere and blended accessories and knitwear. Our pop-up shop ( 177 Draycott Avenue, London SW3 3AJ) is the perfect place to go and experience the handle and detailing that you can’t fully appreciate online. It’s also where our collaborative installation by Paul Thomas will be on display until mid-June. 

 

What have you been doing to keep busy during lockdown? 

I am very lucky to have been kept incredibly busy with work. In fact, I do not remember ever being busier! I have tried to make sure I leave the house every day and having to walk the dog is good for that. Having quiet moments to reflect is incredibly important to keep perspective. 

We are also in the process of preparing our garden at home in Hertfordshire for a new studio, so we have been busy moving and replanting the shrubs so that it can sit in its new habitat and bed in nicely.

What are your main takeaways from everything that’s happened over the past year?

I think no matter where you live, a new sense of community has emerged. It’s important to be positive and optimistic and to surround yourself with friends and family who lift your spirits.  It’s also ok to have an off day or feel a little flat. Both flowers and the garden are good for cheering yourself up on those days.

“It’s important to be positive and optimistic and to surround yourself with friends and family who lift your spirits.  It’s also ok to have an off day or feel a little flat. Both flowers and the garden are good for cheering yourself up on those days.”

LORRAINE ACORNLEY

What are your top tips for flowers when entertaining at home (post lock-down, of course!)? 

A simple bunch cut from the garden in a low vase and some candles on a table works for me.

Outside, I love colourful pots of seasonal plants dotted around the patio, softening the lounge area.

I’m also a sucker for a string of fairy lights (I think family visits to Peasholm Park in Scarborough as a child circa 1979 have had a lasting effect!). I love gardens lit up at night, they become so magical. We recently installed some lighting in the garden under the bigger trees and shrubs.

Add a roaring fire pit, a Begg x Co blanket, some good friends and nice wine and what more do you need?

Photographs of flowers taken by Lorraine during lockdown.

Quick fire questions:

White or colourful flowers? 

White.

Neat or wild arrangements? 

Wild.

Petty, dainty flowers or big, showy blooms? 

Pretty, dainty flowers.

Three words to describe your style? 

Simple, natural, considered.

Name your favourite piece from the current Begg x Co ? 

I love our Wispy Viewfield print. It’s a playful take on a postcard from Scotland in cashmere.

What are your favourite bouquets from our Spring Collection? 

I adore The Austin. The simple green and white palette is super chic

 
The Wispy Viewfield from the Begg x Co METAMORPHOSIS collection.
The Austen; Lorraine’s bouquet of choice from the Paul Thomas Summer Collection.
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