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Every once in a while a company comes to attention that is truly innovative; changing the way we think about materials, design, and manufacturing techniques. For cloth manufacturers Dashing Tweeds, innovation and experimentation are at the very heart and soul of the brand. Founder Guy Hills has a truly unequivocal passion for materials, British quality, and the idea of evolving materials for modern use. So much so, that he has physically chipped away at parts of London to make stunning fabrics with the city in mind. A true British eccentric, Guy has recently opened Dashing Tweeds’ first store within the midst of the infamous Savile Row tailors – and is certainly shaking things up. We talk adventure, aspirations and reflective yarns with the man himself, and find out what is behind the Dashing Tweeds ethos.
Guy Hills, image courtesy of Charles Gervais
Could you tell us a little about the history of the company?
About 10 years ago I met my business partner, Kirsty, when I went to the Royal College of Art to find someone to collaborate with in my artistic photography. I loved her style, and later found out she was a weaver and asked her to weave me a one off piece, for myself. Then I had another idea, and another, and here we are! The fabrics started to accumulate in by basement at home, and we started to market the brand, trading online through the website. We then put our cloth bunches into some of the tailors’ on Saville Row, and it grew organically from there, with us opening the shop in January this year.
Guy and Kirsty of Dashing Tweeds
After ten years working together, what is the best thing about working with Kirsty?
It’s great working with Kirsty, she knows so much about weaving, and it’s great to constantly be surprised by her ideas! I have a childlike fascination with everything. We think visually together, we have different reference points which come together to create something brand new. There are many others involved in Dashing Tweeds though - to open even a tiny shop like this one, there needs to be a huge pyramid of people behind it, so researching and establishing the supply chain is really important. The shop is simply the tip of the pyramid!
Chair covered with New Wave, with cushion in Red Raver, Green Sergeant, Centre Point and BT Tower
So, Dashing Tweeds – what is behind the brand name?
The name Dashing Tweeds takes the ideas of heritage quality and updates that with the idea of dashing around on a bicycle in the city, bringing in movement, panache and a futuristic twist. We wanted to really update the image of tweed and make it modern. There is a lot of humour in our brand. We absorb the zeitgeist and recreate it in fabrics.
You seem to pride yourselves on British manufacture / design, why is this so important?
I am really interested in British fabric and what we can do with it. It’s the best quality, it may cost a bit more but there is a very good reason for that! Abroad, people see British fabrics as something quite fabulous. We almost lost this way of thinking as an industry, by trying to cheapen things, to make them faster and compete with the international markets in that way. The rest of the world are telling Britain that what we have is amazing quality, we need to realise that. I have become quite passionate about making stuff in Britain. Our knit ware is all hand knitted by a little lady in Torquay, and our weavers are UK based.
Deashing Tweeds weaving in progress
You are making quite a statement with your alternative urban tweeds; can you tell us
more about how they are different?
Normal tweed is camouflaged for the country; we wanted to make something which is camouflaged for the city. Tweed was originally the fabric of choice for British sportswear, so we wanted to improve the performance in this sense by adding reflective yarns for cyclists in London. My wife was always trying to make we wear a high viz vest when I was out cycling. Everything we do is about looking at something, finding how we can improve it’s performance, whist also having fun with it.
We actually went around London and chiselled up little bits of pavement on the mall and in the city, and then put them into different lighting conditions with the yarn dyers to produce colours, like ‘wet pavement’ which has purple and orange hues to represent the sun going down over a wet city. We also have fabrics with yarn hues to represent the grittiness of streets, with double red lines and yellow lines to represent the city roads.
Have you always been interested in interior design and fashion? How did you first get into the industry?
I was working as a fashion photographer, working for big brands and luxury magazines, which made me very aware of the power of creating a brand. As a photographer you are disposable, all that matters is the image for the brand. So life as a photographer isn’t really sustainable. I would see all of the archives and think ‘look at all of this fabulous stuff that you just don’t see any more’. We are in an age where everyone is obsessed with designer, and people forget that the tailors on Saville Row are not designers, you are the designer. I was first exposed to tweed through Vivienne Westwood’s subversion of it through the punk movement and the Sex Pistols.
From there it was the realisation that I needed to really contemplate what I was doing, and whether is was as enjoyable as it had once been. That’s when I realised I should have my own brand, and when I met Kirsty I realised it could be something amazing.
Chair in Lloyds Building
Who or what is your biggest inspiration, and why?
My grandmother was a big influence on me. My grandfather was an art collector, and travelled all over the world, so my grandmother had a wonderful collection of all sorts of things, and she dressed immaculately. She had all of these lovely things but always ate off the broken crockery, as she ‘kept them for best’, I now feel like everyday should be a ‘best’ day.
The concept of the male dandy as a fictional character is also a big inspiration. Fictional characters can be both faultless and multi-faceted. The character encompasses lots of different layers and aspects, almost a super hero. Everyone loves the British eccentric character.
Crimson Modernist from Dashing Tweeds
If you could design for any person, who would it be?
The Scarlett Pimperknell! Or maybe a cross between Bertie Wooster and James Bond.
If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?
Ambitious, amusing, adventurous.
Chairs upholstered in Yellow Peak and Steel Vibe from Dashing Tweeds
What is the biggest challenge in your working life?
The shop has been the biggest challenge so far, it has been like kicking a teenager out of the house and making it fend for itself. Now it’s all about supporting the brand until it is established and can stand on its own two feet.
Chair covered with Dashing Strip fabric from Dashing Tweeds
Could you tell us more about dashing Tweeds’ involvement in the interior design world?
All of my family are architects. My father designed our family home in the 70’s, with all of the fabric for it. So I grew up in a house where all the furnishings etc were designed by family. Both of my brothers are also architects, and one of them set up the architectural practice Retrouvius. So we have always had ties with that industry. We find that interior designers come to us with a specific idea in mind for the use of our cloths.
Dashing Strip fabric from Dashing Tweeds
What does the future hold for Dashing Tweeds?
We very much have plans to expand further into the interiors world. But rather than us just simply plonking an interior branch on the market, we want to open up conversations and go from there. The brand has the potential to go anywhere really.
A lot of brands find something that works and then simply stick with it, rather than constantly experimenting, which is what we’re all about!
The Dashing Explorer