Rising textile star: Deryn Relph

The knitting newcomer on trade shows, trends and the challenge of going solo.

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The Independent Online


Discovering new design is why we love a trade show. Earlier this month at Top Drawer, never seen before companies took centre stage. Textile designer Deryn Relph was one of these first-timers; here she tells her story to Annie Deakin.


I’ve been in business for just over a year so… was unsure how financially viable a trade show like Top Drawer would be for me. I design and produce knitted chairs, lampshades and cushions using UK sourced cotton and lambswool yarns. Charlotte Abrahams invited me to be part of ‘Spotted’, a select group of 12 exhibitors who have not exhibited at a trade show before. It was such a great chance to take my business a step further.


The highlight of the show was… meeting so many wonderful people, both visitors and potential customers. 


The lowlight… was standing all day for three days. Despite comfy shoes, my feet were sore at the end of each day.


The stand that caught my eye was… Rice who supply bright, bold and colourful homewares.


Of the ‘Spotted’ exhibitors, I loved… ‘All Lovely Stüff’, especially their Donut coat hooks and Bear Face mirror. Their appeal is the underlying humour and simplicity of well-considered design. 


I stumbled upon a stand… called Whitehide Ltd selling printed leather-bound notebooks and sketchbooks and stationery. Their products are added to my wish list.


I was showing my two collections… The newer collection ‘Buttonbox’ was inspired by my recent inheritance of my Nanna’s button box.  I have memories of playing with the buttons as a child, of the clothes Nanna wore, and the whole ‘make do and mend’ mentality certainly inspires my nostalgic approach. The older one ‘Retro Rainbow’ evolved from my final degree project and was inspired by ‘the future potential of seeds’ and the micro-photographic work of Rob Kesseler, in conjunction with Wolfgang Stuppy of The Millenium Seed Bank Project. My own colour palette developed from a personal study of seeds and fruit, and includes lime, orange, cerise pink, magenta, lavender, Bordeaux and mustard yellow.


The biggest challenge in setting up my business is… balancing the different roles from accounts and answering emails to styling photography and attending shows. Sometimes there’s barely time to knit or design new things.


Working from home… makes it tricky to achieve a work-life balance. Self-employment is harder than anticipated.


My greatest success is… making commercially viable products without losing that individuality. 


I’m most proud of… my re-invention of the chairs.  I create fabrics and put them together in a way that converts something from a piece of discarded rubbish to a highly desirable, contemporary interior piece that is also still functional.


My style is… mix and mismatch with a definite retro feel. I grew up in the 70’s. I find colour – and the power it has over our minds - fascinating.


Knitting appeals to me because… it allows me to create the fabric and item in one go, to my own design. I spent many frustrated shopping trips hunting for a fabric that I had in my head but could never find.


There is something magical about… turning a ball or cone of yarn into cloth. Hand knitting is incredibly relaxing and knitted fabrics have unique properties too.  I exploit the various knit structures and the stretch to work around retro style furniture and unusual lampshade shapes.


The perception of knitting has changed… it has achieved an almost cult status. 


I see a definite trend for… retro style, mid century modern, 1960’s and 1970’s. There’s obviously a trend for ‘home-made’, for mixing old and new and for making more considered purchases with artisan pieces. 


Interior trends are… slower than fashion with less seasonality. I keep an eye on colour and style details in fashion trends because they often filter through to interiors a year later. The colour orange, eclectic tribal style and funked up craft are good examples. Following the recent crochet prints on the catwalk, I’m sure crocheted interiors, with granny squares aplenty, will be a trend soon.


I admire… Ercol because their brand has re-emerged and regained popularity by tweaking older designs to make them very contemporary. I admire Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray and Arne Jacobsen. Their designs are still so incredibly relevant and contemporary, even nearly 100 years later in some cases.

The designer to look out for is… Liam Treanor. I met him at New Designers One Year On last year.

I love the work of… Ptolemy Mann. Her use of colour is phenomenal, and she’s proved that textile design skills have relevance in the built environment too.  Donna Wilson has achieved a lot by breaking into the world of interiors with knit, and also managing to keep respect as a designer.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for the mydeco marketplace, an online shopping experience where you can search hundreds of home furnishings and accessories all in one place.