FIRST PERSON: Newport designer Heidi-Louise Griffiths

South Wales Argus: First person feature with Newport accessories designer Heidi Louise Griffiths at her studio  (6352288) First person feature with Newport accessories designer Heidi Louise Griffiths at her studio (6352288)

From buying to designing, Newport accessory designer Heidi-Louise Griffiths talks to SOPHIE BROWNSON about her brand ' Lola and Me’ and the global journey on which it has taken her.

I was born in Malpas, Newport, on May 31, 1984, and was brought up by my mum Bernadette Griffiths.

I went to St Mary’s School on Stow Hill, and then I ended up going to Caerleon Comprehensive as it was a really good school.

I guess I have always been creative. I remember being at school when we were given templates of fashion model silhouettes and I had to draw the clothes on them.

I loved it and remember being attracted to fashion from around 16-years-old.

When I left school I went on to do fine art at Crosskeys College for two years, where I did a BTEC National Diploma qualification.

On the course I did a bit of fashion, photography, knife drawing....it was a really well-rounded course. While at college, I met my partner Jon as he did fine art.

I was 16 when we met but it wasn’t until I was 21 that we became a couple-so we were friends for a long time first.

We got engaged after five years when he proposed at the Great Wall of China in March 2009.

From there I went to the University of South Wales Trinity Saint David to do a fine art degree, but after doing it for a year I felt that I needed to have a little bit more direction.

It was an amazing time to experience different mediums but I felt that I had arrived at a time where I needed more clarity, so I changed mid-way and did graphic design.

For this I had to have an interview and show my portfolio, and the lecturer said that he wasn’t sure that I would be able to do the course...but I am really stubborn and I got on.

It was really interesting and I graduated with a 2:1 which I was really pleased with.

Leaving uni, I worked at a medical animation company for six months as an admin worker.

I also worked as a concession manager in Wallis in Newport and as a sales executive in Cardiff, before leaving to go to London in 2006 for a job as a buyer, working for M & Co.

It was an amazing opportunity, and I met so many people that you wouldn’t normally meet.

When I first started there eight years ago not many people had heard of them, but they have a higher profile now.

In my role, I worked with lots of different departments and built up so much experience.

I learned how to put together a range, how fabric is constructed - the whole thing.

When you go into a shop, I don’t think people realise how long the process takes.

In buying you work with everyone to build up a range, making sure everything is financially viable.

You have to make sure the fit is perfect and with women’s wear you have to use models.

I had so many opportunities to travel, such as my trip to Sri Lanka and India in 2012 where I went to visit the factories where the products were being produced and it gave me a completely different perspective on things.

In 2010, I knew that I loved printing and I wanted to learn more about the printing process, so I went on a course at Central St Martin’s printing course working with prints as I wanted to see all the different processes.

I did a short course for six weeks and that gave me the experience and the knowledge I needed.

There are so many different types of printing and they all have a different look and feel.

I left M & Co for three months in 2011, because I went travelling and it was like a seed was planted and I knew I wanted to do this for myself.

It was just after the London riots that Jon and I booked to go travelling and within six weeks we were gone.

It was the best decision I have ever made. I know some people are apprehensive about giving up their jobs and they said to us what if you don’t have a job when you come back, but if you have the opportunity to do something amazing it is the best thing to do. I was 27-years-old.

We travelled around Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia ... and I took my sketchbook and camera with me everywhere.

When you work in buying, you work with a designer closely, but because I never got to design myself I didn’t know what my design style was-I didn’t know what my ‘handwriting' was.

So when I went away I was able to think and understand myself creatively.

I found that I was taking photos of the most peculiar things and was drawn to print and patterns.

I saw the natural patterns in things, so I had built up quite a collection of patterns.

I moved back to Wales in July last year as it got to the point that this was where our company Dirty Little Serifs (DLS) which was set up by my fiancé and I in 2011 was doing really well and it gave me the opportunity to launch my own brand Lola and Me.

DLS helps clients to communicate their business through various mediums.

By this point I had a lot of design ideas up my sleeve and a lot of clarity on what I wanted to do.

I am developing my own handwriting as a designer and I wanted my designs to be bold and bright. It is all about colour confidence and the feeling that you can express yourself.

It is about being strong and smart.

The first Lola and Me production was in September 2013 and I have seen a good response.

I started off on Etsy website and have since developed that into an online shop for Lola and Me in April where people can buy from there.

My target market is for women aged between 20 and 30 years; young vibrant people who want to experiment.

For the moment I am happy just doing accessories but I do have more product ideas lined up.

My time now is split 50:50 between Dirty Little Serifs and Lola and Me, as the business is small at the moment but it is really busy.

I am currently looking at manufacturing so I can expand on a bigger scale, as I am doing the designing and the making all on my own at the moment.

But the most important think is the brands focus on colour confidence.

For more information visit www.lola-and-me.com

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