Interview with Tori Murphy Textile Designer

Tori’s glorious Woodhouse Checked Tablecloth in Black and matching tea towel and the cottage perfection Scallop Stripe double oven glove in claret with matching tea towel

As a child Tori Murphy wanted to be a fashion designer but as she grew up her dreams progressed to becoming an artist yet it wasn’t until her mid twenties that she realised she could have a career in textiles.

Textiles is an area that allows me to be fluid as it is very creative but can then be applied across many different areas, including homeware, accessories, and elements of fashion. 

Tori is part of a new generation of designers who think very carefully about source, sustainability and craftsmanship. Her designs are ridiculously stunning but it is her passion for quality and her joyous nature that shine through her beautiful English woven fabrics. Founded in 2012, the brand was established with the simple aim to create products for the home with character & integrity, all woven & made in England.

The journey that Tori has taken is fascinating. I have spoken in the past about my husband’s Great Aunt Muriel Pemberton who founded the textile and design course at St Martins: Muriel won a place at the Royal College of Art but quickly realised that she wanted to study fashion design, no such course existed so she badgered the head of the design school until he agreed that she could write her own curriculum. She went onto tutor at Central St Martins as well as designing for Libertys, drawing for Vogue Fashion and becoming a successful painter. Tori also won a place on the painting course when she was only 19

Getting a place was everything I had dreamed of,  but the course wasn’t right for me, in fact, I wasn’t right for the course as in hindsight it was clear that I was more interesting in pattern, texture, surface and I felt I needed to get a bit more life experience so I decided to defer for a year”.

Tori then worked as a model agent for IMG, falling into the exciting world of fashion and supermodels. She still felt the need to be more creative so accepted a job as an assistant to a magazine fashion editor and then on to other jobs in the industry before returning to finish her degree at Kingston University where she had a better understanding of her ideas and discovered that her work had become more confident. Tori’s graduation piece was used in a Saatchi exhibition ahead of starting her MA in Textiles at The RCA which helped her to believe that she had made the right choice.

I was in my last year of my degree that I realised that it was the design world that appealed to me, I like the clarity of working with a product.

I was able to realise a career that allowed me to balance the commercial world and my creativity. That’s very anti art but I felt I could build an interesting life that still allowed me to paint and draw but that had a tangible product at the end of it.

Do you have a style? Have you always been drawn to bold prints?

The brand might be recognised for bold, graphic monochrome designs as this is where we started and this is still very much at the core of the business but we also have quite a growing range of subtle woven fabrics, simple stripes and more recently colourful heavy woven fabrics that all layer up to build a bigger picture that can be combined in many ways.

Have you always been creative? Is it a need to express yourself or a love of what you see?

Yes always creative, I have sketch books going back to when I was at school and my interests are still quite similar, texture, surface, patina, contrasting elements, fabrics, layers, I think it’s always been there. It’s a need to express myself, it comes across in other ways too, cooking, interiors, clothes – I enjoy building images, creating sets and scenes, making everyday moments special.

Family? Pets? Style of House? 

We have three young girls, 4, 2 and 11 months a Lakeland Terrier and that’s’ enough for now! We live in a cottage in a small village in Nottinghamshire that we have been renovating whilst living here! We are at the stage where big components are going in and this week as we speak, the bespoke windows are going in which feels like a huge leap! There will be lots of wood, stone, tongue and groove and terracotta tiles which feels wild but something I’ve always wanted. The tones are generally soft and muted although life is anything but muted now with the children!

Dotty spot cotton fabric in Radish

Are there any designers that influence your work? Whose work do you admire?

I am always inspired by Malene Birger and how the business incorporates art, fashion, homeware. But closer to home I admire Emma Bridgewater for courageously manufacturing in England back in the 80’s and how she has gone on to create a brand that in her words ‘feels like home’…

Why is basing all your business in England so important to you?

It has always felt like the right thing to do.  I had experience of working in Italian mills and English factories and I felt I wanted to somehow combine the two. Manufacturing textiles and product here took a while to find all the correct components but we did and have worked with the same amazing group of mills, factories and machinists since we started. The wealth of knowledge and skill is incredible and it’s only up the road. The business would not be where it is if it were not for the personal relationships I’ve gained along the way.

Our fabric is woven in Lancashire and finished in Yorkshire, it then comes to our Nottingham HQ where it gets cut and turned into product or kept as fabric by the metre, packed and dispatched for wholesale, trade and direct to customer through our website.

What is it about English Textiles that is so important to you?

After graduating from The RCA, I moved to Milan to work in print design for a company that designed for high end brands including Dior, Chanel, Burberry and it was during my time here that I worked on the factory floor and saw many of the processes involved in textile production and my love for woven fabrics was cemented. I also worked in the archives and it was a simple black, woven Dior scarf that stole my heart, I loved the strength and integrity of woven fabric and the seed was sewn there really – in a Milanese factory basement – to start a woven fabric business, I thought what if I could do all of this at home in England? It makes me so proud to be have established a business where we can still say almost 9 years later –  “Woven and made in England” 

You mention ‘integrity’ and ‘simple pleasures’, is source and sustainability important to you?

Yes integrity to try and always do it the right way, to be proud of  all aspects of how our products are created and how we remain true to the fact that our business is based fundamentally on the everyday and importance of home. As the business becomes more successful, we are constantly striving to ensure that it is grown on solid, decent and sustainable roots. 

Does your work reflect your personality?

Yes I think so, the business has steadily and organically grown along with how my life has changed, particularly with the addition of children: more home accessories and kitchen textiles, storage and washable fabrics! I am still as passionate about it now as I was in the beginning, perhaps more so now as it gains momentum and it’s the backbone of our family. I sometimes like to wear all black, I sometimes like a flash of hot pink leopard print but I always feel good knowing how and where something is made and the business reflects this and allows our customers to develop their own style from within our ranges.

I have a deep desire to create a life that is my own and now of course to build a good life for our children and that tends to get me out of bed every morning with a fire in my belly…

Head to https://www.torimurphy.com/ to see more of Tori’s gorgeous collection of fabrics and homewares, indulge yourself in her beautiful instagram account filled with glorious colour and fabric and some ridiculously sweet children that gladden your heart and make you smile https://www.instagram.com/torimurphytextiles/ . Now sit down Tori love, you must be exhausted!

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