On Design: Emma J Shipley

Emma J Shipley On Design

On Design:
Emma J Shipley

We chat to graphic artist Emma J Shipley and discover what’s next for her eponymous brand

Words by Ali Howard

Nature-inspired, fantastical, and steeped in mythology, Emma J Shipley’s products are a maximalist’s dream. Across fabric, bedding, wallpaper and accessories, her designs are instantly recognisable

Emma J Shipley On Design home furnishings and accessories Emma’s unique designs are a maximalist’s dream, adorning everything from soft furnishings to tableware, and home fragrance

Tell me about your background
I have always loved fantasy literature and films, particularly those from my childhood,  for example the Narnia series, His Dark Materials, Lord of the Rings – and I’ve always loved drawing and painting. I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue a creative career  and went on to study Textiles at the Royal College of Art;   it was there that I developed my signature style of detailed  and fantastical hand-drawn designs.

How did the brand come about?
I’d been working part-time in a design consultancy while studying, and through a contact there I managed to get a meeting with the buyer at Browns  (the famous South Molton Street store). It was a really exciting time. They took my whole final collection of printed scarves. I then saw the opportunity to apply to exhibit at London Fashion Week. I’d put together a range of printed scarves from my RCA graduate show, and that was the first collection I launched. There were lots of other new and exciting designers exhibiting, and it was a time before virtual meetings, so all the store buyers and press were there to discover the next generation  of talent. It had a real buzz and was how I got some of my  first stockists, and that was the launch of Emma J Shipley!

Emma J Shipley On Design cushions tableware Luxurious cushions and throws are crafted from the very best, premium materials, ensuring that they will be loved for years to come

What’s your design ethos?
The natural world is the constant inspiration for my work. I love to travel, to see animals in  the wild, and have been to some incredible places around the globe. The Emma J Shipley brand is founded on the following five values: artistry – all our artworks are original and unique, I hand draw all my designs which are inspired by my global adventures; nature – the brand is a platform which allows me to share the beauty and wonder of the natural world; craftsmanship – all of our collections are ethically made and we only ever use premium materials; imagination – I want  my designs to spark imagination, with explorations into myths, legend and surreal fantasy; and sustainability – I want to create designs and products to be treasured for years to come, not thrown away. As a brand, we always consider how  we can minimise our impact on the environment and the natural world, which inspires me so much.

Tell me more about the role of sustainability
It has been at the core of the brand from the start and we ensure that all our products are ethically sourced and produced. For me, one of the best things we can do as consumers is buy less and buy better, so we’re not over producing, sending millions of items to landfill. We like to be as transparent as possible about our manufacturing processes and share the many production steps, craftsmanship and people involved in the making of one of our pieces. We hope that by educating people on why things cost what they do – and ultimately that you get what you pay for, especially in terms of quality and ethics – it will help people value the end product more. And by pricing our products fairly, it enables people to be paid properly at every stage of the process. I’ve always wanted to create pieces that last and will be enjoyed for years.

Emma J Shipley On Design home furnishings

We’ve also been working with wildlife charity, World Land Trust since 2020 and have planted over 5,000 trees to help protect and restore wildlife habitats all over the world. I love that the charity is very transparent about the work they do and that they’re very wildlife focused. This isn’t a case of simply carbon offsetting so we can tick a box, these are trees to reforest areas for endangered wildlife. They have so far protected over 12,000 species. Sir David Attenborough is  one of their patrons, and he said: “The money that is given  to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect  on the wild world than almost anything I can think of” – that’s good enough for me!

Can you talk me through some of your newest pieces/collections?
We recently launched our own-line bed linen  for the first time, which was very exciting. We’re working  with an amazing manufacturer in Spain, and the quality of  the printing, fabric and the making is fantastic. We’ve chosen a beautiful 275 thread-count pure cotton sateen, which is really soft as well as vibrant and durable. So far, we’ve launched two designs, and we’ll be launching more in the coming months. My most recent design, ‘Quetzal’, was inspired by my travels  in Costa Rica, and features the breathtakingly resplendent quetzal bird, which I was lucky enough to see in the wild!   It’s a celebration of this bird and other flora and fauna of   the cloud forest, as usual, with my own fantasy twist.

What’s next for Emma J Shipley?
I’d love to continue  growing the brand and gaining more fans here in the UK   and internationally. I’ve just finished a new drawing, which  I’m really pleased with, so that design will start making   its way into my collections later this year. I also have   some completely new product launches coming this spring,  which I’m really excited about, including something new   for your walls – watch this space!