Erica Toogood (left) is the younger sister with a background in pattern cutting. Faye Toogood founded her studio in 2008 and has an eclectic portfolio that ranges from sculpture to sensory environment.
It has never been easy to categorise Studio Toogood. Created by former magazine stylist Faye Toogood in 2008, the company has an eclectic portfolio that encompasses sculpture, furniture and interiors as well as installations such as Natura Morta, held in Milan in 2011, which can genuinely be described as immersive. In 2012 she joined forces with her younger sister Erica, a pattern cutter by training, for a project entitled Seven Designers for Seven Dials which took place in Covent Garden during the London Design Festival. And subsequently clothing – uni-sex and often taking inspiration from traditional UK trades – has become an important part of the studio’s output.
All of which makes its headquarters, House of Toogood on Redchurch Street in London’s fashionably gritty Eastend, a little unusual. Entering through a garage around the side of the building and via a small courtyard with vines growing overhead, the ground floor is largely devoted to a showroom space containing racks of clothes and some of the studio’s furniture. Older found pieces are dotted tastefully around the interior. There’s a kitchenette and a small library.
Between the garage and the ground floor showroom is a small courtyard, complete with vines overhead.
Climb the small staircase and on the first floor you will find a space full of architects and designers assiduously working on screens (she has described them as a ‘merry band of misfits’ in the past) as one would expect. Faye doesn’t have her own desk, apparently preferring to flit around the building. However, then things get a little surprising because on the top floor is an area devoted to pattern cutting, Erica’s domain. This isn’t the kind of thing you’d necessarily expect to see in your run-of-the-mill product designer’s office. The mixing of old and new, the studio’s pieces with found objects, and working with the grain of the Victorian townhouse works wonderfully well. Stepping into Toogood’s world feels incredibly restful.
To get into the studio visitors have to go around to the entrance at the side before going through an old garage space. The door handle is a TooGood product, originally manufactured by Ize.
In retrospect the idea of the two sisters working together seems obvious. After all Erica had been making uniforms for staff at her elder sister’s installations for some time. And Faye’s longstanding interest in craft (back in 2009, for instance, she created an installation with FUMI entitled Corn Craft that included one-off pieces by the likes of Raw Edges and Nacho Carbonell) has undoubtedly informed much of the thinking behind the collections.
That said, moving into the same building together and creating their own label still left plenty of potential for tension. Product and fashion design move at very different paces for instance. ‘When I arrived with my sewing machine and all my tools, it was like being the latest new arrival in the zoo. I was turning up with all these strange objects’, confirms Erica when I catch up with her over the phone. ‘They all wanted lessons in the evening.’ However, it seems that rapidly they all found common ground. ‘They have the same perspective in their heads – they can all see from 2D to 3D,’ she adds. ‘It’s the same process but we just have different tools.’
TooGood Unisex Outerwear, Various views from the house of TooGood, the studio also has space for a small but perfectly formed library. The ground floor also has a small kitchenette for the staff.
Meanwhile the sisters developed a working relationship that suited them both. Faye comes at each project with her interest in materials but also has an outsider’s perspective, keen to investigate some of the industry’s shibboleths. As Erica explains: ‘Faye would ask me why we have to put a seam there… It is her role to question all of those rules. There’s a process where Faye will question everything that you’ve learned.’ Which, I posit, could get a little annoying? ‘I give as good as I get,’ she replies. ‘I think people enjoy that some of the formal education is broken down and questioned and then re-applied in different ways. I think that’s why the studio is so creative.’
The studio has designers working on screens in domestic spaces, while at the same time containing an atelier on the top floor. This isn't your run-of-the-mill product design studio. The use of planting, found objects and the studio's own work creates a tranquil, genuinely relaxing environment that transports visitors away from the busy East-London streets. The round table is part of the TooGood fiberglass furniture collection
This story was previously published in WOTH issue No 15