Chapter W co-founder Katherine took a trip down memory lane recently, when she caught up with fellow St. Clement Danes School alumni Charlotte O’Reilly. Since leaving school, Charlotte’s completed an art foundation at London College of Communication, studied BA illustration at Camberwell College of Arts and started a business – Charlotte Jade– with her sister, which we’re more than a little obsessed with….
So it looks like life’s been pretty successful for you, what are you up to now?
I am the owner of Charlotte Jade, a hand drawn pattern design brand, which produces wallpapers, textiles and ceramic tiles for commercial and residential properties. We also create bespoke event stationery, another side of the business which we’re hoping to grow too…
And what do you do for play?
I’m currently training for the marathon so I’m out running a lot, not sure if you’d call it play (!) but it’s taking up a lot of my free time right now.
Generally, I love singing and playing piano in my spare time along with keeping fit, seeing my friends and baking tasty snacks.
I also LOVE just walking round the V&A, it’s my favourite museum; the prints in there never fail to inspire me and the clothes and fashion are amazing.
Before starting Charlotte Jade, what qualifications and experience did you pursue to get to where you are now?
I went to St. Clement Danes School, where after taking art A Level I knew I wanted to pursue a career in art and design. I then did an art foundation at London College of Communication and went on to study BA illustration at Camberwell College of Arts.
In my third year, I taught myself how to create patterns, taking a week-long course to help with this at the Fashion and Textile Museum. My final major was all about making patterns for interiors and fashion and I knew then I wanted to pursue this career path.
So when did you decide you wanted to be a designer?
I knew in school I would always pursue art and design as a career, I just didn’t know how at that stage, but after my final year at university, where my love for all things print developed, I knew 100% that I wanted to be a print designer.
I became obsessed with prints, especially for interiors, and was so inspired by other designers such as Timorous Beasties, Sanderson and Designers Guild that then all I could see myself doing was that…
So how did Charlotte Jade come about?
After finishing in education I started freelance illustration and print design under the name Charlotte Jade. I worked on some really cool projects, such as creating prints for Topshop, drawing a time lapse video for Ella Eyre and designing a pattern for the Grand Designs Show Live. However, me and my sister Kate had always said we would love to have a business together at some point so we thought, why not now? So, we launched Charlotte Jade as a brand just over a year ago.
We decided to keep the name I had built up throughout my freelance work as it had started to build momentum and it seemed silly to give that up. I hand draw the designs, but we collaborate on the ideas for prints and colours as Kate is really creative too. She’s a fashion buyer so brings the fashion and commercial side to the business.
I love working with my sister, we’re best friends and we work well together and have skills which complement each other. We can also say whatever we truly think, good or bad, which is essential for a business to work and succeed.
What inspires your designs?
I’m massively inspired by nature; leaves, flowers, animals, foliage, but I also love to draw organic textures along with geometric shapes. I love looking at historic prints by William Morris. He never fails to inspire me, his work is truly amazing! I’m also inspired by key interior trends and fashion trends. I love reading interior design magazines like Elle Decor, Livingetc and Ideal Home, as they’re always full of the latest key trends and ideas too.
What appealed to you about starting your own business, and how did you go about it?
I love knowing I’m in control of my own destiny and no goal is unreachable. When it’s your business you can work towards achieving your dreams, you just need to be determined and keep positive along the way.
It was quite a natural development really from university for me really. I had some savings which helped me start up and my parents have also been so supportive and encouraging, allowing me to pursue my dreams. I really don’t know what I’d do without them.
I started by designing a lot of patterns, covering a variety of styles as I wanted to be able to target as many people as possible with my designs. Once I had a core collection, I started contacting suppliers and began producing products such as wallpapers and textiles which I could then sell.
From there, I was able to speak to interior designers and online stockists, introducing my brand and presenting them with products which they could use within their developments and shops.
Was starting your business a nerve-wracking experience?
It was pretty scary, but I feel like university prepared me for the sort of work life I’d have in terms of juggling lots of projects at once. It hasn’t always been easy, and there are some days where you think ‘what am I doing’, but I have incredibly supportive family and friends who always keep me feeling positive about everything. This is my complete passion and I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else, so I’m excited for what the future holds!
Since starting Charlotte Jade, what’s been the highlight of your
career to date?
I think when we got chosen for the Editors Pick in Stylist magazine, we couldn’t believe it!
What’s a typical day like working for yourself at Charlotte Jade?
I work from 9-6 every day, sometimes later depending on how much work I have on. I split my days between any design work I have on, meetings in London with interior designers, networking and trying to market my business.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I would love to be a well known international brand and have a collection of shops. It would also be amazing to be stocked in Liberties, it’s my absolute favourite shop!
If you could design something for one person, anyone in the world, what would you design and who for?
That’s such a hard one! Maybe a bespoke wallpaper or fabric pattern for the Queen, it would be amazing to have a design within Buckingham Palace.
What quote do you live by?
Cliché, but I live by ‘everything happens for a reason’ because it does right? I feel like were all on a path and situations occur and unfold as they are meant to and you’re always in the place you are meant to be. Also, ‘if it was easy everyone would be doing it’, that’s one my dad always uses in his pep talks!
What’s your favourite thing about being a woman?
I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a woman, there is so much girl power right now (excuse the Spice Girls quote, although they are also a good reason to be a female). I feel like women have all unified to fight sexism and stereotypes.
What’s your least favourite thing about being a woman?
I guess its gender stereotypes, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m going to make you dinner everyday, clean up your clothes and iron your pants!
Who are your female role models?
Is it cringe if I say my mum? She really is everything to me and inspires me every single day. She’s amazing, incredibly creative and definitely has influenced my development as an artist. And of course Beyoncé. Who runs the world? Girls!
Thank you to Charlotte from stepping away from the easel to talk to Chapter W!