MEET THE BRITISH DESIGNER - ANNA WINSTON - LA LA ROOKH THE WORKSHOP 1 Comment
As the second part of my series in showcasing some of the amazing local talent living and working in the Hastings area, I interviewed sewing expert Anna Winston who runs a seafront business called the La La Rookh Workshop.
K: How long have you lived on the coast and why do you like it?
Anna: I’ve lived in Hastings and St Leonards for 20 years… but when I was a teenager I used to hang out at the weekend with friends who lived down here … I feel like I’ve grown up here. I’m from Sydney originally but after a brief spell in London while studying Fashion I craved more space and a different kind of community.… My lifestyle in Hastings I think is the closest thing I’ll get to being back in Australia.
K: Briefly describe the route you took from student to where you are now in your professional
Anna: The route to my current job has been unconventional.. I had my first child at quite a young age so I’ve had to always juggle study or career choices around family commitments, financially I’ve had to turn my hand to anything just to get the bills paid… I’ve always fallen back on my ‘trade’ I guess.I don’t remember not sewing … My mother taught me. When I moved to this country as a teen I always had some kind of job… At about 15 I fell into making costumes for a local theatre which happened to be The Ellen Terry Theatre, a National Trust property and costume museum, (Ellen Terry was famous for playing Lady Macbeth in a dress made with beetle wings….) I worked there on and off until I was ready for University, I gained a huge grounding in fashion history and construction…I learnt on the job. It was a priceless education.. I was obsessed with costume. I studied fashion.and pattern cutting at Ravensbourse, I then studied Fine Art (Painting).at Brighton University I worked in a primary school teaching and caring for Autistic children … I worked in pubs and restaurants… And I made costume whenever I could., But having a family and being unable to network or work the long hours needed on sets and away from home, I decided the only way to get an ‘in’ was to specialise in something so I decided to become expert in making reproduction vintage swimwear. I created a bespoke brand called La La Rookh and the rest of my career has been about maintaining my skills as a maker … I opened a studio because at the time I was living in small rented flats and I needed a work space that was less transient… its difficult to take yourself seriously if you are constantly having to put your work gear away at the end of the day to serve dinner on the kitchen table. The La La Rookh Workshop was born. It was initially a means to an end, but quickly became the best thing I’ve ever done. I started teaching adults to sew (drawing on my experience in schools) and swiftly that grew into the studio I maintain today…. Classes for all ages in most aspects of clothing construction… and when I’m not teaching I still do costume work for film and theatre, small production runs and sample making.
K: Do you have a typical day, and what's it like?
Anna: Well it largely depends on the freelance work I’ve taken on and who I’m working for … if there is a tight deadline, I think about little else other than meeting it.. sometimes I have several production runs on at once. I have gotten to know my quiet times of year… both with class intake and with freelance work so I have created a program around those times. I find I’m taking on less freelance work now though, because while I have a young family I need more stability time wise and financially … so classes have become my main source of income… and I’m enjoying that freedom. I work with the Home School Network .. so I teach children most days of the week including after school clubs. .. I have regular adult classes too. And on the days I have off, I develop my clothing / dressmaking pattern brand (which is my new business project I have on going to keep me very, very busy)
This photo is from Anna's own website
K: What inspires you?
Anna: My family is my motivation… But in the studio, music keeps me focused, The album on repeat right now is Black Mountain’s ‘IV’ heavy psych rock to help me bomb through mountains of stitching… but I’m also listening to a lot of folk music at the moment, I’m learning the Irish fiddle ..it’s a different kind of brain exercise, it allows me to switch off work thoughts completely.
K:. Are you working on a particular project or scheme right now?
Anna: I’m working on a dressmaking pattern brand to complement the teaching work I do in the studio.Teaching home sewers for the last 6 years has inspired me to create a pattern brand that the sewer can aspire too, clothing that is modern and relevant to peoples busy lifestyles, elegant and above all, flattering.
K: What's the best thing about being self-employed?
Anna: The variety of my working life, you learn your limits .. but are constantly forced to push them. I’ve learnt I’m a work addict when I’m working for myself, I find it difficult to switch off… because I enjoy what I do. My work hours fit around my family commitments and if I have to take a day off for kiddy illness or sports day for example, I never feel guilty – and so I enjoy my family more.
K: Do you already own a St Leonards product, if so, describe what is it and why it suits your lifestyle
Anna: I have a Totely Canvas Satchel in red… It’s gorgeous. I know if I roll out of bed in the morning and haven’t had a chance to put together a nice outfit for the day because the school run has been hell, if I’m wearing my bag I still feel chic. I’m also coveting the Shire Bucket Tote -my daily carry quota has graduated to mammoth levels, so I’m needing something massive! I need to ditch the ‘supermarket jute bag chic’ pronto!
K: Anna, it's been a joy finding out about how your business works and that you're still enjoying using your British made Totely Satchel too! How can people get hold of you to enrol on your sewing classes or get bespoke clothing / costumes made?
Anna: Anyone can get in touch via my website which is: www.lalarookhworkshop.com
or they can email me using: email@example.com or by mobile on:07545757592