Grazia pops to the shops with Chris Brooke!

09 April 2010

Studio Barndiva, 231 Center Street, Healdsburg

Grazia Daily’s Californian trip with Basso & Brooke’s Chris Brooke would not be complete without a visit to San Francisco’s famous vintage shops and Healdsburg’s antique and local artisan stores for a dash of inspiration and some good old treasure hunting in between sampling wine with Turning Leaf, of course! With their AW10 collection directly influenced by their visit to Uzbekistan and the designer duo’s recent trip to Japan firmly in Chris’ mind we grabbed the opportunity to closely observe what catches his eye, hear exciting words about printed shoes and bags and get a clue about SS11: Zen!

Mistery Mister, 1506 Haight Street, San Francisco - La Rosa Vintage, 1711 Haight Street, San Francisco - Antique Harvest, 225 Healdsburg Avenue

One thing became clear quite early in our research trip; the eclectic mix of prints that has made Basso & Brooke internationally recognisable and got Michelle Obama’s attention (Bruno and Chris found out she chose to wear one of their dresses as a top in a White House event after seeing the images like the rest of us!) reflects the London-based designers’ equally eclectic taste. Inspiration can be found in the quilting technique used on some Fifties Ol’ Softies of Hollywood stars, a sweet dancing figures print on a Forties tea-dress, a ‘chandelier’ made of elk antlers collected by a family in Montana or the lacquered surface of an antique table. This makes their upcoming collaboration with Turning Leaf very exciting; not only are Bruno and Chris designing two exclusive prints that will decorate bottles of two wine varieties but also an umbrella – perfect for brightening up a London summer - and a retail installation featuring bespoke furniture at The Shop at Bluebird. Bring on the Basso & Brooke home range!

KG: How do you and Bruno work together, who goes to whom with an idea?
CB: We’re both involved in quite separate areas of the company, Bruno does his own research for the prints and I work more on the silhouette and how the look is going to be and then it’s about getting those together and seeing how they match. Sometimes it can be a bit too clashy so then you have to try and compromise at some point but it’s good that I know my side of the business and he tknows his. If I don’t like something he’s doing I’ll tell him and vice versa.

We tend to get inspiration from where we’ve been and we always like to take a good trip after the show. We’ve just been to Japan and that was great. It’s our second time there and we explored it a lot deeper, we travelled to a lot more places and I think each time you go to Japan you’re always going to discover something else. I think next time we might go to the north island with the snow monkeys and the hot springs. They have this ice festival in Sapporo but it’s unfortunately on at the end of January so we’re never going to be able to get there because it’s three weeks before our show!

KG: Obviously we can’t talk much about the next collection but that trip must have been inspiring!
CB: I think we’re looking at more of a Zen feeling. Zen, again, is a very considered art form, when you create a Zen garden it’s all about the flow and the positioning so I think when you say Zen people can think of very different references. And Zen for us can be very complex!

KG: We’ve talked a lot about the mix of old and new, from your Uzbekistan trip and you taking the traditional fabrics from the mills and treating and using them in your prints, to your collaboration with an established wine company and I think it’s great that it shows an appreciation of skill and experience that some may not associate with a cool, young label.
CB: We’ve always wanted to have that tradition mixed with the high-tech. When you look at an incredible hand-carved 18th century piece of furniture there’s so much skill involved! In our house we have proper, incredible pieces of furniture but them we’ll have super hype pop, printed pieces…we love Jeff Koons and those hyper-coloured balloon animals!

KG: So, what’s next for Basso & Brooke?
CB: I think general expansion. We’re at that transition phase where we’re not new designers and we’re not established. We’ve been around for five years and now it’s about getting further investment and looking at other brand areas we can develop, like accessories. We’ve done it in the past but to actually do a full collection and have the investment to actually make it a proper part of the label would be great. You know, a printed bag is a bit of a no-brainer! Printed bags, printed shoes…

KG: And you’re London designers, do you plan to stay in London, is this where you’re at?
CB: Yeah, yeah! It’s part of us, that’s where we get most of our inspiration. London fashion is very open to novelty and new ideas and I think it’s the right place to expose them.

- Kiki Georgiou

To find out more about the collaboration please visit


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