Cornish creations: How the Cornwall coast inspires the Seasalt brand

With studios overlooking Falmouth Bay in Cornwall, the family-run Seasalt brand knows the importance of location in finding design inspiration, and we have the sea partly to thank for the beautiful craftsmanship of their clothing, accessories and homeware.

Seasalt Cornwall’s co-founder and textile designer Sophie Chadwick caught up with Alyson Walsh of thatsnotmyage.com to chat about Cornish life and style, how designing by the sea has influenced the brand and how Seasalt supports the local community...

How has living in Cornwall influenced your work?

I’ve spent most of my life in Cornwall and have grown up with painting and drawing. I always knew this is what I wanted to do, so I did my foundation course at Falmouth School of Art and went on to study textiles at Winchester School of Art. I come from a family of artists - my Mum used to work as a florist at The Savoy and Claridge's and she was a huge influence in my life. My Auntie Lynne is a textile designer and my Uncle Ron went to the RCA at the same time as David Hockney and then taught at Camberwell School of Arts. He used to try out his college projects on me during the summer holidays before heading back to London. We’ve translated some of his paintings into textile prints for Seasalt and are planning to use one of his nautical sketches on our stationery. 

How did you get involved with Seasalt?

When I met [managing director] Neil Chadwick, it was a very different business. Their family had six shops, called General Clothing Stores Ltd, which sold traditional nautical clothing and footwear. After a short while selling other brands, we decided that we wanted to design and produce our own clothing. The combination of Neil’s background selling nautical heritage pieces and my love of colour, textiles and Cornish art resulted in Seasalt as you see it today.

Seasalt AW15 SailorShirtGretaCardigan

Sailor Shirt available at Fenwick Newcastle, Canterbury & Tunbridge Wells; Greta Cardigan available at Fenwick Windsor, Kingston & Colchester

How would you describe your style?

Fashion is more relaxed now and it’s especially casual where we live in Cornwall. I’ve always had a Seasalt-y style; I like to wear colour, print and stripes and I accessorise with lots of jewellery and scarves. I like clothes and beautiful objects, and I like the idea of mixing things up, being eclectic and letting your clothing reflect your personality.

How does Seasalt work with local artists?

We are passionate about supporting the local community and have a ‘locally made’ section on our website. I love working with local artists and creative people and we employ lots of graduates from Falmouth School of Art (as graphic designers, photographers, illustrators). We have a Seasalt bursary at Leach Pottery in St. Ives and we’ve just funded our second apprentice Matt, a former chef. Our first apprentice, Callum, studied at Leach for a year and has now been given a permanent position at the pottery, so we’re very proud! We also support the local creative community in Cornwall; Tom Raffield is a craftsman who specialises in steam-bent wooden furniture and lighting and we’re showcasing his furniture in our Hereford shop. We also sell a few of my Uncle Ron’s prints online! 

Cassacawn Dress available at Fenwick Leicester, Newcastle, Canterbury & Tunbridge Wells; Seafolly Jacket available at Fenwick York, Newcastle, Leicester & Kingston; Sprey Moor Dress available at Fenwick Leicester, Colchester, Canterbury & Tunbridge Wells

What are your top picks from the Seasalt collection at Fenwick?

Each season Seasalt’s collection is influenced by a different place in Cornwall. The autumn collection is inspired by the north Cornwall countryside and my favourite piece is the Cassacawn dress. I designed the oak leaf print after a long, blustery walk on Bodmin Moor (Cassacawn is a tiny place near Bodmin). It’s a tunic dress, made from a lovely drapey fabric that can be worn by all ages. I love wearing it with boots, a tiny belt and a big scarf.

What are your considerations when designing?

We are lucky that we have such a wide range of customers of all ages, from 25 years to 70-plus. So, we design with all of these women in mind. Most of our designers are in their 30s and 40s but as well as designing pieces that we would like to wear ourselves, we also make sure that we have lots of pieces in the collection that our mums and their friends would like. We hold lots of focus groups where we get feedback on current collections and have feedback from our 30 stores each week.

What do you do on a day off?

A favourite day would include walking our new puppy, Pepe, along the coastal path, then an interesting exhibition at a local gallery followed by a good lunch!

Seasalt AW15 HeadwindJumper

Headwind Jumper available at Fenwick Windsor, Kingston, Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury & Newcastle

Who and what is in your Cornwall little black book?

One of my favourite Cornish places is The Yew Tree Gallery in Morvah, in the countryside near Penzance. It’s a hidden gem. They have a great mix of paintings, pottery and jewellery. One of my favourite jewellers, Guy Royle, exhibits there. Then, lunch at The Gurnard’s Head, at Zennor.

On a clear day a walk around Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, near Gulval, Penzance, is fantastic, followed by lunch in their café overlooking St Michael’s Mount.

I love visiting St. Ives to go to all the little galleries, and then have lunch at the Porthminster Café overlooking the beach. 

We have a few favourite restaurants in Falmouth; Our very good friends at Harbour View - where you can sit on the terrace and watch the comings and goings in Falmouth harbour - make an amazing breakfast with local produce. Also Oliver’s, which is just down the hill from our house and is run by a lovely couple, has delicious food – it’s small, so it is necessary to book! 

The Cove overlooks Maenporth Beach. This is a favourite for family occasions, and for taking Seasalt suppliers and business friends.  Their speciality is local fish, but their Sunday roast is pretty special too.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

My mum passed away two months ago, and she always lived her life by the golden rule - ‘Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.’ It’s very simple but I don’t think you can go far wrong with that.

By Alyson Walsh