Next up in my series of interviews with exhibitors at Home London‘s Homegrown is Petra Green aka Room 39. I discovered Petra’s work recently, when I was asked to pick my Christmas ‘wish list’ for Blog and Buy Sale and included her gorgeous Knit Knit bedlinen in ink blue.
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but it’s the defining factor of everything I do and everything I’d like to do but can’t – yet. I’m a mother to two lovely, lively, young children. I launched Room39 when my youngest was about three months old and my first one was barely out of nappies. Not something I would recommend, but living proof that it can be done!
The other thing of interest might be that I was born and grew up in Slovenia a, tiny country in the heart of continental Europe where Latin, Germanic and Slavic influences converge, on the border of the capitalist west and the communist east.
Where does the name Room39 come from?
I didn’t want to use my name, because I didn’t want it to be about me. The name is suggestive of a place, a space, a room… inhabited by my particular aesthetic. An aesthetic with the freedom to change and evolve with time, unburdened by an over-descriptive name.
What’s your background? How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
My background is in fashion, and in particular lingerie design, with over a decade of experience in the industry designing for the high street – this statement describes best the reason for my change of direction! Room39 is a private act of rebellion against the blandness of the high street, the unethical and wasteful practices within the industry and the frustration at being one cog in a vast wheel with no control over one’s own work.
Your product range is quite diverse, but everything definitely has a shared aesthetic. What inspires you?
Inspiration is not something I need to look for, nor feel the need to analyse and organise in neat mood boards. It’s something I’m bombarded with from all angles at any given moment. Whatever manages to linger in my brain for long enough for me to be able to jot it down a few days later might be worth developing. I think it is evident from the lack of a recurring a theme in my designs that I go ‘where the wind takes me.’ That’s the advantage of being your own boss, there’s no brief to stick too. Apart from the obvious predilection for an androgynous style, strong contrasts, bright colours and abstract rather than the figurative motifs, I would consider my memories of childhood my prevailing influence.
Once you’ve got an idea, how does the design and making process work?
It really depends on what that initial flash of inspiration is about. Sometimes it’s just a colour, a shape… sometimes a fully formed product idea. Though lack of time I have no choice but to let the idea ‘gestate’ in my mind for a long time before I can start working on it either on the computer or the cutting table. Then it’s prototyping – fine tuning the harmonies: scale, colour, form and function. In my range I have items that took a day to design and others that took over a year to finalise. Throughout the process you also have to be aware of the costs, how much you can ‘throw at it’ in relation to the final retail and wholesale price. This is where my industry experience kicks in. When it comes to production it is important to find suppliers and manufactures you can trust and have a two-way dialogue with.
What’s the best part of your job?
The creative freedom, meeting and working with some truly outstanding individuals.
Describe a really good day in the life of Petra Green and a really bad day.
A good day would be a Thursday or Friday when both my kids are in full day childcare and I can go to the printing studio to play around with new designs and get my hands (and the rest!) really dirty. To see the fruit of your labour assembled in front of you gives you a feeling of fulfilment you don’t get sitting at the computer all day behind. A bad day would be admin day… all day in front of computer.
What are you most proud of?
Professionally, of Room39 as a whole. I look forward to attracting skilled and talented individuals to work with in the not so distant future, but for now I’m pretty chuffed with what I have achieved on my own.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
I would say there’s too much hard work, too much effort and resources involved in setting up your own business to play it safe. Be yourself, be bold, be uncompromising and be original.
What are you most looking forward to about Home 2013?
Firstly I’m looking forward to see if I’ll manage to finalise all the new products in time! I’m also looking forward to catching up with my trade clients and hopefully meeting some new ones. There was a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst the Homegrown exhibitors last year and I’m sure it will be even cosier this year with some lovely talented people joining the gang!
And finally, favourite colour please!
Right now would have to be forest green – thinking of autumn 2013 of course!
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Kiran Ravilious is exhibiting as part of Homegrown at Home London, 13th – 15th January 2013, Earl’s Court 2, London.
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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