Sue Timney formed Timney-Fowler with Grahame Fowler in 1979 after she graduated from the Royal College of Art, and together the pair went on to create some of the design world’s most enduring and evocative prints. Graphic, bold and modern with twists on neo-classical, their work flowed from the world of interiors onto catwalks and back again, as they collaborated with big names such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Diane von Furstenberg. The Fashion and Textile museum is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Timney-Fowler, and Sue’s career in design with a special retrospective – Sue Timney and The Design of Timney-Fowler.
How would you describe your style? The most difficult question I can think of answering. Some key words would be graphic, disciplined, perhaps a sense of theatre. My influences are from so many areas of art and design history – the Renaissance, William de Morgan to Zaha Hadid as well as the street.
How do you approach a new design? With an open mind…
When you first launched Timney-Fowler, what inspired your designs? The biggest single element was travel. I was born in North Africa and travelled constantly as a child, so a lot of this experience came into the work that I did in those early days with Grahame Fowler.
And what tends to inspire them now? Everything, everyday. That’s what’s exciting, you never know where the inspiration is coming from. There is no doubt, though, that as a designer there is a huge advantage getting older as this inspiration becomes easier to translate into visuals.
What is it that makes your work so adaptable from fashion to interiors? Probably because I wasn’t originally trained as a designer – but as a fine artist, which in turn makes me probably look at things more laterally. But overwhelmingly too I’m not sure I believe in “boxes” of creative thought. One idea influences another – it’s just the way you approach it that changes.
How do you think design changed in the three decades you have been working in the industry? The biggest change for all of us in this industry has been the advance of technology without a doubt – for bad and good. It means I can network now with my team on a project, which in turn means I don’t run a huge studio (which I miss) – however it is more time efficient and it means I don’t have to be in London all the time (which I don’t miss).
What design are you most proud of? Definitely my four children, Alix, Louis, Max and Todd!
And aside from your own work, is there another design or designer you admire? I’m not sure I admire my own work, and it’s always a very hard to isolate one name as I’m daily in admiration of designers past and present. But Lucienne Day was an amazing designer and mark maker that I can relate to. Her fabrics and ceramic designs were unique and still feel contemporary. She was an independent woman who worked all her life because she believed in what she was doing.
What’s next? As well as the exhibition, I’ve also just launched a book so I’m travelling around the country and to New York to do signings. Meanwhile, I have been working with House of Fraser as it will be launching a Timney brand in the spring for home and fashion across many product areas – it’s very exciting.
What is your own home like? Well, there’s definitely black and white in it! But I am also a big collector and so I’ve got a lot of these collections from groups of ceramics to 20th century prints and boxes grouped in various places around the house. Justin [de Villeneuve], my husband’s work also has a prominent place as his past and current photography fits very well with my colours and wallpapers!
Describe your perfect room, fictional or otherwise. Somewhere I can relax and be happy with all my family – without them there is no perfect room.
Mo, deputy chief sub-editor
PS. Look out for Harriet Paterson’s take on the style in Classical Studies, in February’s Livingetc.