Every generation witnesses an evolution of visionaries who eventually rise to form a new vanguard within the world of design. London-based print artist Lisa King (@lisakinglondon) is redefining the rules of textiles thanks to her cross-cultural upbringing and her craft’s keen connection to the human experience. Her esteemed roster of clients includes Diane von Furstenberg, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. We chatted with the rising designer about her creative process, what it’s like to work with pop icon Kylie Minogue and her recent collaboration with the London Flower School.
As a designer, from where do you draw inspiration?
It’s a huge mix of things. I grew up in Thailand, surrounded by the beautiful chaos of color in Bangkok — a place where modern multicolored buildings are set within a tropical climate, making it a real collage of new and old culture. My mother was a buying agent. She sourced local products and handicrafts for U.S. stores and was an avid collector of antiques and textiles. Originally from Indonesia, she lived in Bangkok for 44 years and collected Ban Chiang bronze ceramics and batik, Persian carpets, Japanese lacquerware, kimonos, Balinese paintings, and more.
Our home had a garden full of mango and banana trees, orchids, and bird of paradise plants, so naturally I source a lot of inspiration from nature. I draw a lot of parallels between nature and the human condition and try to convey it through my work. Studying in England, I learned to appreciate the many shades of gray, or minimalism, so to speak. Even though I’m probably a maximalist, studying at Central Saint Martins and living in London definitely taught me that less is more.
Lastly, I’d say music, movement and people play a big part in my creation process. I draw a lot of inspiration from my own personal experiences, and I hope my work allows people to resonate from their own in mine.
Can you describe your creative process at the very beginning stages of a design?
It’s an exploration. I parallel an intense period of research — perhaps it’s going to an exhibition, watching a dance performance at the Barbican or listening to a new album — and experimentation of new ways of art creation. Whether it’s playing with inks, drawing from nudes or taking photographs of stones, I’ll spend several late nights in my studio.
What was your time at Central Saint Martins like?
I was leading a bit of a double life, but it meant two parts of an education. At CSM we were taught print, knit and weave, and I specialized in print design. I had some amazing professors who were all practicing designers and therefore quite critical and challenging. They taught me the importance of thorough research, the ability to draw, and the difference between art and design. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to attend CSM, apart from its incredible reputation, is that it’s within walking distance of the famous Pineapple Dance Studios. I remember taking breaks from hours at my print table to take classes there. I’m lucky I did, because it was through dance that I met creative director and fashion designer William Baker, better known a Kylie Minogue’s stylist.
Outside of university, I was assisting Baker on the design of Kylie’s tours and costumes, and got to observe their collaborative process with iconic designers and artists: Chanel, Judy Blame, Richard Nicoll, Jean Paul Gaultier, Akram Khan, Steve Anderson and Stevie Stewart from BodyMap, to name a few.
When did you begin creating your own textiles?
Before I started my own brand, I was designing prints and selling them through an agent who would travel to New York City to meet with different design houses. I remember the first time I sold a print to Diane von Furstenberg; I must have danced around the whole house because she is such a hero of mine.
Which collaborations are you most proud of?
I think my earliest highlight was designing the print for Kylie’s “museum dress,” the dress that would go on the poster of her retrospective exhibition at the V&A. I was at CSM at the time, and I designed it on my student laptop, so it was a major moment for me.
For Bangkok-based concept store Siwilai, I created a co-branded version of my signature screwprint across a 24-piece collection of men’s and women’s accessories. I got the chance to work with Thai artisans and brands to reimagine traditional products to combine with a print in a modern way. I set up a studio in the shop window and basically worked out of it for a month, creating hand-painted denim jackets and screenprinted bandanas. It was a great way to interact with people and get direct feedback on the collection and my work.
Most recently, I collaborated with the London Flower School on a show titled In Perfect Process. My experimentation with flowers and inks started out as a tribute to my mother, whom I lost two years ago. I would regularly visit the flower markets of London and Bangkok, buying and experimenting with flowers as a way of honoring her, which then developed into prints across my scarf collections. We launched the collection with an exhibition at this year’s London Design Festival. Taking over an unused church in Copeland Park in Peckham, the exhibition showcased the process of my creative journey, culminating in a large-scale flower and print installation. London Flower School’s mission has always been to push the boundaries of floristry as an art form and to nurture new voices in the industry. By manipulating, deconstructing and rearranging flowers, we strived to question the human definition of beauty and the quest for perfection in creative design.
Beyond design, what’s something you’re currently obsessed with?
Dance, specifically hustle at the moment. I’ve been training in dance almost my entire life and have journeyed through ballet, jazz, hip hop, house dance and now, hustle. Hustle is a mambo- and salsa-inspired partner dance that originated in the 1970s in the Puerto Rican community in New York City. It’s a three-count step dance usually done to disco, house, R & B or neo soul. Inga and T-boy (@hustlinglondon) are my teachers in London, and there’s a great community that is keeping it alive.