Meet the Locals: Karen Arthur, Designer

Meet the Locals: Karen Arthur, Designer

This is the third instalment in our Meet the Locals Q&A series – introducing you to some of the faces behind Forest Hill Fashion Week

Karen Arthur, Designer & owner of Reddskin

Q: What are the three words that you’d use to capture the creative spirit of South East London?
Evolving. Collaborative. Exciting.

Q: How heavily influenced/inspired are you by the community you live in?
It’s extremely important. I would say it’s the most important aspect of everything I do. I live and work in Forest Hill. I teach children and adults. I love the opportunity my skills afford me to constantly connect with my community. There is nothing that beats that sense of achievement that learning a craft and creating art from scratch brings. Facilitating is what gives me the most pleasure. A life without meaningful human connection isn’t worth living.

Q: What trends have you noticed filtering into the area lately?
Independence. Forest Hill is fiercely and delightfully independent. The community supports one another and there seems to be a pride in telling people this is where you live. Lots of independent shop owners who have become friends. Everyone has a story. Visitors to Forest Hill always comment on how vibrant and exciting the area is. In a huge metropolis we have a village feel. I’m a country girl who moved to London so this has particular appeal to little ol’ me.

Q: What’s your best piece of style advice?
Never follow trends. Keep it simple. Wear what suits and makes you happy. Don’t be afraid of colour. There is no such animal as ‘keeping clothes for best’. Heels are overrated. Stand tall. Confidence is the sexier than clothing. Invest in good underwear. Ignore style advice, do YOU.

Q: Would you say there’s been a shift from East London to South East London in terms of style, fashion and lifestyle?
Nope. Each part of London has it’s own character. Having said that I’ll leave the best answer to the more informed hip happening youngsters. Who cares about a shift? I love South East London most because it’s where I live.

Q: Who or what would be your dream designer, craftsperson or fashion label to open up a boutique store on one of our local high streets?
Anyone who was willing to get involved with the local community and didn’t come in with pre-conceived ideas of empire building. Anyone who is prepared to work ethically and give back to the community. I can’t think of any one designer off the top of my head. Having said that, a kick ass shoe designer would rock my world!

Q: South East London is full of hidden gems in terms of shops, craftspeople, cafes, restaurants and independent fashion labels. Do you have a secret favourite you’d like to share?
Stag and Bow. Hands down. A treasure trove of locally sourced pieces, a mine of creative information and Friday night Social. And St David coffee shop. Best one shot flat white in the western hemisphere. Oh and Sugar Mountain. Because … SWEETIES!

Q: What will you be doing during FHFW?
Showcasing my new clothing collection with my unique upcycled bags at the catwalk show. I will also be involved in the marketplace during the catwalk show. I will be teaching a workshop for all ages on making an upcycled plaited necklace using fabric, plastic bags and old t-shirts at The Framing Salon. I will be helping Pascale and Kareem achieve a world arm-knitting record in Close Knit. I’m involved in the clinic swap shop with Pascale of Stag and Bow at The Sylvan Post on the final Sunday evening. I will be collapsing in a vat of Gin afterwards.

Q: What inspired you to pursue the career or field that you’re in?
My passion for fabric, colour and design. I wanted to show my girls that you can do anything if you’re passionate about it. The combination of creativity and teaching is perfect for me.

Q: Beyonce and JayZ once stopped for a coffee in Forest Hill. If you were having a coffee, who would you love to be sitting at the next table?
My funny girls. Fame is temporary.

Q: What’s your hidden talent skill?
Grade 8 piano. I’m serious

Q: There’s been a resurgence in locally produced, handcrafted things made to last, how important is this to you?
It is everything. Keep it simple, human and real. Connecting with others through teaching and passing on a skill is an invaluable tool in creating a healthy, happy community. I want in.

Q: What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe and why?
A green and cream full skirted silk dress that I liberated from my mothers wardrobe when I was 16. She bought it to ’slim into’ in New York in the 70’s. That didn’t happen (although my nicking it might have something to do with that)I have worn it every summer since. It is now over 35 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. A bit like me really.

Q: Who’s your ‘one to watch’?
Me. Doh.

Image by Stefan Ferreira

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