With spring (hopefully) round the corner it was a pleasure to visit Susannah’s atelier based in Bloomsbury, established in 2000. Working in leather, Susannah Hunter creates furnishings and designs that focus on flowers and foliage.
Her background is in both fine arts and fashion – her father was a painter and she trained at Central St. Martins, before working for Margaret Howell. Susannah found her way to this distinctive style through her love of flowers. The colours and textures of leather allowed her to develop her unique appliqué technique.
The process begins with Susannah drawing flowers from life. These drawings are transposed into templates to create patterns for the leather. Each flower and object is handmade. Cutting the leather is itself a particular skill – the team is therefore split between leather cutters, those who construct the flowers and seamstresses who make each item and sew in each flower. The flowers and foliage are carefully created by layering the individual elements together.
Having experimented over the years, Susannah favours the more robust cow leather for the underlying object itself, and Napa leather for the flowers and foliage which can be lamb/sheep or cow. Napa is noted for its soft temper and is more suitable for the intricate designs.
Susannah’s clientele are international – her team were busy preparing for Paris fashion week when we met. She has a cult following in Japan with many clients asking her to sign her bags – writing with black marker pen on her designs is something that Susannah is now getting used to.
Susannah’s commissions present some interesting projects – for example, a cinema chair was waiting for work in the studio. Previous projects have included two leather gardens at Chelsea Flower Show – the panels from her first garden can still be seen in the atelier. Both gardens had very different feels to them: the first mixed real blooms with the intricate panelling of hydrangeas and wisteria, with a leather trompe l’oeil which looked real. Her second garden for the Cape Cod Tourist board created rolling dunes in leather set against planting that captured the feel of Cape Cod.
84 Lambs Conduit Street