Interview: Frith Hucks of Bay & Fyfe
A "can-do Kiwi" packs her collaborative scarf collection with artist Daimon Downey's Pastel Zoo
Proving that collectibles can be properly showcased beyond the wall or a shelf, Bay & Fyfe founder Frith Hucks is dedicated to creating beautifully finished and wearable art. The Sydney-based concept label first caught our eye with its dusty pink, orange and plum silk scarf featuring a quirky flamingo designed by Australian artist Daimon Downey. We had a chance to sit down with Hucks and discuss her creative process, artistic vision and future plans for her indie line.
What's your background and how did you get your company started?
My background is in international marketing and advertising. Originally from New Zealand, I landed in London to do my OE [Overseas Experience] and never looked back really. That "can-do Kiwi, I'll give it a crack" attitude opened up so many doors. I ended up in Herzogenaurach, Germany, as head of media for Adidas International. It's a brilliant company to work for. To understand operationally how a global company like that ticks is an opportunity not many people get, so I count myself as very lucky. I was there during the global financial crisis and whilst it wasn't necessarily pleasant, I've never worked so hard and learned so much.
Setting up my own concept label was never something I'd ever planned, but when I look back now it was pretty obvious something creative was going to come about. It was just a case of what and when. I've always done creative things on the side. I've also been fortunate enough to live in many countries around the world and built up a great collective of creative people. This has given me a big melting pot to develop ideas from.
Tell us about "Pastel Zoo" and your collaboration with Daimon Downey.
Pastel Zoo is the name of Daimon Downey's artwork series that formed the foundation of our first collaboration. It's a unique series of animals that Daimon's screen printed and then painted with house paints. I was instantly drawn to this collection because of its vibrant colors and grand size—the smallest piece in this collection is 1.5m x 1.5m.
It proved to be quite tricky to transpose these paintings into digital files that could be screen printed and still replicate the original art. I was always conscious it maintain the integrity of the art, because without it the designs are just graphics. The idea has never been to apply art to things, it all stems from the art and were it can develop organically.
I'm incredibly proud of what we've produced together. The Pastel Zoo collection really is wearable contemporary art. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the finished the product to look and feel like. Think Hermes meets Dame Vivienne Westwood and you get what I was after. To find this kind of quality silk, screen printing and finishing isn't easy. We had some comical disasters along the way. How do you go about selecting artists?
Who's your dream person to design with?
Awhile back I decided I was going to buy a piece of art every year. In doing that I've come across so many artists I'd love to work with. Before I approach an artist though I have to have an idea on how I'd like to develop their art and that "idea" often takes quite a while to materialize. A lot of pondering, a few lightening bolt moments, and I might have something. What I do know, is that I can't force an idea, it has come to me. I'd love to spend some time designing with Dame Vivienne Westwood, because I think it would be crazy and creative. I'd also like to spend some time with the designers at Alessi because I love the way they use form and color.
Can you describe your creative process?
I tend to start with mood boards of colors and styles. Daimon will bring along his paint cans and together we'll come up with our color palette for a collection. Because we make pieces that are timeless, we don't tend to follow fashion color trends, although I have been known to color a scarf solely to match a new coat in my wardrobe!
As I said it's tricky to transpose the art into a digital file, but I've found a Mac guru who works his Mac magic and then I'm ready for the nightmare that is "sampling in China." To get a concept off the ground takes about 7 months. Because I'm working with different artists and styles they all require a different creative process and people to help morph it into the finished collection.
Why go limited edition instead of mass?
What I create is not a "need" in this world, it's a "want" and it's my own personal belief that the world needs less and not more "stuff." For that reason we try and create timeless pieces that people will treasure, rather than disposable fashion. It also means we limit our collections and once pieces have sold out, we don't reproduce any.
What kind of materials do you use?
The fabrics we use take me many months of searching because they to have the perfect drape and hold our vibrant colors well. Once you find a good fabric you tend to stick with it because the more that remains constant to the creation process, the more likely your factory will get it right—you'd be amazed at what they can get wrong.
What's your favorite way to style a scarf?
In the summer I love wearing them as tops—so simple, but so striking. Then in the winter I love using them to dress up a good coat. They really can look so sophisticated. A style I'd love to be able to wear is the head-turban, but I just don't think I'm cool enough!
What's next for Bay & Fyfe?
We have just release our new series of silk scarves featuring more work from Daimon Downey. Our customers have said these are our best so far which is nice to hear. We are also part of a new wearable-art concept store, The cARTel, in Dubai with hand picked labels from around the world and we have great plans for a collaboration with a group of the cARTel's designers. For the longer term there's some exciting interiors products featuring work from new artists being worked on, for release in October.