If there’s one thing Hannah Williams’ designs have in common, it’s the beauty in their unexpected nature. Inspired by the trompe-l'œil effect and abstract sculptors, Hannah’s work – from her MA womenswear collections to the innovative material MarbleSil® in her interiors – has an illusionist quality.
Marrying “robust and industrial” material with striking colours, Hannah creates pieces that are not always as they seem. Using MarbleSil – a marbled silicone material of her own making – her pieces look like luxurious marble (albeit in much brighter colours) when in actuality they can “move and drape and create these crazy effects”, explains Hannah. “Its properties are completely different to how it looks.”
“I love sculpture and one of the artists I was so inspired by during my MA at London’s Royal College of Art was David Altmejd. He creates these gruesome face sculptures but they’re beautiful because they’re made up of all these gorgeous colours,” says Hannah. “That’s a massive part of my design ethos – I’m using silicone, a material that isn’t the most pleasant and making it beautiful with colour and print.”
Her idea for MarbleSil first came about while she was studying a BA in Fashion Design at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom. “I wanted to mould garments to give that trompe-l'œil effect. My collection was made up of dresses that looked like tailored suits and moulded jackets, but they were one circular piece of garment,” she explains.
This love for sculpture-like materials grew during her MA, where everything from stilettos and dresses to ‘dripping’ silicone gloves were poured ‘live’ onto models, with waste from the floor used to create new pieces. The marble effect, meanwhile, was inspired by the theatrical Broadway shows, the Ziegfeld Follies, and seventeenth-century Baroque architecture.
My stuff is always vibrant, fluorescent colours. The colour draws people to it instantly – it’s striking and catches the eye.
After graduating, a collaboration with East Pak saw her customise a backpack – “obviously I covered mine in MarbleSil” – and it’s the material’s unique properties (it’s both heat and water-proof) that make accessories and footwear the next logical foray in fashion. “I’d love to work with Converse, all the collaborations they've had with different designers are great,” she says when asked about returning to her first love.
For now, the designer’s collection of bold interior art and homeware products – think tables, wall hangings, placemats and more – is totally bespoke, such is the process of mixing and layering the silicone, not to mention the limitless colour combinations. “It’s fun, luxurious and totally individual,” she adds.
This season, Hannah’s colour-clashing creations are brightening up the Village displays, just in time for spring. “My stuff is always vibrant, fluorescent. The colour draws people to it instantly – it’s striking and catches the eye. For me that colour journey is where the creative process begins.
“MarbleSil started with an emerald green shade, but I’m also loving orange at the moment. I like experimenting with colour clashes, making them work together.”
Creating a conscious product
Today, the material has the potential to transform interior design thanks to its sustainable credentials. Not only does Hannah have a no-waste policy when it comes to her off-cuts – which are either turned into smaller products, such as coasters; cut up to create a terrazzo-like design; or sold to other designers to repurpose in their work – but the product is circular.
“It’s a lifetime purchase: I never want it to end up in landfill. The material can be recycled into something new. Purchases can be sent back to me to be recreated into something else when people tire of them,” she explains. "Think of it as a product subscription!"
I want people to be excited by their purchase, but also excited by the possibilities of what it could become in a couple of years’ time when they want something else.
“I want them to be excited by their purchase, but also excited by the possibilities of what it can become in a couple of years’ time.”
As for this year and next, showcasing this eco-conscious element is key. “People aren’t just looking for beautiful things; they’re thinking about where these designs are going to go,” says Hannah. “And if it’s not going to biodegrade, how are you still going to help the environment? Where do you want the journey to end, or never end?”
Don’t miss the incredible MarbleSil installations by Hannah Williams in the Village now.