Elemental compositions are formed from the surrounding environment – be it fired earth or hand-hewn wood – with little refinement. Each artist brings their unique patchwork of lived experiences, memories and stories. The composition unfolds through their movement, gestures and a sense of play, all of which give expression to the final, unpolished form. This season, we look to artists and makers creating dynamic objects using materials close to hand.
Our new collection, titled Elemental Compositions, highlights the beauty in raw and honest expression, tracing organic shapes and compelling movements of the body. “We explore how fabrics, colours and forms are positioned, layered and juxtaposed, and there is a feeling of dress up and play inspired by the photography of Malick Sadibé,” explains Head of Design, Laura Shippey. Celebrated for his lively portraits, Sadibé captured the culture and style of the Malian capital, Bamako, in the 1960s and ’70s.
Classic trench coats, Breton striped tops and Fair Isle knits are playfully shrunken or oversized while mismatched, painterly accents on collars and scarves add a freshness to the Spring Summer looks. As we progress through the season, dresses, skirts and tops are crafted from cotton woven with subtle jacquard flowers in Mali, then tie-dyed by hand by artisans in Ivory Coast with a traditional Guinean pattern. The artisans are led by Mariama Camara, whose great-grandmother was among the most successful woman tie-dyers in Kindia, a region of Guinea.
Easy shapes with a relaxed fluidity and sense of volume are rendered in rich colour blocks of saturated spring green and nasturtium on a base of indigo, cocoa and chestnut, mingling with sun-bleached botanical shades. Organic and rustic textures are inspired by the American sculptor J.B. Blunk in shades of earthy sands and olives, alongside cornflower, lemon and peach.
“Using natural fibers, traditional craft techniques and unusual colour combinations, we pair the practical with the playful,” says Laura. “There is a celebration of the irregular and organic both in pattern and form. It is the way pieces are put together that gives the individual their unique expression and composition.”
For homewares, “it’s the mixing of pattern and personal expression that is key,” says Head of House & Home, Judith Harris. “Our patchworks are asymmetric, not perfect. They represent the idea of the artist creating their own unique composition.” Soft quilts crafted in India feature patchworks of screen-printed or block-printed cotton squares, which are then kantha-stitched by hand.
Ceramics bear the marks of the maker. Grace McCarthy’s vessels are hand-thrown in east London, then patterned with sweeping brushstrokes applied using a Japanese shuro brush. Brighton-based potter Nicola Gillis creates simple pieces patterned with black oxide wash, inspired by the natural elements. There is also longpi pottery, which is crafted from ground black stone and locally found clay. Each longpi piece is hand-built and left in the sun to dry out before being wood-fired. “This age-old technique is unique to just two villages in north-east India,” says Judith. “The burnished finish gives a characteristic deep black patina that naturally seals each piece.”
Organic and rustic textures are inspired by the American sculptor J.B. Blunk in shades of earthy sands, olives and indigo on quilts and cushions. “J.B. Blunk’s entire home was an artwork,” Judith says. “By mixing pattern elements and adding to what we already have, we begin to curate our own compositions.”
This season, we have created 20 percent fewer Womenswear styles, to reduce waste and advocate for quality and longevity. Pieces from the collection are intended to be worn with your existing wardrobe, and be coveted for years to come. If any of your existing TOAST garments are in need of mending, our free repair service, TOAST Renewal, can refresh them for the new season. You can read more about our progress and next steps to make a positive difference to people and the planet in our annual Social Conscience Report.
Photographs by Jo Metson Scott.