Interview with Iconic British Designer Jan Constantine

Jan Constantine
Jan Constantine

The iconic British designer Jan Constantine is back with brand new collections for the home. We caught up with the heroine of British home textile design to see what’s new and find out more from her morning routine to her best ever mistake…

The new Tropical & Glam Rock collections are quite a step away from your usual style, what inspired the collections and do you have a favourite new piece?

My usual style is colourful, quintessentially British and created by things that inspire me  - having been in the fashion world for the early part of my career, I can’t help being aware of coming trends - so Tropical was naturally a great subject for me with all the lush colours and the way the motifs lend themselves beautifully to being  appliquéd.  The Glam Rock collection was inspired by Bowie and the big '70s vibe in the media and fashion.  My favourite piece is the Rainbow Star cushion - so much so - that I also stitched it onto the front of my favourite cashmere sweater.

Jan Constantine Zodiac collection
Jan Constantine

What is your favourite part of the design process, and what do you find the most challenging about bringing a design to life?

My favourite part of the design process is when I feel free and get into the flow - I get very excited, my imagination runs wild and I scribble down my ideas quickly.  The most challenging thing about bringing the designs to life is getting away from the day to day running of the business and allowing myself the space to design.

If you could collaborate on a line of homeware with anyone, past or present, who would be your dream design partner and what type of collection would you create?

Dream design partner - I’ve already collaborated with some great British brands but my favourite designers of all time are Terence Conran and Patricia Guild.   My collections would be true to my craft, using hand embroidery and I would love to make it a high end, limited edition collection of both cushions and bags.

Jan Constantine tropical cushion collection
Jan Constantine

Across your designs for the home there is a real emphasis on hand-crafted details and traditional craftsmanship, why is this so important to you?

It’s in my DNA - ever since a child when I was taught to sew, knit and embroider by my mum and grandma.  In my career as a fashion designer, I embellished many of my designs with embroidery - so it’s a continuation of doing what I love. I also want to help keep alive the ancient hands on embroidery skills of the artisans that work for me. 

How would you describe your own home style and do you use your designs in your interior?

My home style is a mixture of old and new, vintage, antique and family hand-me-downs, which look good in my old Georgian house in the country.  It’s full of colour and textiles - my own hand-embroidered wallhangings and cushions are all over the place, changing constantly as I try out my newest things.  It’s a good testing ground,

Jan Constantine Zodiac collection
Jan Constantine

What does your morning routine look like?

I take it easy with my morning routine as I’m nocturnal and love to work late into the quiet of the night.  I wake up at 7am and meditate while my husband runs my bath and makes my breakfast - to ease me into the day.  I have porridge laced with cream & honey and love fresh Italian coffee.  I’d like to say I go for a run or to the gym - but no!  I’m in the office at 9am and my day begins with more lovely fresh coffee.

What three interior styling tips would you give to someone looking to refresh their living space?

  • The most transformational thing to do is to change the colour of the walls. A pot of paint makes a massive difference - even just one wall.  For a white room, dramatically update it with a feature wall in black, a deep inky blue, grey or deep green.
  • Accessories are key to refreshing a space - new cushions, throws, lamps will inject a fresh look - a wonderful way to ring the changes for summer with lighter brighter colours or winter with warm darks. For Christmas, I always add some sparkly cushions to give some glitz to the sofa.
  • Seasonal fresh flowers always bring a room to life and house plants can make a fantastic feature all year round. Create a tropical corner by grouping together palms, cheese plants and peace lilies etc. or for a more graphic look, line up a row of cacti along a window ledge.
Jan Constantine pink cushions on a sofa
Jan Constantine

What is your favourite way to spend a day off?

I like to drive off with my husband for lunch in a beautiful place with gorgeous shops or take the train to London for a special event, exhibition or experience.  We often do an overnight stop in Bath, and en-route we love to catch up with our daughter, still studying at Oxford, for a lovely lunch together.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

I was so excited when London won the bid for the Olympic Games in 2005 that I made a successful pitch to create a homewares collection in collaboration with London 2012!  It was the most difficult and disappointing thing I ever did in my business, but in retrospect, it was great because it attracted wonderful press and international coverage for my brand.

Where do you see yourself and your brand in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, I will probably be living in Bath and I would love to have a place in Italy too.  Italy is my favourite place in the world since I was fourteen years old, when my grandmother took me and my sister on holiday.   I see myself concentrating more on the design aspect of my business.