Breed – talking to Hannah Weiland
Hannah Weiland launched Shrimps as a fashion label in 2013 with just one faux fur coat in its range. Colourful faux fur outerwear soon became the brand’s signature look, also gaining it support from animal rights groups like PETA. In the years since, Shrimps has expanded into a full ready-to-wear offering, ranging from knitwear to hats and hand-made jewellery.
Hannah has an arts history background and learned her craft studying Surface Textile Design at the London College of Fashion. Much of the inspiration for the humour and fun of her clothing designs she puts down to the wit of modern art. An ethical approach is very important to Hannah, with fabrics being carefully sourced with the aim to make them sustainable, and the packaging they come in 100% recyclable.
We spoke to Hannah about her experience in fashion so far.
Have you always had an interest in fashion?
Yes, always! I have always attached an emotional importance to clothes, when I was a child there were some pieces that I just loved so much, like a big, oversized orange velvet shirt that I wore every day for months. I still remember it so well today. I always had a strong dedication to ‘a look’, even if that was Mickey Mouse printed leggings, worn with big, oversized dog t-shirts. I wore some outfits again and again, and it is something that I remember so clearly now, the feeling of really loving certain pieces, the excitement they brought me and the way they made me feel when I wore them.
Where did the idea for the faux fur coat come from?
I never wore real fur and I actually never wore faux fur, as I had never found any pieces in a quality that I liked. So, when I was studying Textile Design at LCF and I came across an amazing quality of faux fur, I had the idea to create a coat, and from that the Shrimps brand followed.
What made you decide to start your own fashion label?
It happened very naturally. It started with one coat, which had huge success, and was then followed by a matching clutch bag, and then knitwear, RTW and so on. It was never the aim to launch a fashion brand, everything was very organic, which I think was a blessing in disguise!
Do all of the design ideas for Shrimps clothing still come from you?
I have an amazing, small team who I work really closely with. They are creatives that I really love and respect and I feel so lucky to have them on the Shrimps team. The collections are such a team effort, and it always feels emotional when we finish a season.
Which artists have had a real influence on the Shrimps aesthetic?
There are so many artists that influence me in such different ways. But a few of my very favourites are: Yayoi Kusama, Paula Rego, Agnes Martin, Grayson Perry, Henry Darger, Cragie Aitchison, Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh… the list could really go on and on.
Have you ever collaborated with any artists with Shrimps and would you consider other art collaborations in the future?
I have collaborated with artists on set design and invitations for our London Fashion Week shows. I worked closely with the artist Faye Wei Wei who created three huge canvas oil paintings as the backdrop for our SS18 collection. This inspired further artist collaborations, including one with the amazing Ryan Driscoll. He painted a Classical inspired backdrop that the models in my AW20 show walked through, it was beautiful! Collaborating with artists is something I absolutely love, so is definitely something I want to do a lot more of in the future.
What do you think are the key things you learnt from starting a business at 23?
I have learnt that being scared of failure will hold you back, so you have to be brave and believe in your business through all the ups and downs. I have learnt that it is about surrounding yourself with other talented people who also love and believe in the business. Team effort is so important to the overall success.
Shrimps has been at the forefront of cruelty-free fashion and sustainability from its start. Do you intend taking that further?
Yes, Shrimps has always been an ethical fashion brand, and sustainability is something we are constantly working on and striving towards. There are amazing innovations happening all the time, which is very exciting.
How did you find things during lockdown, both personally and business-wise?
I was six months pregnant when the first lockdown happened, which was definitely a challenge, personally. I think it was tough on all businesses, and everyone was in it together, which definitely helped morale. But we got through it and adapted, and have hopefully come out the end of it stronger.
How have people reacted to your new childrenswear collection and will we see more in the future?
It has received a great reaction. I loved designing childrenswear, so never say never!
Coming from an artist agency perspective – are there any artists that you personally love?
I love the surreal work of Anna Bu Kliewer and the beautiful portraiture illustrations by Yelena Yemchuk.