Wartime memories offer fashion inspiration in Greenwich

By Beth Allcock on June 23, 2014 12:25 PM |


Stitched messages on cards sent from the frontline of conflict are an emotional inspiration for designer Claire Swindale.

The Blackheath creative has drawn on a family treasure - one of five patterned documents sent from her great grandfather Francis Swindale to his wife Minnie - to create a silk square scarf commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War this year.

Their prettiness is enhanced with the heart-warming embroidered message of "Kind Thoughts and Wishes" - in clear contrast to the true horror seen on the frontline.

The daughter of an RAF serviceman said the fashion-forward garment was a "subtle way of spreading the word".

"There's something satisfying about keeping the message alive, keeping it current," said the 50-year-old, who used her own snapshots of the cards as the basis for the design.

"The cards were on my wall at home. During the war, people wouldn't have had telephones or telegrams so their impact must have been massive.

"The messages in them were really simple, not much information, and the closest you'd get to personal in them was 'from your old pot and pan'.

"I thought the Kind Thoughts and Wishes message was lovely and old fashioned and, from a design point of view, easier to wear and sell.

"It fits into the feelings of it in the time of war - there was still love, and romance and caring. It was the British thing of keeping struggling through."

Claire hopes the garments - printed on Habotai silk - will play their part marking the anniversary and add to her previous ranges, which include prints of one of London's Pearly Kings and the Kathmandu landscape.

"The trendy Shoreditch man would wear one, my dad wears the pocket hanky and my niece is nine and she was wearing one as a cravat," Claire said.

The Kind Thoughts design costs £125. Go to claireswindale.com.