Jessica Ogden on A.P.C. Quilts and Life in Jamaica

By Ellie Hay

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Fashion designer Jessica Ogden recently moved back to Jamaica - her Caribbean place of birth. On returning, Ogden was invited by renowned sculptor Laura Facey to exhibit her A.P.C. quilts as part of an art auction. Hung in a remarkable disused factory, located in the hills of St Ann, the event which included a farm-to-table dinner, raised money for Boy’s Town School in Kingston, Jamaica.

The partnership between Ogden and A.P.C. materialised as founder Jean Touitou had been collecting fabrics for 25 years. He began during his time at Kenzo, where Touitou would save fabric off-cuts for his mother Odette that she would re-use to make quilts. Once Touitou established French-brand A.P.C. he wanted to do the same, and knowing Ogden’s quilt and patch obsession, she was the perfect collaborator.

Thirteen collections on, Ogden continues to thrive from the mathematical challenge of this unique project, simulating the notion of painting with fabric, as part of her creative process. We talk to her in more detail about her project and daily life in Jamaica.

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Using surplus fabrics provides an interesting design restriction, can you tell us more about this process?
It works because if your treasure box is too full it's overwhelming. It challenges me with my maths, if there is only 5 metres left, then I have to use the fabric sparingly, as it has to cover the limited edition production of 30, so it gets used in a small square. As I am now on round 13, I have found my method, but in the beginning it was a learning curve. And no, I do not work on a computer!

Is the sustainable aspect of this series something that’s important to you and A.P.C.?
It is to me, and I believe for Jean it gives the product more value. It is one of the only items of A.P.C. that never goes on sale, and if it’s not bought this year, it can be bought next year. For me it is a super idea - it wouldn’t be if I had rubbish fabrics, but Jean has always worked with good textiles. The quilts show years of brand history in one piece.

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Quilts Round 12, Photographed by Alfredo Piola for A.P.C.

Where are the quilts made?
In a small workshop in India, our manager there was trained by an American quilter so it has a different feel to an Indian quilt. I have visited several times and marvelled at the skill of this workshop. You can watch a short film on the making of the quilt here

What do you most love doing, that you could do all day?
Sewing.

What was it like growing up in Jamaica and how do you think it has influenced your approach to design?
It was wonderful, very dreamlike and playful. Very free. It was not always easy, as Jamaica went through political upheaval and violence, as well as a family tragedy, but the lasting impression is sand in my toes and sun on my face. In terms of design influence, every Jamaican has style, whether it be the way they walk, how they do their hair, or the way they wear their clothes. One of my favourite things is the ladies market apron, it’s patched and patched - so I can see where some of my obsession came from. It also came through my mum, who taught me how to sew. She used to make all her own clothes (which I subsequently stole) and no doubt this was the key to my fashion foray.

Quilt Exhibition, St Ann, Jamaica. Image courtesy of Jessica Ogden.

Quilt Exhibition, St Ann, Jamaica. Image courtesy of Jessica Ogden.

How do you use your quilts at home - and do you have any tips on how to style them?
I have just re-done a room and I wanted to put up one more painting, and then I realised the quilt was just the thing!

Who are your heroes?
Can I just say my mum, Annabella Ogden Proudlock, because it’s true.

What is your definition of success?
Being able to have the perfect Jamaican day. I also would like to have the perfect Pantelleria day with Lilycat.

What does the rest of 2017 look like for you?
Renovating a second cottage on the property, curating my first show at Harmony Hall, possibly doing an exhibition in London with my fashion archive, finishing my map for Jean, drawing my dream studio to build, and finally, getting past three pages in a book.

Describe a perfect Jamaica day...
Morning swim (weather dependent), chit chat with friends, housework (meaning working on the house), huge green lunch, go to studio, sew with music flowing, have a Red Stripe around 5 while I potter in the garden, water the plants, pretend to train my dogs, make dinner with the friends who are staying, try and read a few pages of a book, sleep, wake up at 5, watch the sun rise, and start again.

Quilt Exhibition, St Ann, Jamaica. Image courtesy of Jessica Ogden.

Quilt Exhibition, St Ann, Jamaica. Image courtesy of Jessica Ogden.

Ellie Hay