Colour is the joy that covers a very mundane earth of rock, soil and liquid. Colour helps define a body of liquid as an ocean and a group of earth bound organisms as a rain forest. Colour is nature’s gift to the inhabitants of our planet.
Throughout history, humans have been fascinated with the colours in elements and wildlife. We wear leopard-print coats and flamingo pink nail varnish to add these colours to our own bodies.
Papillon Silks, however, has taken what we can do with colour one-step further. They are not just taking one colour; they are taking hundreds from one particular specimen you can find in your own back garden – the butterfly.
Their unique and delicate wings are a mix of melanin absorption and iridescence. By combining bespoke fashion with complex photography, Papillon Silks successfully prints these patterns onto British silk from ‘The Silk Bureau’.
Speaking to Ali and Leigh was an insight into modern fashion. They are using technology to recreate what nature gives us. Without getting too techy, Leigh explains how each colour appears differently once printed. A colour translation process, which is completed by the human brain and not a machine, ensures the bright and vivid colours we see on a butterfly’s wings appear accurately on Papillon Silk scarves and brooches.
Why did you choose butterflies as your source of nature?
Ali: ‘Well, we started with butterflies because I am obsessed with butterflies and pretty things. Our six-year-old daughter is also obsessed with butterflies and flowers’.
Leigh: ‘We also had a few photographs of butterflies. Ali would always say “Those are such beautiful colours – we should do more with them rather than just have them on a computer screen”. We just thought; let’s see what we can do.’
Ali: ‘Around that time my birthday was coming up and when Leigh asked what I wanted, I said I wanted one of his photographs on a scarf’.
Leigh: ‘We weren’t sure if you could actually put photographs on scarves, but with a bit of research we found that actually you can! You can print onto silk just like paper. And for some reason nobody else was doing it’.
Why did you choose Silk as your material?
Ali: ‘We did discuss that because originally I wanted to have muslin scarves, but we came to the conclusion, and I am so glad we did, that we needed a fabric that would show the vivid and bright colours. I wanted someone to open the box and just have their eyes fill with the colours, and the only fabric that does that was the silk. The company that we are using for printing ‘The Silk Bureau’ are really excited as well because we went to them and we wanted the colours to be as vivid as possible’.
Leigh: ‘Once you start to get really deep into the photography and you start printing, you realise the colour science. What you specify and see on your screen as a really nice, rich blue, can look different printed. I don’t know if you’ve ever printed a photograph and it comes out the printer not quite the same as on the screen; because the screen has got what is called a wide-gamut relative to a printer. So if I type the colour code from my swatch of colours here into Photoshop and it gives me a square of that colour on the screen, I can see what the colour shift is going to look like on silk’.
Do you have a favourite butterfly?
Ali: ‘I like the blue ones like the Emperor butterfly print. But when I have worn the others I find I really like them too’.
Leigh: ‘My favourite isn’t actually a butterfly it’s a moth, the Death’s-head moth, and the Monarch butterfly, it’s a bit of a dream of ours to see the migration of the Monarchs in Mexico’.
What Papillon Silk product would you recommend for summer?
Ali: ‘For this summer, I would suggest one of our scarves, one of our brooches and a nice big straw hat. I’m an accessory person, I make my own jewellery and everything, and by having such vibrant colourful pieces you can get away with a plain white T-shirt and a pair of jeans’.
This isn’t just scarves and brooches, Ali and Leigh have set out to create wearable artwork that would be good enough to frame.
As well as the expertise that goes into the printing, photography and design process these pieces are pretty bespoke – only 50 of each design are made.
Ali makes an exceptional point that by investing in one or two bold accessories, you can make every outfit stand out. And let’s face it, if you are going on holiday with a 10kg suitcase allowance it makes more sense to bring one fabulous scarf than a hoard of heavy outfits.
This company is a fantastic example of teamwork as both not only have kids and school runs to handle but butterflies to photograph and scarves to design.
Ali is a visualist and colour lover who can see the designs before they are realised and Leigh is a photography enthusiast with the ability to take an idea and turn it into a print. Together they are unstoppable.
I am sure that mothers and daughters alike will be reading this, wishing they had got to participate in the badge test. Fear not the link to the website is right here, so find the right butterfly for you.
Keep your eyes peeled for the release of the Death’s-head moth print; this is of course the moth featured in ‘The Silence of The Lambs’.
Papillon Silks are developing a new range for men as well as a range of sizes (oversized and long as well as the traditional size they already have).
Papillon Silks have turned butterflies into an abstract art form, which can change a white T-shirt, and jeans into an outfit to take to lunch.
And everything is made in Britain. Find your very own wings.
Website and shop: https://papillonsilks.com