Uplifting and luxurious, scarves have been making a come back over the last few years. subject matter is one of the new kids of the block. A vibrant celebration of colour with tongue in cheek names, subject matter’s scarves are inspired by founder Stephanie Tosniwal’s love of architecture, travel and photography. Launching in 2019, we caught up with Stephanie to find out about her journey, and why wearing what you want is important and how a pre-order model has been integral for creating a business with a sustainability focus.
How would you describe subject matter?
subject matter creates limited edition, luxury scarves that capture the ephemeral nature of our streets.
What was your journey to setting up subject matter? What inspired you to take the plunge and start your own brand?
Architecture, travel and photography are three of my favourite things. I have been lucky enough to travel the world and experience some amazing sights and it was during my time living in Australia that I found a passion for being behind the lens. After arriving back in the UK, friends and family encouraged me to do something with my photos but the timing wasn’t right, at that stage I was focused on becoming an Architect. During the next 10 years, this became a constant niggle. I wanted to create a bold statement with my photographic memoirs, something unique and contemporary. I continued to document my travels and eventually my confidence in my own images grew, igniting my drive to pursue my ambition. I had the business idea, it was just about finding the right time and place. In 2019, after a little persuasion from Louisa from Studio Luxmore, and a few sessions to help plan out how I was to get started on the right track, subject matter was born. At its core was the desire to celebrate my extensive catalogue of photographic memoirs with the world, each collection with its own unique story just waiting to be told.
Why is it important to you that your collections are unisex?
We create high quality, signature pieces that are designed for everyone, whatever their sex, gender, age or background. This is something we are passionate about. With so much pressure in today’s society to wear ‘what you think you should be wearing’ instead of maybe ‘what you want’, I was keen to create a brand that was gender neutral and inclusive to all. Colour or pattern shouldn’t be used to depict someone’s sex, instead, I use it throughout the collections as a means of expressions, a way to communicate character, tone and even mood.
What are your thoughts when you’re designing or planning a collection?
The collections tend to form themselves naturally. I have a huge catalogue of possibilities and continue to take photos as much as I can. Once you see them all laid out, the process of putting together the collection comes together quite quickly. I think this is because I’ve invested in my own style, honing it over time so my photography is now pretty consistent. The bit that takes a little longer is putting pen to paper and writing the memoir for each image. I like to keep its description short and punchy but reveal enough for our customers to become part of the scarf’s unique story.
You’ve got a great business model. Can you tell us about it and why you’ve decided to go down this path?
Fast fashion is something that we are determined to stamp out. To do this, we have a pre-order model for each design. Each collection includes four scarves, available in two different sizes. They are all limited in number to 100 of each size, and available to purchase as pre-order. This means we can reduce the unnecessary waste associated with mass production and ensure our products are as unique as our customers. We also have our collaboration and limited edition scarves and are excited to be working on our first charity scarf, with giving back a priority for us from the start.
Who or what inspires you?
Most of my inspiration comes from the synthesis of the built environment and the ephemeral nature of the streets around me. I’m driven primary by a desire to make bold fashion statements with my designs which are often unapologetic about the subject matter used to create them. I love to showcase beauty in the urban landscape and am constantly inspired by travel.
You just did a collaboration with Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa which looks amazing. Can you describe the process and how you came across each other?
I came across Eloisa when I was looking for an artist to paint a mural at my home. I love how passionate she is about colour, something we share. It only occurred to me after commissioning her for the artwork that this had the potential to be a great, first collaboration. Eloisa had free rein on the design but I wanted to tie the colour scheme back to subject matter so I asked if the mural could be painted using colours depicted in aussie butt, one of the scarfs in the launch collection. The mural is now complete and we’re just waiting for the samples which we’re both super excited about! The process worked really well and it’s something I definitely want to pursue for future collaborations as there are so many artists out there that inspire me through their work.
How is sustainability important to subject matter?
At subject matter we work hard to act sustainably and to advocate for the ethical production of textiles. It’s crucial that as a new brand we don’t contribute to mass production and fashion waste, a huge problem across the industry. Our aim is to demonstrate that we can improve surplus by creating high quality, timeless signature pieces. All our scarves are made from 100% silk which is a naturally sustainable fibre, and produced in limited numbers. Our packaging is just as important as our scarves. We only work with companies that have the same ethics as we do. We are learning every day and constantly refining our processes.
What’s next for you?
2021 is the first year I will be working solely on subject matter. After 8 years of working in a busy London practice as an Architect I have decided it’s time to take a break from architecture and concentrate on this. We have an exciting year ahead with more collaborations booked in and collections launches about to go live. We have our fingers crossed that we will be able to travel a little more this year as the travel list is getting longer by the day! We are about to start work on an amazing launch campaign for a limited-edition scarf which is sure to cause a stir, just how we like it. We’re also always on the hunt for amazing artists to work with and love it when people get in touch.
Photography (in order): Ami Robertson (The Woman and The Wolf), Stephanie Tosniwal (subject matter), Adam Titchener, Stephanie Tosniwal (subject matter), Stephanie Tosniwal (subject matter).