Harriet Bornemann is the designer behind the new homeware brand Bloc Studio. With a love of pattern cutting and making, Harriet designs and makes homewares textiles from her home in London. Working on Bloc Studio alongside her full-time job working for a luxury womenswear designer, Harriet started Bloc Studio during the covid lockdowns. Harriet shares her journey into designing textiles, the inspiration behind her designs and how she came up with a brand name. Harriet also has some great advice for anyone with a side-hustle about getting started but also avoiding the dreaded burnout.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Bloc Studio’s aesthetic is fun and expressive! It’s all about brightening up the customer’s home, kitchen or studio.
What was your journey into designing textiles? Did you study or was it always a passion?
I studied fashion design at the Norwich University of the Arts which was very focused on pattern cutting and manufacturing. Those were my favourite parts so I wanted to keep doing them in my free time and not just for making myself clothes. In my graduate collection, I designed prints and translated those directly into the pattern cutting of the garments instead of digitally or screen printing them. I use the same process for Bloc Studio. Currently, I work for a luxury womenswear designer as a Junior Production Coordinator. Within production, we order the bulk fabrics and trims then work with factories to get the clothes produced in line with our delivery schedule. It involves maintaining relationships with our supplies but also upholding the brand’s standards. I get such a well-rounded view of fashion as a business because I work with the technical, product development and logistic teams on a daily basis so I see the whole process.
I was always terrified at the prospect of making my own brand but I’m starting small with something that works whilst I also work full time!
When did you decide to start Bloc Studio?
Like many other people, the Covid lockdowns opened up a lot of free time which I used to plan out how I could maybe profit from my skills. So I started planning in December 2020 then launched in March 2021. I was always terrified at the prospect of making my own brand but I’m starting small with something that works whilst I also work full time! It’s still hard to juggle as you want to maintain a social life and time to rest so you don’t burn out.
Where does the name Bloc Studio come from? Did you find it difficult to come up with a name for your brand?
Well, that part really scared me. I was googling how to come up with a name for your brand! Haha! Anyway, I was sketching some designs for aprons and it was a lot of shapes and simple lines which I wanted to make in block colours and Bloc Studio was born!
You live in London now. Does the city influence your designs? I always think of the Barbican when I see your work!
Of course! You’re constantly surrounded by inspiration. It might be the shape of a building or stumbling across a mural in a backstreet in Soho. I’m such a magpie for colour and finding new colour palettes. With that being said, I think I do limit myself and become lazy which I can imagine is the same for many others. Instagram and Pinterest are right there at your fingertips but how are you ever going to get the best and most innovative ideas if you don’t push yourself and step out of your comfort zone. It’s crazy how therapeutic this interview is!
Who or what inspires you?
Mainly other areas of design like fashion, architecture and graphic design. I interned and worked at Roksanda and as a brand, it’s filled with colour and energy so it will always hold a place in my heart and be a source of inspiration. I also love Camille Walala and everything she designs – even her little sketchbooks are gold dust. She’s the coolest person!
What do you like most about working for yourself?
When I feel like I’m burning out, I can give myself a break and put the Etsy shop on holiday mode.
I think planning my time wisely and not spending every free minute on Bloc Studio keeps my mindset on track.
A huge part of starting and growing a business is having the right mindset. What are some of the things you do to stay motivated?
I think planning my time wisely and not spending every free minute on Bloc Studio keeps my mindset on track. I got into a spot of making products every morning and evening and I really didn’t love it for a few weeks so I had to step back and focus on other things. I’ve really learnt creating space around my business has meant it’s not something I’m dreading but something I can look forward to.
What’s your advice for someone who has an idea but hasn’t yet started?
You won’t ever know if it’s going to work unless you try! Also, make sure you have the time, money and personal support to pursue your idea before you jump in. It’s worth waiting and planning that extra bit longer to make it the best it can be.
Can you tell me about a failure, and what you learnt from it?
When you’re starting off, failure is inevitable as you’re really doing trial and error. I think my first experience with failure was making my second colourway in the blue/yellow colourway which didn’t sell hugely well. My reaction was to go in the opposite direction and use more neutrals. I really want people to see Bloc Studio as this fun colourful brand but then super colourful homewares aren’t for everyone. It’s a balancing act between what is commercial and what is true to Bloc Studio as a brand. I see this colourway as maybe not a failure but one of those things that just didn’t work as well.
What are your plans for the future of Bloc? Will you expand your range of designs?
I’d like to gradually offer more colourways and designs. As for the actual products, cushions were doing really well so I plan to expand that range! I also love the idea of some funky tote bags which are boxier and have internal pockets so you can fit in more than a magazine! I hope to sell my products in independent stores or even sell in markets in London. I’m currently working on these opportunities so hopefully, we will see something come up this year!