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Darkest Star launches #LoversUnite

Muddy talks to Hitchin's Sam D'Cruze of Darkest Star about her new charity capsule collection.

Darkest Star #LoversUnite t-shirt, £37 with £5 donated to NACOA     Photo: Andy D’Cruze

Sam D’Cruze of Darkest Star is a fashion designer based in Hitchin. This month she launches her capsule collection #LoversUnite, a range of t-shirts made in the UK as part of a campaign to support the charity Nacoa, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. Sam’s clothes have been worn by Mary J Blige, Camila Cabbelo and Gigi and Bella Hadid. Sam D’Cruze is based on Hitchin’s Brand Street, and she shares he design studio with her photographer husband Andy D’Cruze. Her designs – unique pieces with handcrafted embellishments and injections of art – have been featured in Vogue, Elle and V Magazine among others. And now Muddy Stilettos!

Sam D’Cruze, Darkest Star                                 Photo: Andy D’Cruze

Sam is known for her signature sleeves. She recently hooked up with (sorry) Helen Ingram of Woolly Chic, the crochet designer who is also based in Hitchin. This collaboration resulted crocheted pieces fused with leather biker sleeves, exhibited during this year’s London Fashion Week. Sam D’Cruze is a champion of Positive Fashion, and Darkest Star has been awarded the Positive Fashion logo by the British Fashion Council. Sam also runs Stitch Bitch, offering quality alterations and a made to measure service. I meet Sam at her Brand Street studio in Hitchin.

Photo: Andy d’Cruze

Sam, tell us about the #LoversUnite capsule collection.

#LoversUnite over-sized t-shirt, £45 with £5 donated to NACOA    Photo: Andy D’Cruze

I’m incredibly excited and proud of designing our capsule collection of UK-made, not-for-profit t-shirts. When you buy a t-shirt, you will be making a donation of between £5-15 to Nacoa, an inspirational charity dedicated to helping the Children of Alcoholics, a cause very close to my heart. Unlike most charity t-shirts, we don’t print on pre-made blanks. We design, cut and make our own styles and they’re manufactured in the UK.

Photo: Andy D’Cruze

Did you always know you’d be a designer?

I’ve always been a maker and I’ve always customised clothing. My first garment was a cerise circle skirt with a button-up centre front, I wore it to primary school when I was 10. The most treasured garment that I made was a lace trimmed denim jacket, made into a waistcoat with a pop art-inspired face of Madonna embroidered on the back. I must have been about 13 at the time.

What’s the story with the Darkest Star sleeves?

Hand embellished  jacket and collar    Photo: Andy D’Cruze

The stylist Patti Wilson picked up our lace sleeves during London Fashion Week 2014 and dressed Gigi and Bella Hadid for Steven Klein’s V Magazine’s shoot. They were on the front cover, and from that moment, we ‘owned’ the sleeve. Sam Roddick, Anita Roddick’s daughter, invited us to exhibit a collection of pieces I’d made for her luxury erotic boutique Coco de Mer. We then started to design luxury items. I really liked the idea of designing a garment that could be worn with underwear as well as complement any casual or evening outfit. The sleeves are so versatile and can give any outfit an edgy twist.

What is Positive Fashion?

Photo: Andy D’Cruze

I believe Positive Fashion is a business practice that contributes and promotes positive change within the fashion industry whilst making a difference to the lives of others through your work. This includes sustainability, diversity and model health, as well as local manufacturing and craftsmanship and ‘giving back’. My particular passion is being able to keep manufacturing in the UK. I like to work with local production units and local craftspeople. It’s about not over-producing, which in turn reduces landfill. I’ve been passionate about Positive Fashion since 2003, when I was designing for a bag company called Launer. The factory was in Walsall near Birmingham and I used to drive through deserted streets of incredible yet derelict Victorian buildings that were once the heart of the leather and bag manufacturing industry.

Oversized t-shirt #LoversUnite dress, £69 with £15 donation made to NACOA   Photo: Andy D’Cruze

I understand why so many businesses have taken their production abroad. Keeping up with the culture of fast fashion and low price points is difficult, nigh on impossible, for small luxury labels. But with businesses moving abroad, the skill base of makers is slowly dying in this country. Well chosen, handmade quality designs are more economical in comparison to high street fast fashion that gets discarded to landfill after one season. I have pieces that have been looked after and worn many times over 15 years. If you work out price per wear, you’ve got a bargain! We also make Made to Measure pieces that work well for women who know what they want but can’t find it. These pieces tend to stay in the wardrobe a lot longer.

Tell us about the collaboration with Hitchin crochet designer Woolly Chic and London Fashion Week.

Hand crochet by Woolly Chic mixed with leather biker sleeves    Photo: Andy D’Cruze

Helen, the owner of Woolly Chic, is a friend I met in the playground many years ago when our sons started primary school together. I wanted to add a different texture to the collection and Helen’s hand crochet was the obvious choice. I had an idea of what I wanted and gave Helen a rough toile of the shape but ultimately left it to her to make a pattern and produce two cool, contemporary crochet pieces that sit well with our leather sleeves and trousers. When sales come through, Helen will work within her community to produce the garments.

Do you think that Hitchin is conducive to creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit?

Hitchin is a hive of creative activity, art, music, design, shopping and food – the list goes on. I moved here from Crouch End around 14 years ago and can honestly say I couldn’t be happier. There’s always something going on in the market square, and creative groups meet up throughout the month. The support of Hitchin creatives is incredible.

#LoversUnite t-shirts

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