After launching her first ready to wear collection last season, Closet Charms speaks to Eleanor Dorrien-Smith about Partimi, the label that is fashioning our eco-future.
Hidden in the maze of houses in South-West London, lies the heart of eco fashion label Partimi. Another little white house with a glossy black door may seem insignificant – the garden fence, the pulled blinds are nothing out of the ordinary. However, behind this one door lives a designer making a name for herself in sustainable fashion, despite working from the chaotic living room of her parent’s house. With the walls covered in mood boards, sofas replaced with cutting tables, and the cat even considered as the studio manager, there is no question that family life is at the root of Partimi’s inspiration.
The name behind the label, half English half American Eleanor Dorrien-Smith, graduated in fashion and print from Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2008. After being spotted at her degree show, US store Anthropologie instantly commissioned a capsule collection named ‘newspapers and plastic bags’ and, following its success, Eleanor won a prize at the Fashioning the Future Awards in 2009, and started the brand Partimi. Instead of diving in head first, she worked with Mary Katrantzou, John Galliano, Eley Kishimoto, and Tata Naka for experience, alongside the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and ESTHETICA at London Fashion Week to build her own label slowly and steadily.
The lichen blue play dress (also seen at top of piece) from Partimi’s AW11 collection.
Eleanor says: “I went for a variety of placements to try and understand different aspects of the industry, from large to small companies and more specialist firms, whether it be in tailoring, textile, printing or weaving. I just wanted to get a really good idea of where I would place myself in the industry, because a recession is a very volatile time for young designers.”
Collaborations with the EJF have included a t-shirt collection on oil spills, and a pop-up shop in Covent Garden where Lily Cole and Johnny Depp even popped in to show their support. The designer has also spoken back at CSM about sustainable fashion, and launched Partimi’s first ready to wear collection in SS11, so no question the future is looking bright.
Eleanor has been involved in the forward thinking world of design from a young age: “My childhood, both on the English and American side, has always featured eccentric relatives. In the 50s, my American family were super cool and into art and architecture; they were extremely modern. Then, on the British side, everything was either aristocratic, or hippy related.”
In fact, the name Partimi originated from family life. Parti, the architectural term for a starting point of an idea, was used constantly as she grew up because both Eleanor’s mother and grandfather worked as architects.
Partimi’s AW11 palm blouse.
Sustainable fashion has always been in her DNA too: “I recycled fabrics I found in dumpsters, donated to Greenpeace, and was attracted to the idea of organic fabrics. I was fascinated with the new and interesting, but I didn’t want to turn my back on the harmful things either, so I thought why not just try and fix the problem?”
All pieces are constructed from organic textiles that have been ethically produced, and all printing is done digitally instead of the harmful and wasteful screen-printing process that pollutes the environment.
The inspiration behind each collection is therefore rooted in childhood memories, or iconic stories from her family’s history and heritage. The SS11 collection, named ‘Dieu Bleu’, was designed in homage to a collection of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes costumes her grandmother collected from Sotheby’s in the 1960s. More recently a family garden, and old photographs of her dad and aunty playing as children influenced the AW11 line. The SS12 collection shares the same touch, with an old photograph of her dad and grandpa on a boat at sea conjuring up dreams of summer, sandy toes and wild weather.
“My family and I were filming a short film for the SS11 collection in the garden that inspired the Autumn collection, and I just noticed the textures and feel of the place. We were a family unit making this film together, and I had a moment of nostalgia.”
The garden is brought to life by photography and the use of still framed shots taken from the SS11 film. A photograph Eleanor took of the moss on a bench and the old photographs of her family were both reprinted to create a couple of whimsical blue dresses, and a classic black and white blouse and midi dress. A still shot from the film was also blown up and printed onto a maxi dress to reimagine the marbled earthy hues of the colours and textures that can be found.
The AW11 blurring maxi gown.
“My favourite piece is the lichen blue play dress (seen in first two pictures of piece). I reworked the bench photograph a little using photoshop, but didn’t touch the colour and shape because I wanted to give the impression of what it was really like to be there.”
What makes Partimi stand out from the rest of the eco-fashion pack though is the soft, delicate style of the pieces, which are not only timeless and effortless but also have a distinct edge.
Eleanor admits to a new stigma surrounding eco-fashion, “Originally it was just a bit un cool, but from experience it’s becoming a bit of a cliché now with designers using the sustainable tag to market themselves. I have concentrated on wearable and well thought-out design.”
Currently Partimi is sold at Youngbritishdesigners.com, which champions emerging talent, new Broadway market boutique 69B that was launched by Merryn Leslie – stylist from top fashion titles like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and Anthropologie. Online store Magic Number Three and member’s only boutique Rous Island have also just been added to her clientele.
Looking ahead to the future Eleanor reflects: “At the moment Partimi is still very small, the catwalk for example is something that will happen in a few seasons time. However I do really want to start to push and make Partimi a multi-label brand with a retail space that has visiting designers and collaborators sympathetic to our style.”
We hope this time isn’t too far away.
Credits – images from Partimi AW11 lookbook – clothes all Partimi by Eleanor Dorrien-Smith, photography by Nicole Maria Winkler, hair and make-up by Stephanie Stokkvik, model Sophie at Union, producer Amy Guthrie, assistants Lowri Jones and Yan Giet, location Grove House Roehampton London.