For Natasha Somerville, a fascination with the outright peculiar spans back to her childhood days: the stories that would have freaked the hell out of you were the lullabies of choice for the young designer. It was during her time at Central Saint Martins – just over three years ago – when the Londoner began to channel her abstract imagination, and as a result dreamt up the concept for her audacious luxury accessory line Mormo.
Steering clear from the trite, the Monsters’ Den currently boasts a trio of exquisitely crafted and idiosyncratic creatures – Spike, Drool and Snotty – that somewhat resemble monsters stuck mid transformation in the process of becoming handbags. With a zeal for attention to detail at the core of the brand, you can expect to be enamoured by the label’s unique characteristics: including 50 unique hand-drawn monsters that make up the lining, as well as hand-cast resin features.
Following the limited pre-orders, (20 of each for this season), that began on the 15th’; we got in touch with the part time anti-agency model to find out about the artisan process, what’s so unique about each of these guys and why the surreal inspires.
When did your obsession with monsters start?
Natasha: As a kid I’ve always been drawn to the weirder side of things. Ideas that most kids would have found scary I loved. Remember those creepy naughty goblins from Noddy? My dad had to tell me bedtime stories about them so I could fall asleep! I was fascinated with Return to Oz, Labyrinth, and The Never Ending Story. Terry Gilliam’s amazing, Time Bandits is one of my all time favourite films for it’s utterly bonkers bizarreness.
Where did the concept to create Mormo come from?
Natasha: During my second year at St Martin’s we had an accessories project in collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Part of my extensive research looked at John Stezakers’ metamorphosis-like collages, which through my design eyes were weird creatures. I thought it would be funny to imagine this monster being stuck halfway through its transformation into a handbag.
Craftsmanship is at the core of the brand – what goes into creating a monster? How long is the process?
Natasha: The first season was a crazy long process, over 3 years in fact! I worked closely alongside a specialist leather studio to come up with the first samples, and as it was something so peculiar it took a little longer than your average handbag.
To put in perspective what goes into a Mormo monster: Drool has over 80 pattern pieces, some of which are so tiny if you sneezed they would fly away never to be found again. Inside every creature has a hand printed lining with over 50 teeny illustrations of creatures running wild across the fabric. The hand-cast resin hardware was the most challenging aspect, I had to work out the engineering behind a toggle mechanism and translate it into a tongue and nose shape.
Tell me the unique personalities and characteristics of each monster.
Natasha: Poor Snotty, bless him he has a constant cold and so his neon green patent bogeys have splashed all over his beautifully soft custom dyed lambskin body. Each splodge is completely different on each bag so he’s a very unique lil’ guy.
Spike’s daddy was a creature that lived on planet Splonk; his mummy was actually just an average bull terrier. Spike loves being dressed up in his customisable collars, leads and wrist straps. He has a mean look but he’s a softy really.
Lastly there’s Drool, he seems to be everyone’s favourite: his main feature has to be his hand-cast resin hands… or perhaps it’s his super shiny tongue toggle? Either way he loves getting piggy back rides, especially if you go rollerblading like me!
Who’s your inner monster?
My 10 year old self that lives in the right side of my brain!
I love your Instagram account. What is it about trippy and surreal imagery that inspires you?
Natasha: My brain thinks in peculiar ways, so I think I’m naturally drawn to the weird. Optical illusions in art really fascinate me, I remember being shown Hans Holbien’s The Ambassadors at the National Gallery when I was young, running up to the canvas and looking at the anamorphic skull sideways on! My final collection at St Martins was based around visual perceptions using the Moiré effect, and trickery of the mind by the use of fabric.
What else gets you inspired?
For me, inspiration comes from everything around me. I find the most important thing is to be in a mindset where you can accept ideas. If I’m stressed or in check list mode I rarely come up with anything good. I think to be properly inspired you must be completely relaxed and enjoy playing with a concept, really taking time over it.
Were there any monsters that didn’t make the cut the first time round? Are the trio to expect any siblings?
Natasha: I can’t tell you much as that would spoil the surprise now wouldn’t it?! But Drools girlfriend Droolita will be joining the creature clan S/S16.
Interview by Josephine Platt
Illustrated Collages by Natasha Somerville