Two’s Company: Lazy Oaf & Patternity @ YCN

On Tuesday I headed to YCN in Shoreditch for a talk about Brand Collaborations. As a student the YCN shop used to be a ‘must’ when I came to visit London, but I don’t think I’ve visited since I have lived here – this post in July 2013 with Emma & Sara was probably the last time! YCN, short for You Can Now (although it used to be Young Creative Network), is a creative organisation helping young (and old) talent to find their way in the industry. They represent illustrators, provide a network with creative opportunities, workshops and talks, have a shop with a working library and a design agency upstairs. Oh and on top of that they co-ordinate YCN student awards every year with briefs from some of the best brands around. Basically they’re very busy people!


Tonight’s talk about brand collaborations featured two creatives: Gemma Shiel founder of Lazy Oaf (fashion) and Grace Winteringham 1 half of blogging/pattern addicted duo Patternity.


Lazy Oaf is a really fun brand and for me it’s the closest you can come to wearing Graphics – the clothes are so bold and colourful with blocks of colour, type, pattern and illustration. Celebrating it’s 15th Birthday next year, Lazy Oaf has built a reputation as being one of the quirkiest brands in London(and around the world). Gemma began by explaining how the first collaboration ‘came about’ after she doodled a hybrid of Batman and Mickey Mouse in 2012. After deciding she couldn’t use it, the L.O. team said ‘Why don’t we do real Batman?’ and so they looked into licensing and made it happen. They sold like hot cakes, so Gemma started to think that they could be onto something.


Since Batman, Gemma has put the Lazy Oaf spin on Looney Tunes and Garfield too, but it’s not just cartoon characters! She was also approached by Kickers shoes (‘Which was great because I wore them as a Bridesmaid’) and Nasty Gal, with both collaborations having their limits. With Kickers, Gemma was given 1 style of black shoe and said that at first she was clueless to how she could inject some ‘oafness’, but with ideas of glitter, rainbow platforms and colour laces she just about managed! With the Nasty Gal collab, she said it was a challenge to design for a different client (sexier)whilst keeping her crazy Lazy Oaf style.


She said that although she loved working on the collaborations with well known cartoons, it’s not something that Lazy Oaf want to be known for churning out, as she has her own design vision. She did give us a sneak peek of the next collaboration launching soon at Pick Me Up (an illustration festival at Somerset House) which works with artists:


Explaining her process, she said it goes a bit like this:
1. Think ‘WTF can I do with this?’
2. Sketch it out
3. Be honest if it’s not going to work

The dream Lazy Oaf x ? would be with a car manufacturer – she envisions rainbow seat belts, which sounds awesome!

Talking collaborations in a different way was Grace from duo Patternity.


Grace explained that technically the first collab was meeting Anna. United through a common language, a textile designer and art director/photographer, were bonded over their love of patterns and a shared vision.


Beginning as a blog/ online pattern image archive, Patternity has progressed into a studio now, with the opportunities to work with some great brands including Clarks (shoes), the Design Museum, the Imperial War Museum and COS. The girls are keen to not been seen as just slapping pattern onto things – every context and use of pattern is carefully considered. After writing 30,000 words on pattern, which Grace described as ‘pretty difficult’ (I can imagine!), they came to the conclusion that we walk, eat, wear and think pattern. Pattern is in everything we do!

With this in mind, Patternity make references to everyday items; buildings and textures, which can be applied to fashion, textiles or products.


The Patternity attitude to collaboration stems from an African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Why should you collaborate? Because collabs bring another skill set or craft different to your own abilities.

The first Patternity collab was a table with Grace’s Dad – it was a real object that people could understand. And clearly people did understand –  the table won a Wallpaper magazine award!

The girls have since worked with COS (using everyday objects in new ways),  a chocolate maker that lived in Belgium and spoke no English, and have created a 30 piece knitwear collection – working on every detail, not just creating a pattern.


For Patternity collaboration is the opportunity to bring their patterns to life via products which they would otherwise not have the knowledge or contacts to produce. They don’t have a factory that can make blankets or jumpers or shoes or saucers, but through collaboration these ideas can become a reality.

After both presentations there was time for some questions and a discussion about other brand collaborations, including the Evian x fashion brand collab which happens basically every year. How is water and fashion a good pairing and what are the benefits to both brands in this collaboration? ( and if you ask me, some of the bottles aren’t even that great!?)


I couldn’t resist taking a selfie-of-sorts in the light up mirror which had been glowing all the way through the talks – notice Gemma from Lazy Oaf catching me in the act? ha

Both talks were really different and interesting. Hearing the Lazy Oaf & Patternity experiences made me look at collaborations from different angles, as a designer and a blogger. Collaboration can mean a lot of different things depending on your outlook, but hopefully it is always with a positive outcome in mind. Thanks to YCN, Gemma and Grace for a great evening!

Have you visited the YCN shop yet? Are you addicted to patterns? Or maybe you’re a Lazy Oaf? Let me know what you think about the subject of collaboration.


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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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