As a pair, Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham and their streamlined, mostly monochrome wardrobes create something of a pattern themselves. They have championed all things pattern since co-founding Patternity, the image archive and creative studio, and for the last seven years have worked across multiple disciplines from design to science, collaborating with brands like Clarks, hosting events during London Design Week and recently publishing their first book.
Many are surprised Anna and Grace don’t wear more pattern, but they are staunch advocates of simple dressing, prizing comfort above all else. Meeting with them in their offices in Shoreditch, we talk about the role of clothes in finding your identity as a duo, how they have influenced each other’s styles, and ultimately, how to balance being your brand with being yourself.
What do you do at Patternity?
Anna: Well, we’re the co-founders of Patternity and we specialise in all things pattern. What we do revolves around three core parts: an archive, research and events. We started off with an image archive essentially and then the deeper that went and as awareness of what we did grew, that led to a studio and people started wanting to work with us on specific projects implementing our research.
That’s enabled us to work across lots of different worlds: fashion, art and design but also science and quite out-there projects. Now we work on events as well. Those could be experiential or community and social events, workshops, talks. I think fundamentally what we’re trying to do is use pattern in a positive way.
What have you been working on recently?
Anna: We recently did a big talk at the V&A with about 300 people and that was very much about the Patternity journey because we brought out our first book at the end of last year. That went into our inspirations but also how we implement our ideas as a duo and as a team.
Grace: We had our book launch last year so we’ve kind of been on a bit of a wind-down from that. Now we’re on a wind-up working towards the next big thing. It feels like come spring lots of things will come to fruition, so it’s a really exciting time. It’s a bit of a cliché but it feels like finishing the book marked the end of one chapter and now we’re starting the next.
Anna: The book basically consolidates five years of the visual research and thinking behind what we do. It’s got everything from the Fibonacci sequence straight through to the head of Google talking about patterns in engineering, so it really spans everything.
Is there much of a tie between what you wear and what you do?
Grace: In terms of how clothes relate to our work, all our work has been quite monochrome. It’s just nice to simplify. I know colour is amazing for mood and it can bring a lot of positivity to people but I think when you’re working with pattern all the time, to be wearing it as well it seems a bit much.
When we’ve done collaborations like our Clarks Originals, that was great because we could actually wear that stuff, but we haven’t gone down the Hawaiian shirt road yet. It would be such a nice thing if we could make our own clothes.
Anna: Well who knows? Our research is getting much more technicolour and we’re starting to look at things like music or psychedelia, so you kind of get into some quite interesting worlds.
“It’s just nice to simplify. When you’re working with pattern all the time, to be wearing it as well it seems a bit much.”
I can imagine there’s quite a lot of variety in your working days. Is your style consistent despite your schedule?
Grace: We’re pretty consistent.
Anna: I guess we’re consistent in colours. Sometimes we might do yoga before work and we’ll wear sportswear underneath. We also like making the studio feel quite homely because it’s somewhere you spend often more time than you do at home, so it’s a place to be comfortable as well. There’s a bit of a rhythm to it and obviously if we have meetings we don’t wear our slippers.
In the same way as with our design work though, I think we like not having to choose from lots of different colours or patterns. Often people expect us to wear lots of patterns but really we’re quite simple in what we wear: black, white, navy, maybe some kind of green. I suppose there’s so much choice and you could wear anything, but we kind of have a bit of a uniform.
Grace: You can obviously mix combinations of similar colours without having to think too much. I mean some people really go to town getting up in the morning and dressing themselves for the day, which is lovely, but I think that’s less appealing to me. I like to just get up and get on.
Do you think it’s beneficial when work and personal style line up?
Grace: I think we’re spoilt here [in London] because there are so many interesting looking people but we’ve met some really amazing people who at first glance might not be the best dressers.
Anna: I do think an aesthetic is a way to express yourself. I think it can be a good extension but it shouldn’t identify you too much.
I didn’t really wear our Clarks when they first came out but I’ve started to wear them out and about and we’ve had a couple of collaborations that have come from wearing them because it’s a conversation starter. I think that can be really nice.
Grace: I guess what it can do is help people to see the potential because it’s not always so simple for someone to grasp that depending on what you do. When we are just in black and white it might be harder to imagine how pattern could work in different ways. It kind of works both ways. Normally what we wear is just one question in an interview or it’s not even really spoken about.
Have you influenced each other’s style much?
Anna: I think it’s a constantly evolving thing. At the beginning we were really different; Grace had a black bob and I had long blonde hair and then gradually it’s all morphed and merged. There are certain things, like I tend to wear a hat because after a while our hair was so similar people were like “Which one’s Anna? Which one’s Grace?” It just makes it easier. Finding your identity in a duo and how dress comes into that can be quite important, so it’s a series of experiments and it’s always changing.
Grace: I think we do have a different approach as well. It’s certainly more of a subconscious thing for me. I probably have been massively influenced by Anna but it hasn’t been conscious.
Anna: As we’re growing as a duo and as individuals and as a business, you kind of start to learn that you do think about things in quite different ways, but you’re usually working toward similar goals. So it can be an interesting segue into stories and values.
Grace: In a way you do kind of have to be your brand.
“Finding your identity in a duo and how dress comes into that can be quite important, so it’s a series of experiments and it’s always changing.”
So are you the same in your downtime?
Anna: We got asked at the end of this talk recently if there was much time for chaos in our work because everything seems quite controlled, which maybe is this new phase we’re going into and we can explore that through events, so it might be a gong bath or an art therapy workshop.
There is another side to us as well, there’s so many photos of Grace and I at festivals or music nights and we love fancy dress. We’re also doing some music nights at the Ace Hotel this year.
Grace: Anna sometimes wears a stetson, don’t you Anna?
Anna: Only on the weekends.