The crushing of mainstream, unrealistic beauty standards that pervade today’s world, and especially women’s minds,  does not come without the emergence of small female-founded brands like Lydia Morrow’s What Lydia Made. The young, self-taught designer, mother, and artist was initially spurred by her drive to design and create clothes for her own body, which there is a pronounced and persisting absence of in mainstream and high-end fashion. The recent surge of small designers which uphold ethical practises and the designing of unique, one-off clothing, allows for herself and other designers to explore their creative vision, all the while sharing their work on social media platforms and engaging with those who support them. Lydia’s love for comfortability exceeds the bounds of simply designing for herself and others, since she even offers advice and guidance to those who want to fit their own clothes - whether its businesses or personal wardrobes.
Today we welcome 26-year-old entrepreneur Lydia Morrow based in Glasgow, who designs clothes as well as guides others through how to fit their own! Happy new year, Lydia – how were your holidays?
Hi there! Incredibly I managed to avoid covid so overall I had a much nicer holiday than expected- and got to start a few new cool projects as well. It’s always nice to have the chance to work on personal projects.
Lydia, you design predominantly knitted clothes like cardigans, sweater shirts, balaclavas, and mittens, which nurture women who are very often not catered for by mainstream fast fashion brands. For how long have you been practising your art?
Yeah I get a lot of joy from making and wearing clothes that aren’t what usually gets made for people my size! As a fat woman it’s rare to find weird, fun stuff to wear so it’s amazing to have the chance to create it. I’ve been making my own clothes for a good while but I started with this current iteration of my practice in December 2020, I had hardly knitted since childhood and didn’t know how to read patterns or anything, so I’ve had to learn a lot. It really feels like knitting is what I was meant to do though and it constantly inspires me.
5 years ago, you graduated from the Glasgow School of Art; though you are a self-taught artist, how did your experience at GSA amplify your passion for designing further?
GSA is pretty much a mixed bag, if I’m honest. My experience of the Painting and Printmaking course was quite positive because it’s studio based and I’m really self motivated. I got to go for free because of the Scottish government’s education policy, which is really important to point out. It kind of felt like a 4 year residency, and I really enjoyed having the space and time to explore my way of working. During my time in art school I needed to spend a lot of time justifying the presence of craft and design in my work which was frustrating, but helpful in the long run because it gave me strong convictions and taught me how to push to make what I want.
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 8.jpg
How did you cope with the pressures of expecting whilst also focusing on finalising your degree?
Honestly I didn’t! I was so, so unwell during my pregnancy that I stayed home for the majority of my 4th year and could hardly work. Luckily, I had been so prolific in the first wee bit that I was able to still pull together a degree show I was proud of.
After graduating, you launched your very own underwear line which bloomed for a few years, along with its prioritisation of body positivity, comfort, and inclusivity. Your story is important as it helps destigmatise disability, especially within the fashion industry (where it is so often overlooked) since we rarely get to hear about designers who live and work with disabilities whilst continuing to bring their art to those who need it. Your underwear label embraced how real bodies look and feel, instead of encouraging women to fit a specific ideal, especially in the case of bras where a perfect fit is hard to find. Was the positive reaction to What Lydia Made instantaneous?
Yes, actually. I started sewing underwear just as a personal thing for myself and within a few weeks of posting what I had designed I got tons of messages asking me to make ones for them! Plus-size and big chested lingerie is such an underserved market, especially stuff that is made in an environmentally friendly or non exploitative way. I wish so much I could still be creating it, but it took such a horrible physical and mental toll running the whole business myself. I would love to one day design underwear for a company with ethical production capacity, I think what set mine apart was that I was applying my fine art and design eye to lingerie, which has quite an established and homogeneous aesthetic in many ways.
Though you no longer sew underwear in major quantities in order to prioritise your own health, you went on to start creating one-off commission pieces, which also makes your clothes more unique and environmentally friendly! How did you feel about your decision to bring your underwear line to an end?
It’s such an exciting area of design for me, it was really hard to give it up, but it was kind of unavoidable. I had developed such bad anxiety I couldn’t leave the house and I was in constant agonising pain from the ways it put pressure on my (already painful) joints. In many ways it was a huge relief to quit. Working on one-off designs and shifting my focus has been really exciting though, I feel much more able to incorporate my fine art background and conceptual practice. This lines up really well with my kid being a bit more grown up and not needing constant care in the way babies and toddlers do. The early years of childcare really took over my whole brain and made it hard for me to think about ideas outside of aesthetics.
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 1.jpg
One of your first customers after the launch of your one-off designs, was Courtney Love. Did this take you by surprise? Is there something more fulfilling about designing one-off pieces than producing in larger quantities?
That was a wild one! She was co-curating a show and they commissioned a piece from me- I definitely thought it was a scam at first (laughs)! Designing one offs is definitely more fulfilling in certain ways but it is a lot harder. I have ADHD so the kind of focus required for more detailed projects is hard to find, while the high of finishing projects is quite addictive. I try to create a bit of balance between quick, easy, repetitive jobs and complex detailed one-offs to manage this, but it definitely makes everything a little harder.
I also feel like making one offs for myself, or just as pieces of art without the pressure of having to sell them is really necessary to stay inspired. I spend a lot of time looking at folklore, Scottish history, vintage magazines, and other random ephemera, finding bits that feel like they relate with my experiences and reshaping them into my own magical narrative.
Please tell us more about your unique service in assisting people online who want to fit their own clothes!
I really haven’t found my niche yet in terms of what my work life looks like, but it may just be that I’m designed to change it up. I love to work with businesses helping with plus size fit testing to confirm that their fit is as beautiful as their designs. I also love doing styling for shoots or personal wardrobes, with a big focus on size inclusive and sustainable fashion. I’m always into one-off commissions, but I still struggle with finding a pricing model that works - making a knitted dress can take a whole month of labour! I try to share loads of my process and designs, and information about plus size and ethical fashion to grow and enrich this awesome online fashion community we have.
What are your plans – whether personal or professional – for the rest of the new year?
This year I plan on rebooting my art practice and trying to devote a lot more time to developing concepts and designs, not just doing work for other people. I also have a few amazing secret projects in the works I wish I could tell you about. I’d love to work more with other people and do more modelling and styling work for shoots, it feels like I have a lot ahead of me and I’m just filled with so many ideas. It’s been a while since I started a year with so much optimism and energy so I am going to try to ride that wave!
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 6 2.jpg
Lydia Morrow Metalmagazine 7.jpg