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Celia Birtwell talks to ELLE about Uniqlo

By Emma Sells

‘I’m actually fairly critical of my work but I think the way they’ve put it together, I couldn’t have done it better myself, ‘ the undisputed queen of prints, Celia Birtwell, told us this morning of her new collection for Uniqlo. We couldn’t agree more - it’s amazing. Trust us.

Eight years after her sell-out collection for Topshop introduced her to a brand new generation of fashion fans, the iconic textile designer is set to return to the high street once again. Celia has picked favourite prints from her extensive archive of designs and compiled them with new offerings and prints that have previously only been used for her interiors collections.

Once handed over to Uniqlo, the high street team set about splashing the florals, palm trees, cats and beasties over a whole host of pieces – we’re not just talking t-shirts here. Easy shirt dresses, pretty button-up blouses with matching palazzo pants, vibrantly printed jeans and, yes, jersey separates too, have all been given the Birtwell treatment. ‘I think they’re fun,’ she says of the results, ‘and I think the collection is fun. They’re cheap and cheerful in a way that is accessible for everyone and I’ve been really impressed by the quality.’

The designer was on hand this morning to run us through her favourite pieces (she’s particularly proud of the monochrome outfit). And amidst the backdrop of colour and pattern she was dressed head to toe in black. Her usual ensemble, we asked? ‘Well I do wear stripes quite a lot but I’ve only got one smart suit and that what I’ve got on! I do wear my own pieces occasionally but I have an attitude towards wearing too many prints, I don’t know what it is, it’s like when you’re a carpenter but you don’t have any bookshelves at home, that’s how I am.’

The designer’s illustrative prints have been a fashion favourite ever since she first started adding them to dresses designed by Ossie Clark back in the sixties, but, more than 40 years later, she’s still designing new prints. ‘I haven’t stopped you see,’ she tells us, ‘I’m not just an archivist. I still enjoy it, it’s what I do best and if you get praise and people like what you do, it’s nice isn’t it? I get a bit fed up with people saying ‘Oh it’s an archive collection’ because I think that means you stopped working in the seventies so I do readdress that each time and say no, I’ve never stopped really, I’m always thinking of something new to do.’

We're keeping our fingers crossed that that means a follow-up collection is in the pipeline.

The collection will hit stores on 21 March, with prices starting from £9.99.

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