Earlier this year, Jonathan Saunders got in the holiday mood when he collaborated on a project with Thomson to design a pool and beach area, as well as totes and sarongs, for their new luxury Senstatori Jamaica resort. We had caught up with the Scottish designer to find out what it was all about...

How did the collaboration with Thomson come about?
Thomson contacted me a while back and they got me at a time when I was really thinking about doing projects which involved furniture, interiors and exteriors. I studied product design and furniture before I studied fashion, so it's an area which is really close to my heart. Any project that I think would be an exciting one to work on I jump at the chance to do. And this project was all about the customer, and about giving them a great time when they're away on holiday, which is an ethos I thought was great. So I got on board.

You're graduate collection in 2002 also contains some colourful kaftans – are you consciously going back to your roots?
I hadn't thought of it like that, but yes you're right! I love working with colour and I think it's a really an important part of what I do, and with this project in particular I thought I'd be able to really embrace that.

The Jonathan Saunders label is ten years old. How has the brand changed in that time?
I went to a very avant-garde art school – Glasgow School of Art – and I think that the whole process of design then was much more conceptual from where we are with the brand now. The brand has always been about optimism and interesting,  innovative ways of decorating clothes and fabric. It's not about minimalism – it's about embracing the joy in designing something.

About four or five years ago I really realised that shapes being very simple was an important part in making the decorative wearable and accessible. Finding that balance between what a girl wants to put on her back and expressing what you want to express creatively made me change. Working on various projects like this one, and anything that involves a product rather than fashion, shows that the brand can translate into different elements. Which is what I always wanted.

Where did you look for inspiration when designing for the hotel?
I've got this amazing Casa Vogue book from years ago and it has incredible colours in it, and when I started doing my research that was important. Then looking at people and things that always inspire me from a fashion perspective like Bauhaus or (French architect and designer) Charlotte Periannd. I felt it was important to try and embrace the natural elements of the place – I want to incorporate bold colours with more natural elements and plant life.

So what's your favourite type of holiday?
Up until this year, I've always wanted to completely escape and do absolutely nothing. When you're doing six collections a year, the idea of doing any activity on holiday is not something you want to think about. But in recent times, perhaps as I get older, I like to do something, see something as well. I think the more cultures you get to experience the better.

I love Sri Lanka and Kerala. This year I want to go to Peru – I just want to see stuff. When there's so much going on in the office, very often ideas don't come until you're on your own in the quiet. I like the idea of going on holiday and not thinking about work, but in actual fact that's when I get most of my ideas so when I go away I take a notepad with me and start to sketch stuff and think about ideas for the next collection.

When I went to Jamaica, it was the first time I'd been there, and I was really struck by the very individual vibe it's got going on. It's such a cool place and everyone is so friendly. There's a real kind of laid-back energy, like nothing I've experienced anywhere else. It was a really great starting point for the project to go somewhere and think 'wow this is so cool here'.

Who is the Jonathan Saunders holiday girl?
My girl has always been somebody that doesn't want over-structured clothes that'll tie her down. She wants to be free to go about her life, and that's why separates and casual wear is so important to me. Holiday is no different. Especially somewhere like Jamaica where everywhere you turn there's bright, inspiring collars whether it's a ramshackle shed in the street or the most luxurious hotel. 

By Olivia Marks

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