As our Studio Manager, Grace is responsible for the smooth running of the practice and is often one of the first faces within the studio people interact with. We thought it fitting, therefore, to interview her first in our new series that gives an insight into some of the people and personalities behind our practice.
Grace graduated with a degree in fashion from Leeds College of Art and set up a business selling vintage clothing while completing her studies. She continues to run her business alongside her work at the practice and is a keen advocate for ethical, recycled and sustainable fashion. She joined Buttress in 2016.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Buttress’s Studio Manager and my work involves a real mix of tasks from sorting out meetings and appointments to maintaining the condition of the studio. My role has changed a lot during the pandemic by helping teams adapt to working from home, but essentially it’s making sure the studio and our all administrative processes run efficiently – whether that’s in the office or remotely.
In addition to my position as Studio Manager, I also have a role within our B:Well team, which aims to promote wellbeing across the practice. As part of this, I’ve had the opportunity to develop and deliver a number of exciting projects that have ranged from running art competitions and breakfasts to developing staff wellbeing surveys.
What do you enjoy most about your role at Buttress?
I genuinely like helping people and a lot of my work involves providing crucial support to teams across the office, which is something that I really enjoy. We work in a high demand industry, so for me, being able to do something that improves someone’s day or makes their working life easier is a job well done.
My involvement in the B:Well team has also allowed me to extend that support to help create a positive working culture within the studio. Mental health and employee wellbeing is such an important topic so I am proud that Buttress has been proactive in creating this initiative and recognising that people’s health and happiness is crucial to a successful workplace.
What does good design mean to you?
At its heart, I think good design is about people and should enhance the life of whoever is going to be using it.
However, I also think that innovation is really important – whether that’s being aesthetically Avant Garde or being imaginative in terms of the way things are produced. Coming from a fashion background, I’ve always been fascinated by the different methods used to construct garments. For example, I find the work of Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons particularly inspiring because of their reliance on creativity rather than conventional fashion techniques to create unique, impactful designs. As a result, whenever I’m making something, I often enjoy exploring how I might do it differently more than the process of making the garment itself.
What parallels do you see between fashion and architecture?
At its most basic level you can look at them both as providing shelter for people. Buildings are shaped around humans and are created for us to inhabit, but we also inhabit clothes, just in a very different way. Both are also an expression of art and design but seek to find a balance between creativity and practicality. Whether you’re designing clothes or buildings, you have to give consideration to who they are being created for and what function they need to serve. As Coco Chanel once said, “fashion is architecture, it’s a question of proportions.”
There are also a lot of parallels between the way things are constructed and how the application of different textures and materials can alter the way something looks or is experienced. For example, in my own designs, I enjoy exploring how, through construction techniques like pleating, I can transform soft, pliable fabrics like silk into something solid and 3D.
What’s your favourite thing about your role at Buttress?
In summary, it’s the variety of work I get to do. I like that my day can go in any direction and I have the opportunity to work with every team across the studio and gain a glimpse into the wide range of work we do.
What’s your proudest moment since working at Buttress?
A real personal achievement has been qualifying as a Mental Health First Aider as part of my role in the B:Well team, which has allowed me to gain practical skills and in depth understanding of the factors that can affect wellbeing. It’s also been encouraging to know that the practice isn’t just paying lip service to its commitment to employee wellbeing but is truly investing in it and empowering people, like me, to help further the cause.
Another moment that stands out to me is when the entire studio went out for pizza after winning a highly competitive tender. Although it was just a small group of people within the studio who had directly worked on the bid, it was great to be able to come together to celebrate their hard work and share in our collective success.
What three words would you use to describe working at Buttress?
Supportive, collaborative and creative.