Hazel Fernandes’ passion for pattern and colour translates directly into her designs. Her brand is beautifully bold, bringing together a kaleidoscopic collection of opulent colours, aquatic and botanical patterns and the flowing forms of Art Nouveau. I’ve met Hazel a couple of times and I truly admire her honesty. Her brand has evolved intuitively and, as she puts it, “slightly chaotically” but as a result it has a real integrity. Creative entrepreneurialism is wonderful, and in the pretty squares of Instagram seems idyllic. But it’s not always easy, and I welcome any discussion about the reality of these challenges. 

Here Hazel talks openly about setting up her business and the realities of creative entrepreneurialism. Read on, and be prepared to see some seriously sumptuous designs…

Hazel, tell us a bit about yourself and how your business evolved? 

I’ve done a number of things during my design career, including running my own greeting cards business for a number of years. What it taught me was that I am not a born businesswoman. I know it’s quite something to admit, being a business owner, but it’s the truth. The last few years saw a change in my personal circumstances, meaning I’m now a single mum of two and without access to the sort of investment capital that would enable me to grow the business as quickly as I would like. I work a part-time job for half of the week to fund my design business.

It sounds like it has been a challenging year… 

It has, but the positive part is I get to do what I love: being creative, designing with the freedom that comes with having no limitations. I get to create the kind of designs that make my heart sing.

The challenging side is balancing this with all the other necessities of a successful business: understanding the running of a business and making sure the numbers add up. Marketing and promoting my products aren’t my natural forte in the way design and production really are. 

Now I’m trying to grow my brand and presence in order to set up collaborations with manufacturers and bigger companies. This will allow me to focus on my strengths: producing ranges that are dynamic and exciting. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere. Country walks with the girls will often plant a seed of thought in my mind, be it lichen growing on tree bark, the pattern of cut tree-rings, or the natural pattern of interesting rock formations. I look for some design references too: Art Nouveau flow and forms greatly inspire my work. 

I’ll put images and inspiration on my mood board in no particular order – just intuitively arranging them in colour stories and what I like together. Then I start drawing and painting and even then I’m not quite sure how the story is going to unfold. When I scan my artwork into my computer, that’s when the magic starts to happen. I’ll start something and think: “yes – that what I want this collection to look like”.

 Your style? 

The Brothers Grimm meets a modern William Morris with a touch of colour-imbued romanticism.

 Where do you enjoy working?

My favourite place to work is my front room. I live in a flat in an old, late-Edwardian house. I’ve tall ceilings and large windows and look out on a glorious view of green and trees – perfect! (If I could live anywhere, it would be in a tree-house!).

Do you ever suffer from a “creative block” and, if so, how do you deal with it?

I don’t necessarily suffer from a creative block, but rather a block in the other areas I’ve mentioned such as getting out there and promoting my work. I soldier on slowly but surely. It’s something I’m getting used to having to do. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of what I’ve managed to do in a short period of time, especially considering I only work part time on my business. I love what I create and left to my own devices, if I had no financial constraints, my home would be a total juxtaposition of my wallpapers, hand painted murals and luxurious fabrics.

What does the next year hold for Hazel Fernandes Designs?

I would like to think about launching at a tradeshow next year with a view to setting up collaborations and growing my brand, but bespoke projects and exposure is key right now. 

I’m feeling particularly inspired for some new design work and it might take the form of a hand painted mural first before it develops into wallpapers and fabrics. We’ll see.

To see more of Hazel’s work follow her on Instagram @hazelfernandesdesigns or check out her website