Grandmother Style – Camilla Bloom

Jonathan Arundel
Alana Flood

Designer Camilla Stolerman of ‘Camilla Bloom,’ has collaborated with photographer Jonathan Arundel to create a documentary series of photographs. The images explore one of the driving inspirations for Stolerman’s knitwear brand – her paternal Grandmother Nettie.

Set in Nettie’s two storey North London house, the series subtly unmasks the nuances of the Camilla Bloom aesthetic and philosophy. The brand, which takes its title ‘Bloom,’ from the maiden name of Stolerman’s mother, was born from the desire to fuse classic woven tailoring with knitwear. It’s first collection officially hit stores in December 2019, comprising pieces which speak to an appreciation of both quality and a slower practice.
Stolerman, who has previously interned and worked for brands Alexander Wang, Gareth Pugh and Aquascutum felt fueled to renounce fashion’s fast paced nature. “I wanted to break away from the typical, cyclical 4-seasons-a-year and traditional fashion housing, it just felt a bit repetitive,” she explains, speaking from lockdown in her parents’ house in the English countryside. Approaching knitwear from a woven background is one mean feat. The highly collaborative process used craftsmen from Italy and China. This first collection, Astrid remained in the developmental stage from March 2018 to June 2019.
The designer attributes this to her desire for flawless manufacturing. She confesses that this trait comes not only came from Nettie, but also her family’s history of painstaking work in cabinet making and the ownership of clothing stores. “I get so much out of the development and the problem solving and finding the perfect yarns to create different techniques,” she reflects, noting the importance of creating garments that have longevity. This slower, well considered process is a highly debated topic within the Fashion Industry…and Grandmother Nettie, at 85 years of age, potentially embodies the solution for a new way forward. “She’s always had this beautiful style – less is more, she has always bought less. What she has bought she will wear really regularly and really cherish it for years and years,” Stolerman reflects, recalling garments from the 1960’s that have been handed down to her.
Nettie’s style has been perfected over the years, culminating in a precise aesthetic; elements of which can be seen in the Camilla Bloom brand and the documentary series itself. “She is very bold, she doesn’t shy away from colour, but sometimes she can also be pared back-it’s that duality, which I like to incorporate into my own work,” Stolerman muses. In the documentary series Nettie can be seen wearing some of Stolerman’s creations from the Astrid release. The premier collection weaves between bold prints and classic twinsets where comfort and tactility are of the highest importance.
Often garments are constructed from 100% Mulberry silk, a fibre known for its ability to be worn in both Winter and Summer. Add this to a range of intricately honed knit techniques, the incorporation of tailored woven classics and the brand is producing some incredibly low waste, versatile and enduring garments. “That really is the modern way of dressing… would I wear this, would my friends wear this, would it give people pleasure, would it be versatile?” Stolerman queries. Although perhaps the best reference to the slow, adaptable approach of this brand has nothing to do with garments, but instead revolves around Nettie’s house itself.
This North London, two storey brick house is framed with tall forest-green hedges. It has been in the family since the 1970’s and has remained a constant in the ever changing nature of Stolerman’s life. As the documentary series reveals, the house epitomises how style and genuine good taste can outlast trends and fads. An original green shag pile rug sits in the master bedroom. Downstairs hides Stolerman’s favourite space, a tiny bathroom brimming with small glass bottles, indigo tiles and matching dark indigo carpet. It was here that Nettie and husband Sydney would seek respite when house guests or grown family members became too boisterous. The same bathroom stands today, in superb condition, speaking to the post WWII mentality of this generation – keep what you have strong and beautiful.
The notion of taking pride in what you do and have is something Nettie applies to everything. “Her father used to say, when you see yourself getting old in the mirror, just smile in the mirror and say ‘Well thanks for that.’” Stolerman laughs, “She’s always got this glass half full attitude and she’s always smiling.” The positivity of Nettie shines through in this Jonathan Arundel documentary series. Delightfully, these textured photographs share the visual story of a Grandmother and Granddaughter’s love for timeless, treasured and high quality design.