Macclesfield, a small market town in northern England, has previously been described by The Times as “the most uncultured town in Britain”. So it’s no wonder that as a child Amy Lord spent hours playing in her own imaginary world. As a teen, she escaped her town’s cultural black hole to study graphic art and design, where she met her partner in creative crime, Rebekah Whitney.
“Since we were children we’ve both loved playing and making things,” says Rebekah. Having grown up – in age only – this playful duo have entwined a sense of nostalgia into the design company they founded after graduation, Lord Whitney.
Entering their top-floor studio, housed happily above an old leather mill, you can spot some of their weird and wonderful curios, such as Elroy the Elephant, poking out from their menagerie. “It’s amazing to be able to come to the studio and surround ourselves with all our things; it gets our heads in a creative place,” says Amy. Their “cabinet of curiosities” serves as the best inspiration for each of their new projects, along with frequent trips to junk stores and pretty much “anything that makes us smile”.
“We love our work to put a smile on people’s faces and we love the idea that we make playful artwork that isn’t just aimed at children; that it can inspire imagination in everyone,” Amy says. And that work is as broad as their imaginations. Starting with a cup of Yorkshire Tea (of course), Amy and Rebekah develop mood boards for every project, from sets, costume and prop design, as well as photo shoots and music videos.
The simplicity of their designs – cardboard, papiermâché and lots and lots of glue – was born out of necessity when they began Lord Whitney with no budget, but plenty of ideas. “The fact you can see the strings holding the sets together and by showing the way each costume has been made adds a certain charm and quality, which we see as a more childlike and honest way of creating,” says Rebekah. “This process has kind of stayed with us and is now a recognisable part of our style.”
“The best aspect of our work is the freedom to bring our ideas to life, from creating giant polka-dot people to building cardboard castles. Looking at our work is like stepping into our minds,” explains Amy. “It also lets us carry on believing we’re not grownups, which we firmly believe everyone should take heed of – some of the time at least!”