March 7, 2018 / Luxury Lifestyle

A Stitch in Time with Bespoke Embroiderer Geraldine Larkin

Embroidery artist Geraldine Larkin started out designing wall hangings—now she travels the world in her quest to make it more beautiful


After her embroidered dress made headlines in 2008, Geraldine Larkin has been a firm favorite on the fashion circuit. Larkin recently launched her latest collaboration—a collection of bespoke embroidered coats—at Kokoro in London, so we caught up with the artist-designer, who also welcomes commissions at her studio in West London.

From bespoke interiors to intricate fashion embellishments, Geraldine Larkin’s designs have been championed by Alexander McQueen and worn by Michelle Obama. Photograph and banner image: Jooney Woodward“A big motivation for me,” Larkin says, “is taking things into the future with an ancient craft.” That craft is embroidery, and Larkin is a magician, conjuring works of art by hand.

A big motivation for me is taking things into the future with an ancient craft

Larkin was studying architecture in her native Dublin when one of her professors suggested she enroll in fashion at arts college Central Saint Martins in London, where she then set up her own company and secured her first commission. “I’ve always been very determined and something of an entrepreneur,” Larkin reveals. “I sold watercolors of elevations of houses as a child!” She sewed, too, and worked with dressmakers—it’s in the genes: her mother and grandmother made lace. And it was at college she began to embroider.

Once described as “painting with a needle,” embroidery allows Larkin to transform garments into sophisticated works of art. Photograph: Jooney WoodwardAfter graduation, she found her feet working with architects, designing cushions and wall hangings. The appeal of her métier is simple: “There are no restrictions—if you can imagine it, you can do it. I love the boundless possibilities.”

Those possibilities are manifested in the stellar list of designers she has worked alongside: Romeo Gigli, Jasper Conran, Alexander McQueen—with whom she studied, and later embroidered for at Givenchy—and Tom Ford. But her partnership with Narciso Rodriguez made the headlines when, on election night 2008, Michelle Obama wore a dress embroidered by Larkin. “Talk is always good,” she says. “It was beautiful to be involved.”

This midcentury chair was upholstered in gold velvet, and Larkin embroidered the back with gold flat-metal yarn, glass beads, French knots, and bullion loop. Photograph: Jooney WoodwardCurrently working on a huge Mediterranean villa, her reach extends to projects with interior designers, developers, and private clients—her work adorning hotels, yachts, and public spaces. “With interiors, it’s all about the textiles, pieces being tactile, three-dimensionality. It’s a way of expression. I love that you can look at something and think, ‘Wow! How was that done?’”

I love that you can look at something and think, ‘Wow! How was that done?’

The designer sources traditional and modern materials from around the globe—velvet, silk, raffia, wool, even Plexiglas. “If it can be held down with thread,” she says, “I’ll use it.” She often travels to India to work with “some of the best embroiderers in the world,” who bring her designs to life. In a fast-paced digital world, her craft allows for a different pace that is paramount for her, “as human touch diminishes.”

Larkin says the tactile quality of embroidery—a satin appliqué, an organza ribbon, metallic beadwork—is perfectly suited to soft furnishings. Photograph: Jooney WoodwardLarkin speaks quickly, with warm fervor, her joy shining through with every word. She says she strives constantly to improve, to make something “look more beautiful.”

“For me,” she says, “Everything is interwoven, life becomes what you do. I love how it is so very open, no small limits, no large limits.”

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Stephanie Jones
is a regular contributor to Christie's International Real Estate magazine