Meet the Maker: Heather Chapplain
As this Alton textile artist leans into her quirky, one-of-a-kind designs, Hollywood comes calling.
Leave it to Alton textile artist and designer Heather Chapplain to find purpose in a jalapeño pepper. Out of a colourful stack of folded fabric in one corner of her home studio, Heather pulls a rectangle of hand-dyed mustard cotton with a curious, earthy pattern. She delights in revealing its origin: a slice of jalapeño dipped in red dye and used as a stamp.
That stack of fabric is a hard drive of stored ideas – a bifurcated pear as another pattern stamp, a lace tablecloth as a stencil for clouds of pink and green, gold foil as birds in flight – each ready to be plucked when Heather needs them. “They could be a lining of a handbag, an appliqué on a denim jacket or skirt,” she says. “I haven’t decided yet.” It’s not surprising she came to design via a quilting habit and sees potential in each swatch.
Today, though, her sewing desk is quiet. She’s resting her thumbs, sore from keeping fabric taut enough to stay in place for the narrow 1/8-inch seams on the bohemian kimono-style wraps she sells at the spa at Hockley Valley Resort and Renaissance in Erin. She’s stepping up production for her highest-profile gig yet, the January 2019 Golden Globes awards show hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Beverly Hills. She’s been commissioned to make kimonos and one-of-a-kind display pieces for a VIP gift suite.
Heather works in a bright, renovated garage attached to the home where she and her husband have lived for 20 years, and raised and homeschooled three children, now in their 20s. In the last few years Heather doubled down on learning textile design online from the City & Guilds of London Institute in the U.K. and other sources. The results are rolling racks jammed with soft, flowing wraps and her “mixed media on denim” pieces, as she calls them, adorned with Swarovski crystals, paints and fabrics. One jacket destined for the Golden Globes sits on a dressmaker form and is covered in a scarf for secrecy. Heather will only say Chantilly lace plays a role.
While Heather is bursting with excitement about the Golden Globes, she is even more animated talking about the ideas swirling around her mind – adding personal shopping and wardrobe consulting to her fashion business. At 58, she’s keen to share the confidence and wisdom she’s found in design and fashion. (It may help that she’s parlayed her gleaming shock of silver hair and slim build into a return to the modelling she did in her youth.)
“I’d like to empower women through their own authentic style,” she says.