Vintage Palava: The story of our oldest print 'Roll Up, Roll Up!' 

A little bit of Palava history... Here's Bryony, Palava Founder, telling us the story of her first ever print:

"Every now and again a fabric from our archives fits the theme that we are working on. 'Roll Up! Roll up!' was one of the first prints I ever made. I had no formal textile or fashion training but used my interest in illustration and drawing to create prints.

I was - and still am - very influenced by the children's story books that I grew up with. My Granny and Grandpa lived next door to us throughout my childhood and my Granny would often read us a story before bed. Sat around her fire in her living room, she would read us the stories of 'Bar Bar - The Elephant' and 'Orlando, the marmalade cat'. My mum also encouraged me to read stories from her childhood like 'Milly Molly Mandy' and of course there was plenty of Beatrix Potter.

At the time that I started my business, the world of clothing was becoming so disposable, with childrens clothing designed only to last a few washes or 6 months until the child grew out of it. I wanted clothing to be made better and to mean more to people."

"Back when the 'Roll Up! Roll Up!' print was designed I was only making children's dresses, developing and changing the dress patterns that my parents had used for an earlier version of Palava (known at the time as Poppy). I wanted children to feel an attachment to their dresses and so I started to produce prints that were illustrated, like the story books that I grew up loving.

Inspired by the colourful border prints my parents produced with their artist friend Yvonne, I set about developing my own. I started to base my illustrated stories around a little character called Poppy and her dog Fred. Each season they would go on a new adventure. To this day each collection is centered around a story and always includes one or two border prints."

"To tell you a bit about the printing process... When I first started Palava, all the fabric was Rotary printed and each design repeat had to be 64cm. I remember as a kid seeing my parents scaling things up and down on photocopiers and cutting things out to re-jig them before the days computers would do it all for you.

I would always go to the printers myself to see the fabric being printed, check the colours and pray that the print came out okay. The fabrics were printed by big Rotary printing machines. Rotary printing is similar to Screen printing. The process is fast. About a meter of fabric per second comes out of the machine so you can imagine how scary it is if you see a fault in the fabric. 35 meters of faulty print can fly past your eyes before you have a chance to register the mistake.

Fortunately, the print technicians are always very skilled at their job so pick up on mistakes quickly. It's a fascinating process to watch. Printing in this way was expensive, however. Each rotary screen would cost me £350 so I was always limited to colours and also the amount of designs you could afford to do.

I could only manage one print per season, so i would print the one design in maybe 3 or 4 colours and that was it, our entire collection was based on that one print. Now we print all our fabrics digitally which, although is not as exciting, means we can print as many colours as we like, choose the repeat we like and print different fabrics all in one collection."

"Reflecting on it all really makes me realise how far we have come. My ethics and thoughts are still the same despite Palava growing up to become more focused on womenswear rather than childrens clothing.

I still believe we should feel an attachment to our clothing and not see it as a disposable part of our lives. With this in mind we really do try to make our clothes last a lifetime. Quality and stories are everything to us."

Love, Bryony x