I have an interview today with Laura Jackson and Alice Levine about their Debut Habitat Collection. Not only do they have their own very successful careers broadcasting on television and Radio 1 respectively. They also run the the very cool London ‘ Supper Club ‘, have also written a book to inspire the perfect dinner party.
I love the Habitat designs and so had several questions for Laura and Alice about their journey together and how they manage it all …
Where did you originally meet and how did you decide to work together ?
It’s a romantic story. We met at a jumble sale about 5 years ago when we had stalls next to each other. We pretty much talked about food non-stop the whole time and became friends following – going to new restaurant openings together and also trying out new recipes on each other. We then decided it would be fun to take on the challenge of setting up our own supper club together – hosting evenings in our apartments that would bring together strangers over food, drink and music. We both work in TV and Radio and this is a great change from what we do day – to – day and is a real passion project. Held every 2 months in a warehouse in Haggerston, we seat 16 people around our communal table and serve up seasonal treats from our kitchen. In the past we’ve made ricotta filled ravioli with deep fried sage, hare ragu and lemon posset amongst other things. We always try and source ingredients locally or celebrate the great produce around us by using neighbourhood bakers and wine merchants.
How did your famous Supper Club evolve in to working on a range with Habitat ?
When we started our supper club, we got a bit carried away on guest numbers for our first event meaning that we didn’t actually have enough crockery ! So we basically approached Habitat with a bit of a love letter email to ask if they would be up for potentially giving us some spare dinnerware that we could use at the supper clubs. We didn’t actually expect them to come back however they did and sent us some beautiful hand-glazed tableware which was a bit of a result ! As the supper clubs have grown in popularity over the last few years, Habitat has helped us out with a few different events and we both love the focus that Polly Dickens, Habitat’s Creative Director, has put back onto hand-crafted textiles and ceramics in the collection. This hand-crafted look has always been a key visual element of our supper clubs and last year we got discussing a potential product collaboration with Polly – and the rest is history !
What reaction have you had so far to your new Habitat range ?
We have been thrilled with the reaction to the range – it’s become one of Habitat’s fastest selling kitchen linen collections so we are genuinely delighted! When we started the project, Polly suggested working with a khadi based fabric from India, made using traditional skills that are becoming less commonplace due to mechanisation. This means that each piece is entirely individual – not machine uniformity – and the cloth has a wonderful loose quality that gives a relaxed, informal feeling to it. You can see that human hands have worked on these products and we think this is what people are really liking about the collection.
Did a particular era inspire the range and why ?
We tend to bring a lot of different ideas to each supper club that we produce – we like to make each one entirely individual so we don’t necessarily have a house ‘ style ’ that defines us – so the whole process began with us producing a mood board that included design inspiration from ornate Chinese wallpapers, delicate 1900’s embroidery and French fashion illustrations to botanical prints and floral sketches. Working with Habitat – especially their Pattern Designer Martha Coates – we started to narrow these conceptual ideas down to focus more on botanicals as we both felt it appropriate as it gives a nod to the foraged herbs we use in our cooking and table decorating.
Were you both involved in the design process?
Yes – it was a really fascinating process working alongside Habitat. We wanted a range of products that would be classic, chic and timeless – products that would appeal to everyone and that were genuinely useful. We wanted the linen to be washing machine friendly, so it could be washed hundreds of times and still retain its shape and beauty. We knew we wanted to have a print – which we worked on with Martha – but in terms of colour, we wanted a cool, neutral base and a stripe to underpin the whole collection – allowing you to layer colour on your table on top. The apron was also a massive triumph for us as we spend most days in the kitchen wearing aprons but we’ve never struck on the perfect design that is simple, stylish and practical. If you’re spending a lot of time lovingly preparing something, then we think you should you have something equally lovely to wear and hopefully we’ve achieved that !
With radio and tv presenting – how do you find the time for designing this gorgeous Habitat collection and running Supper Club ?
Haha – the secret ? A lot of our Rocket Fuel cocktail to keep us going ! It’s been quite a whirlwind year – we’ve just launched our first recipe book – Round To Ours – too alongside the collection with Habitat so it’s been a lot of hard work but a lot of fun as we’ve done it all together. We both really enjoy the spontaneity of ‘what’s next’ and love being busy – never say no and always say ‘ why not give it a go ? ’
If you were holding a Supper Club for colour lovers which pieces from your range would you use and what menu to accompany it ?
The printed napkins look amazing with coloured glass or a glazed plate in a punchy pigment. The radish, radicchio and sweet pecan salad we created for Habitat is almost too pretty to eat – a total pin up of a plate with all the pinks.
What are your tips for creating the perfect atmosphere when hosting a Supper Party ?
- Making the table look striking doesn’t have to cost a fortune – sprigs of herbs as place settings are a lovely touch and make the table smell wonderful. Flowers and houseplants can make a huge impact on a room – we have hung giant alliums from the ceiling, had a regimented row of dusty pink hydrangeas in pots and pressed auburn Autumn leaves to scatter on the table. For something inexpensive – separate out a bunch of flowers into individual stems and place in glass jars or just use foliage on the table for a fresh green look.
- Ambiance is very important – you want everyone to feel welcome and relaxed. No one ever felt that way by sitting under a 100w central light! Soften the room with table lamps and lots of candles. Music can also make or break the night – if you’ve run out of time to curate the perfect party playlist, stream one of your favourite movie soundtracks or check out the ‘ Mood ’ sections of Spotify.
- If we’re cooking a menu for friends we’ll always ask what their favourite ingredients are and work up a menu around those. It’s a really nice touch to do this – it shows you care and have made an effort and means they don’t have pretend to love tripe! The same goes for drinks. Find out their favourite cocktail and as soon as guests arrive, make sure they have a drink in hand. In the summer, we make up large jugs of gin, elderflower cordial and prosecco with lots of ice. It’s much better than fussing with making individual cocktails.
- Don’t get bogged down with the food being perfect – rough and rustic is perfect for a dinner party. Try sharing platters rather than plating up everyone’s portions individually as it really creates a more intimate, shared experience that will make everyone feel part of the dinner. Everyone likes seconds so make more than you think you need.
- Try not to be chained to the oven – the best way to do this is to have some elements that can be made in advance or that just require compilation. We find serving a cold starter and cold dessert makes life a lot easier. Timing food for big numbers can also be daunting – so try cooking a large cut low and slow. Lamb shoulder or silverside of beef are great ones for a crowd and they just get better and better, so even if guests are little late they will have a melt in the mouth meal.
Can you both describe your style in 5 words ?
It changes all the time.
Will there be any more collections for Habitat ?
Stay tuned! We both loved the process of designing a range with Habitat so hopefully there is more to come next year !
Big thanks to Laura and Alice. It’s made me hungry !
What do you think of the Jackson and Levine Habitat Collection ? Has it inspired you to run your own Supper Club ? It has me.
Do leave me a comment under this post. Would love to hear from you.