Archipelago Textiles: 25th Anniversary Interview

Image of Doreen in her studio.

Archipelago Textiles: 25th Anniversary Interview 

Doreen Gittens is an award-winning textile designer who specialises in handwoven textiles, including scarves, shawls, throws, bed covers, curtains and fabrics. Using all-natural fibres, Doreen designs all these fabrics in her shop, taking commissions from around the globe to create bespoke pieces in a variety of colours. 

Doreen and Archipelago were among the first studios to open in the Oxo Tower Wharf development, and we're thrilled that the brand has continued to call Oxo 'home' for 25 years! 

To celebrate Doreen’s 25th anniversary at Oxo Tower Wharf, we sat down with her for an interview to find out more about how Archipelago started, some of her highlights from the past 25 years, and what she enjoys the most about working in our creative community of designers and makers. 

Read on to find out more: 

What brought you to Coin Street 25 years ago? 

“There was a scholarship organised by Coin Street Community Builders called the Sainsbury’s Scholarship, and I won the scholarship, which allowed me to have a studio here at Oxo Tower Wharf for 6 months rent free. It was a marvelous prize!” 

What has been the highlight of your time here? 

“The most important thing for me is to be able to work and display my work, and to sell it to my customers. I love it when customers walk in and say, “Oh wow! Look at that!” and buy my pieces. 

To me, that’s the most rewarding part, because I decide to design what I want to make. The colours, the textures, and it’s very rewarding that people appreciate my work. 

I have customers worldwide, and since I’ve been here, people come back over 10 or 15 years later and say, “Look! Do you remember this piece?”, and as soon as they walk in, I recognise my work. To me, it’s very gratifying that people appreciate my pieces and think they’re good quality. 

For instance, last week an American client of mine came by, and she said she had to come and buy something before travelling to New Zealand. She also went to Milan and said she couldn’t find anything to buy there – everything's very expensive and the quality is not good! Whereas she thought my stuff was well made and high quality, so that made me feel really fantastic. She bought something while visiting me too, which is a bonus.” 

How have you seen the creative community of Oxo Tower Wharf change in that time? 

“We have really good quality designers working in this community. When other people who have been coming here over the years pay a visit, they make that comment as well and say there’s some really good stuff available here. I’m proud to be part of the community. 

Some people know me at Oxo from the beginning, and many are surprised that I’m still here! People are usually quite interested in the history of Oxo Tower as well as my story since I joined. They’ve watched Oxo progress and flourish over the years, including the creative community of designer-makers, and say they have been following me for a while. So, for me, it's the people that pass by that mean most, including the people from overseas. 

I had an American gentleman from Peru visit me many years ago at Christmas, and he came back to see me again. I was weaving an unfinished piece, and he said, “I want to take 2 of those back with me!”, so I came into the studio at 3 o’clock in the morning to make sure that I finished his items, so he could take them back with him as Christmas presents. It’s good that people really want my work and I’m happy to do it, to please them, as without them I have no business!” 

Where do you seek inspiration for your work? 

“On the river! Sometimes the boats going by have some really bright, colourful flags flying on them, which inspires the colour choices for my pieces. 

I tend to find inspiration everywhere I look, including social media. The other day on Instagram I saw a colourful picture of some tropical birds in a gorgeous blue, which led me to make a new bright blue scarf that’s now on display in my studio. I’m like a magpie and steal from anything colourful that I see. 

Food inspires me as well, such as aubergines, butternut squash, mango and pumpkin, those rich colours found in fruits and vegetables. Those bright reds, purples, yellows and oranges, I use that a lot.” 

What does the future hold for you? 

“I don’t have any specific plans, the future is for me to continue to be inspired, and to inspire myself, because I have to push myself to create the highest quality pieces. 

As long as I’m inspired and I wake up and feel energised, I’m not going to make any specific plans for the future, I’ll just work as well as I can.” 


Celebrate Archipelago Textiles’ 25th anniversary at Oxo Tower Wharf by visiting Doreen's Open Studio. Her studio will be open to the public between the 21st and 23rd June, with no appointment necessary. Come and meet Doreen and learn about her craft, inspirations, and career highlights! 

Find out more about Archipelago Textiles’ Open Studio event: 

Event Details