Leila Sanderson always wanted to be a shopkeeper, and in 2014 she ‘finally’ did it, launching her online store Skinny Wolf!! Inspired by her childhood loves of ‘playing house or in the mud, dressing up, drawing, picking flowers, and reading fairy tales’, her range includes hand-stitched quilts, printed soft furnishings, art prints, mini teepees, AND those show-stopping ribbon rosettes.
While rosettes may have historically been worn to show one’s political or military allegiance, for Leila, they’re about celebrating life’s milestones, saying thanks or just for showing off! Her rotational symmetric design, or ‘cockade’, is an 18th century millinery technique and is in fact derived from a French word meaning ‘show-off’ – even Napoleon was a fan! The designer/florist/multi-skilled maker first came across the process in an old French book; each one-of-a-kind rosette is made by precisely folding premium grosgrain ribbon (imported from the US, and often vintage), and anchoring it with meticulous stitches and knots.
Since moving to Melbourne after graduating art school in London, UK-born Leila has been working in an amazing number of ‘creative part-time adding up to full-time’ roles, including for furniture-maker Greg Hatton, florist Katie Marx and also doing visual merchandising. When she’s not driving around the city making arrangements and deliveries, she works on Skinny Wolf from her dining room, which isn’t in the woods in case you were wondering.
So, what then is the story behind the slightly-ominous name? ‘Greg gave me the nickname Skinny! When I first started working for him, and also because I was skinnier than I am now!’ jokes Leila. ‘The wolf part comes from the fact that in a previous job in an accounts department I learnt how to deal with people who didn’t pay their bills on time! I still do book keeping and every so often I’m asked to “release the wolf”!’