Interiors - Betley designer Jan Constantine has grand designs on the Olympics and Queen's Jubilee

Passionate patriot and designer Jan Constantine has a 2012 of Olympic proportions ahead of her WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

I’d like to think I brought the British flag back,’ said Betley designer Jan Constantine. ‘A few years ago a certain party had it as their emblem. It made me so angry and frustrated that they were able to use it and give it all of those negative connotations.

‘So I came up with the idea of using the Union Jack in my designs. But I put the word “love” on them, or put a big heart in the middle of it. I did it so people could fly the flag proudly again and I think it worked.’

It’s a bold claim but also one that stacks up. Since Jan released her iconic Union Jack designs in 2006, the emblem can be spotted on interiors pieces in shops across the country. So when the opportunity arose to design special commemorative pieces to celebrate this year’s landmark events, it seemed like the perfect marriage.

Over the past few years Jan has been working hard on creating a collection to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, Paralympics and The Queen’s Jubilee. She has created more than 50 items for the international sporting events: everything from hand-embroidered cushions and other pieces featuring heritage images from past competitions to make-up cases and laptop cases.

For the Queen’s Jubilee, Jan has designed an emblematic range of her trademark cushions, featuring everything from crowns, horse and carriages and ‘God Save The Queen’, as well as bunting and lavender bags.

She said: ‘To be able to work on collections that mark events like these is a huge honour and is very exciting. We were so thrilled when we were granted the licence to create the Olympics collection and I couldn’t wait to get my ideas together for the Jubilee.

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‘It is going to be a very busy year and it will be full-on but I know I’m going to enjoy every second of it. I’ve always been that kind of person. I’m just so pleased to be able to do something to celebrate Britain.’

Jan, originally from Lancashire, discovered her love of textiles and creating things from her mum, Norah, and grandma, Mary. As a teenager she trained in fashion before working at the prestigious label Shubette of London where she worked her way up from a junior role to head of design. But keen to leave the rat race and start a family, Jan and husband, David, moved to their Betley farmhouse 20 years ago. They live here with daughters Camille and Mary.

It was ten years ago, while commuting to London to do freelance jobs, that Jan started to think about setting up on her own. Today her business, also named Jan Constantine, is described as producing ‘handmade embroidered heirlooms of the future’ and creates beautiful textile pieces.

Her products are stocked in luxury stores including Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and Selfridges as well as hundreds of shops around the country.

She has ranges on licence with several companies including stationery, kitchenware, gift products and cards and last year Jan opened her own shop at nearby Trentham Gardens. Celebrity fans include Harry Potter star Emma Watson and actress Dame Judi Dench. The brand is fast becoming a household name, but it all started around the kitchen table at her Betley farmhouse.

She said: ‘It had been my lifetime’s ambition to have my own collection but I just couldn’t quite work out how to do it. Ever since I used to sit with my grandma and mum designing and making my own things it has been a passion. I wanted my own business so I decided to go for it.

‘I had all my friends over one night to help me stitch some lavender bags. It was just a night for us to get together. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine, well, maybe it was a few bottles, and I’ve never looked back really.’

Jan, who will attend the Olympics’ opening ceremony, is looking forward to a busy year creating those items that people will treasure long after London 2012 and The Queen’s Jubilee have passed.

She said: ‘I’m just so excited. It’s our 10th anniversary which is exciting in itself. Ever since they announced that London had got the Olympics I’ve been over the moon about it.

‘The Queen’s Jubilee will also be such a patriotic event. 2012 is a very exciting time for Britain: these events will be two big positive boosts for us as a country. I’m very proud to be British and I can’t wait to celebrate.’

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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