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Interview: Abbey Watkins for Morning Warrior


Tobacco & Leather's Abbey Watkins is an London-based illustrator and print designer with a penchant for skulls, women and a bit of warping. When Los Angeles clothing company Morning Warrior asked Abbey to work on a few summer tank tops for them, she conjured up the energetic warrior spirit of the brand and brought her earth-inspired designs to a whole new world. Here we talk to the 25-year-old beauty to get a glimpse inside her life, workspace and a sneak peek at the look book for the collection.
Interview by Ally Mullen


Introduce yourself!
I'm Abbey Watkins of Tobacco & Leather. I'm 25, living in London and working as an illustrator and print designer.

Where did you go to school?
I went to Manchester Metroplitan Universirty and studied textile design for fashion. I chose Manchester because it's a vibrant city, but it's not too overwhelming. At the time I struggled a lot with my confidence so this played a big part in my decision. 

I always wanted to study fashion in London, but this was the best I could do with the tools and finances I had. It worked out well in the end as I ended up with the best tutor, Alex Russell, and I got a career out of it which I'm very grateful for. I'm from a very small town in the middle of nowhere so university was my way out and my first experience of a real city.




How did you get involved with Morning Warrior and when and how did this collaboration come together?
I was already aware of Morning Warrior when they got in touch about working together; it was obvious we shared some interests and creative visions so we got together and created these three designs.

Tell us about the influences behind your art! 
There are many, many influences but it's really hard to name them! I'm influenced by mythology and ancient gods, strange creatures—especially the mixture of animal and human. I'm interested in things like the occult and witchcraft, shamanism, and hallucingenic visions. I have this deep-rooted love for tribes and people that live closely to the earth, treating nature like a language that can be interpreted and returned. I guess all of that mixed with some '60s pychedelia and old metal album covers is somehwere near my vision. I've still got a lot of work to do to bring it all together though.



What was the driving inspiration behind your collaboration?
There was a loose brief for the collaboration, but with themes like "Mystical", "Animal" and "Bad Girl Biker", Morning Warrior and I were already pretty much on the same page, so it flowed nicely.

How would you describe your style of art to someone who hasn't seen it yet?
I still can't find an answer that satisfies, but the basis of my work is set in pencil realism, with subjects of naked women, skulls, animals, mythic elements and hints of surrealism.

What is your favorite medium to use when creating your illustrations?
Pencil. It's the only one that comforts. If there's color, it's done digitally.


Of the shirts you designed, which is your personal favorite?


I haven't seen them in the flesh yet! But my favorite is the grey Eagles Tank Top. That was my favorite one because I remember learning from it. You are always learning every time you draw but sometimes you can feel it, and I enjoyed that time.

What are your favorite things to draw?
Naked women, skulls, anything where I can play with its form and mold it into something else. That's my new favorite thing to do!



Are you going to wear your own designs?
I never wear my own designs. I hope nobody takes that personally! I just feel weird wearing something that I drew. Like it's somehow saying, "Look what I did!” And that makes me uncomfortable.

What was the… 
Last song or album you listened to: "Desert Ceremony" by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats 
Last movie you watched: Iron Monkey
Last purchase you made: A black, leather, bondage thigh-harness from Etsy that clips onto your belt loops and wraps around your thigh.
Best part about doing this collaboration: That I got to draw and create and was given artistic freedom. Morning Warrior were an absolute pleasure to work for. It's not always that way with commissions.




Look Book Information: 
Photography by Emman Montalvan
Hair and Makeup by Brittany Sullivan
Model: Courtney Money at PhotoGenics L.A.
Styling by Julie Swinford & Renee Garcia
Clothing by Morning Warrior: Twitter | Instagram