Escape Artists

SUMMER SET

ALICE TEMPERLEY

ALICE TEMPERLEY IS A COUNTRY GIRL AT HEART, which may come as a surprise to those who know her only as the face of the London label that has become synonymous with It-Brit girl style. But her Somerset roots account for the birth of her creativity and the free-spirited approach to fashion that has woven its way into all the things she touches. It’s those touches—the intricate embroideries, exquisite embellishments and unabashedly romantic silhouettes—that have set her apart and made her a red carpet regular. While her dresses and evening wear are usually the showstoppers, she creates separates and jumpsuits that feel just as glamorous, and this season was no different. Models strutted throwback looks with cinched waists and halter necklines, styled with red lips, sunglasses and chic silk head scarves. Each one makes the case for elevated summer dressing, including some sequined numbers that’ll play well next to a sparkling sea at sunset. And Temperley, who is the muse for her own designs, will have plenty to choose from for her next holiday, whether she’s escaping to the coast or to her beloved countryside estate.

How did you get started designing?
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be creative. My mother has been one of my biggest inspirations. Growing up in rural Somerset, I was encouraged to be creative. I loved making things. I would rip up fabric and get into a lot of trouble for destroying my mother’s favorite shawls!

Tell us about the spring collection.
The collection transports us to the Temperley Riviera, where the summer never ends.

What’s your favorite part about designing the evening wear pieces?
I love discovering new techniques, such as innovative embroideries or fabrics. It is so important to always evolve and push the boundaries of what we are creating.

What’s your own go-to evening look?
I always like to feel effortless, no matter how decadent an outfit might be. My current go-to look for the evening is the sequined Bardot jumpsuit and coat from my summer collection.

What’s your summer uniform?
Easy, effortless summer dresses in lightweight silks and cottons and bright, feminine prints. Either halter neck or off-shoulder; comfortable and versatile. I can layer with a leather jacket if needed. Or louche, lightweight tailoring that we have in the summer collection. I usually wear flat shoes in the summer, perhaps a panama hat, and I am never without my Leica camera hanging round my neck.

How does England/London inspire your work?
Temperley London is a quintessentially British brand. Being British means we can tell an authentic story, draw on our sense of eccentricity and celebrate our unique sense of humor. We stay true to our heritage by celebrating craftsmanship, quality and attention to detail.

Which cities/places offer the most style inspiration?
I am always inspired by places I visit, from souks in Marrakech to the architecture and interiors on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Paris for exhibitions, book shops and flea markets. Understanding a culture and absorbing everything around you is what I try to do whenever I travel. And most importantly, London and Somerset. London is a creative hub and it is an exciting place to be—from art to music to design. There is so much to see and do.

Who is the Temperley London woman?
She is feminine, free-spirited and individual. She is not a slave to trends and appreciates quality, attention to detail and craftsmanship.

How has the fashion industry changed since you started?
The pace of the industry has changed. Everything has to happen at a greater speed. There is a hunger for newness and it is important for brands to stay relevant and always evolve. Brands can now engage directly with consumers. It is so important to maintain integrity and authenticity with everything you project as a brand on social media and websites. Storytelling has never been easier.

What’s been your career highlight so far?
My highlight so far would have to be when I received my MBE [Most Excellent Order of the British Empire] from the Queen in 2011. That was an incredible experience and really made me realize how far Temperley London had come in such a short space of time. I feel very proud of our achievements.

What do you love to do when you’re not designing?
Spend time with my son, my family and friends. I’m constantly inspired by the people I am surrounded by and I never stop thinking about designing, even when I’m not in the office. Traveling is very important for me. I want to take my son on adventures and give him experiences that he will never forget. And filling my house in Somerset with the people that inspire me and having long lunches, walks and evenings spent by the fire.

Shop Temperley London at:
net-a-porter.com, modaoperandi.com, temperleylondon.com


PLAYING BY EAR

REBECCA DE RAVENEL

EVEN IF YOU DON’T KNOW HER NAME, YOU’VE SEEN HER WORK. Rebecca de Ravenel’s Les Bonbons earrings, those delightful cascading silk cord-wrapped orbs in a rainbow of candy colors, became the accessory of summer, dangling from the lobes of every chic woman around town. Simultaneously elegant and playful, they reflect the style that de Ravenel—who split her childhood between Bahamian beaches and Parisian streets—has come to personify. It’s a natural progression, then, that the designer’s next venture would include both handbags and a ready-to-wear collection full of caftans, kimonos and dresses that she herself favors and that complements her latest take on statement jewels: a mix of earrings and bangles in floral and seashell shapes, crafted from carved wood and mother-of-pearl. The natural nod to beachy glamour—and de Ravenel’s breezy but sophisticated approach—will have us all aspiring to her brand of chic island living.

Tell us about your fashion background.
I have loved fashion since I was a little girl, and I had always hoped I would be involved in the industry somehow. I started in PR for Gucci in Paris, then production for Kevin Krier & Associates in New York. I worked as a design assistant for Oscar de la Renta in New York and was a design consultant for Tory Burch and Ungaro in Paris.

Where did the idea for Les Bonbons come from?
There really was no rhyme or reason; I started designing for me. I’m always making something or other with a glue gun. The people at the Los Angeles flower market probably think I’m a florist. When I came up with the idea for Les Bonbons, it was because I needed a pair of lightweight statement earrings that didn’t end up on the table in the middle of dinner. I have collected jewelry for a long time, but rarely can you find a pair that are comfortable to wear all evening long. This sort of earring had a moment in the late 80s, early 90s, and I had the idea of wrapping Ping-Pong balls in silk thread and voila!

Why switch gears from jewelry to clothing?
I didn’t set out to be an accessories designer; it sort of just happened. Introducing ready-to-wear was a very natural evolution for me; I always thought I would be a clothing designer before anything else. My approach has always been about dressing the divine girl in the divine room.

What inspired the new collection?
My spring/summer collection was inspired by a few trips I took this past year (one being Japan). Color inspires every aspect of how I live and how I think, and of course my beloved Bahamas. The clothing in this first collection really complements the earrings, as opposed to being the other way around. I think that women have invested in my earrings season after season because of their versatility; you can wear them during the day or for something more formal, and the clothing was designed with the same intention. I like to put myself in another woman’s shoes and imagine what she is doing and what she would want to be wearing. This spring/summer is all about sophisticated comfort, with accessories that quite literally bring the beach to you!

Which of the cities you’ve lived in inspires you the most?
My home is the Bahamas, and I think I live my life through island-colored glasses. There is a tropical undercurrent to anything I do, whether it be with my designs or in my home. The Bahamas for that easy-breezy colorful feel, Paris for its sheer beauty and history, New York for its energy, India for its multitude of scents, colors patterns and architecture…it can go on and on. I also believe that what can inspire you one year may not the following. Timing in life, like most things, has an effect on inspiration.

What’s your go-to summer uniform?
A long, floaty floral dress, a straw basket, preferably barefoot and dare I say, my earrings!

What do you pack for a summer getaway?
Packing light is something I have a very hard time with. If you ask around enough, it is sort of a joke. For a quick summer trip, I will pack my Athena caftan, a floral dress, my new long polka dot skirt that can be worn with a bathing suit during the day and a T-shirt are key. And of course, a multitude of accessories (thankfully I have a few of those). Always leave room in your bag to pick up treasures from a local market; you never know what you may find.

Favorite travel destination? Why?
I love traveling more than anything; there are so many places I still want to explore and too many places I love, to count. I am constantly traveling for work now, but every free chance I get I return home to the Bahamas. Even though I rarely leave my house when I am there, it is simply my favorite place on earth.

What’s been your career highlight so far?
I still pinch myself when I see women wearing my earrings in real life. Anywhere from a grocery store in Los Angeles to walking down Madison Avenue or at a cocktail party in the Bahamas. It is simply the most exciting thing in the world and always will be.

Modern style icon?
Carolina Herrera. We were at a party together recently; she forgot her brooch and picked up a flower from the table (in lieu of a jewel) and pinned it to her dress. It was totally effortless and completely divine.

You’ve worked with some of fashion’s greats. What’s the best advice you’ve received about being a designer?
Be kind. Kindness is memorable.

Shop Rebecca de Ravenel at:
barneys.com, fivestoryny.com, goop.com, kirnazabete.com, matchesfashion.com, modaoperandi.com, rebeccaderavenel.com, thewebster.us


EXPLORER’S EYE

ULLA JOHNSON

ULLA JOHNSON’S CLOTHES HAVE THE POWER TO TRANSPORT—often to an airy, ethereal plane where romantic floaty dresses pair best with bare feet and tanned skin—and it’s her pursuit of discovery and travel that drive her to create the dreamy pieces that inspire such wanderlust. Although raised in New York, she saw the world with her archaeologist parents, each adventure and destination informing what would become her signature style. Her rise from racks at small boutiques to Barneys fixture has been a slow one, evolving from a few initial pieces to full collections defined by tailored bohemian frocks, gauzy separates and reworked denim. Challenging the breakneck speed at which the current fashion machine moves, Johnson is a breath of fresh air; her focus is on thoughtful designs and a reverence for details and materials (many handmade in Peru and India). Each move has been deliberate and considerate, including the time she’s devoted to raising her three young children.

For spring, Johnson treated her audience to a runway lined with fresh flowers and looks that included everything from eyelet, frills and florals to structured denim in unexpected shades. They amount to another enviable feminine capsule from a designer who’s quickly becoming a fashion household name. As her presence continues to grow—she opened a Bleecker Street store last year—devotees will not have to travel far to find her.

How did you get started designing?
It was a very organic process. I studied psychology in college and did work around fashion theory and the way clothes can serve to empower the wearer; how they can make women feel. I just started sewing pieces here and there, and then some friends opened a store and I designed a few things for them, and it just sort of grew from there. I had a very clear vision even from the start as far as what was important to me in the collection; integrity of materials and process, timelessness, craft, ease. These have all been touchstones throughout the growth and evolution of the brand.

What inspired your spring collection?
The spring 2018 collection is a dialogue around transparency, the desire for something pure and open, as told through a juxtaposition of materiality. I wanted to explore the idea of invisible protection, of clothing as poetic armor, and a bold femininity that is both impermeable and crystal clear.

What’s your favorite part about designing a new collection?
I absolutely love approaching a clean slate, clearing our minds and our boards of all that was before and starting to build anew. I often start with something quite gestural; the brush strokes of a certain painter, a palette or texture inspired by a garden or field, a nebulous feeling that begins to cohere into a mood and silhouette. This is a very free and inspiring time.

What’s your summer uniform?
Diaphanous silk frocks or crisp poplin ones, ruffled crochet bikinis, our handwoven baskets, and natural leather sandals

What are your favorite destinations for summer travel?
The Mediterranean. I grew up going to Dubrovnik and Hvar every summer, so it holds a super special place in my heart. We go as a family every year to different spots, as I always love to see new things. The last few years we did Ibiza, Puglia, Antiparos—all amazing!

Which cities/places offer the most style inspiration?
Peru and Morocco are probably my all-time favorites as far as the richness of color and the tradition of weaving and knitting that is still very much alive in these places. But really, anywhere and everywhere. Lately, I am obsessed with the Gaucho culture in Argentina and Uruguay.

Who is the Ulla Johnson woman?
She’s not easy to pin down. She is a traveler, a roamer, perhaps a mother, perhaps a professional, perhaps both, or neither. She is self-possessed and optimistic, she embraces color and pattern and cares deeply about the integrity of that which she loves.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the fashion business?
The calendar has become so fast-paced, the demand for new product so consuming, that there is no longer downtime, or just time to be pensive and process. Trying to find space for dreaming is a challenge.

How does being a mother inform the way you design?
I mean, being a mother informs everything about who I am and what I make. I have to say it has made me hyper-efficient with my time and very good at multitasking. In a practical sense, it has made the idea of ease become even more central to what I do but has also really opened up my creativity. Children are so uninhibited. I try to learn from them every day.

What advice would you give to other designers looking to build their own brands?
Have a distinctive and unique vision, and stay true to it.

When did you feel like you’d made it?
I never want to feel that way! I am always pushing myself and my team to do more, to improve on our strengths, to evolve and grow and learn.

What do you love to do when you’re not designing?
Hang out with my family. Cook dinner with friends. Escape to Montauk on the weekends. Go to art shows. And arrange flowers. I am obsessed.

Shop Ulla Johnson at:
GREAT STUFF, Greenwich, 203-861-6872; Westport, 203-226-1271
TOGS, New Canaan, 203-972-2871
WEST, Westport, 203-557-4157
ullajohnson.com

 

 

share this story

© Moffly Media, 2008-2022. All rights reserved. Website by Web Publisher PRO