5 Minutes With: Giles Deacon

I know, right? As interviewees go, Giles Deacon is a pretty big cheese. Actually scratch that. As people in the fashion industry full stop go Giles is an important one. I suspect you know as much about the designer as I do, if not more, but just in case I’ll tell you a little about him and his career so far before we get on to the interview. Giles Deacon exploded onto the fashion scene in 1992 with a Central Saint Martins graduate collection that landed him a job with Jean Charles De Castelbajac in Paris. Since then he has worked for the likes of Bottega Venetta and Tom Ford at Gucci before launching the eponymous, insta-hit, award winning label we all know and wish we owned pieces of. On top of all this, Giles has also found time to do everything from concocting high street capsule collections to starring on Britain’s Next Top Model and his latest side project even sees him giving Müller’s yogurt pots a fash-over!

Giles Deacon

I caught up with the designer to talk career highlights, style icons and all the bits in between…

LPA: From designing for Jean Charles de Castelbajac straight out of Central Saint Martins then moving on to Bottega Venetta before being scooped up by Tom Ford to work with him on Gucci womenswear, your early career seems something of a baptism of fire into the world of high fashion. How did you cope with launching straight into all of that? Were there ever times you just thought, “oh God, take me back to Cumbria!” or did you love it from the word go?

GD: Loved it from word go, it was an amazing opportunity to work with such an iconic fashion designer. I learnt a huge amount and we remain good friends.

LPA: What were the most valuable lessons you gained during those experiences and how do you feel they influenced you after setting up your own brand in 2004?

The most important lesson I’ve learnt is to work hard and be nice to people. This on the whole seems to have paid off as you never know who you are going to meet going up or going down in this business.

LPA: Your debut solo collection in February 2004 was styled by Katie Grand, walked in by a coterie of supers and hailed by critics. It would be tempting to assume that all has been plain sailing for Giles Deacon but I suspect that’s not the case and some say we learn more from our failures than our successes (I remain dubious about this). When have things gone well and truly tits up and how did you deal with it?

GD: To get any new business underway is a phenomenal amount of work and from a dedicated team it is impossible to do alone. Favours from old friends such as Karen Elson and Katie Grand were instrumental in getting me to this point. When things do go wrong, I try to deal with them in a sane way and find the best way to move on.

LPA: I know there’s no such thing as a “typical day” in fashion but what does a day in the Giles studio look like during the run up to fashion week and how does it compare to a non fashion week day in terms of sheer insanity?

GD: In the run up to the show I am generally in the studio at 8am with back to back fittings, production, lighting, casting and director meetings to maintain the focus of the show. I try to keep insanity to a minimum but there are always some surprises that are guaranteed to appear!

LPA: The phrase “style icon” is bandied about a lot these days. Who, if anyone, do you feel truly deserves to be called iconic and why?

GD: Lauren Bacall, she lived an extraordinary varied and diverse life, was married to phenomenally interesting men, has been in some of the most impressive important movies in history and always maintained a style that can’t be copied.

LPA: In 2011 you took part in Channel 4 programme New Look Style The Nation having appeared as a judge on Britain’s Next Top Model the year before. How do you find being in front of the camera as opposed to dressing those in front of it? Could we potentially see more Giles Deacon on our screens in the years to come?

GD: I really enjoy being in front of the camera as much as dressing those behind it – I’d love to do more.

LPA: Besides designing for Giles collections per year, you’ve also collaborated with the likes of New Look and Nine West on capsule collections as well as previously designing for Ungaro and Daks. How do you choose the projects you work on and, perhaps more importantly, how the hell do you fit it all in?

GD: It’s always interesting to do outside projects; it’s a great way to get your brand introduced to a new market and to bring interesting, exciting products to the masses. Luckily I can work quickly yet focus which helps these projects happen.

LPA: On that subject, tell me a little about your work with Muller. How did it come about and what can we expect from the collaboration?

GD: I designed two pots for Müllerlight – Ms Strawberry and Ms Toffee (below), I wanted to give individual characters based upon imaginary fashion characters.

Giles Deacon

LPA: If you had to pinpoint one career moment you’re most proud of what would it be and why?

GD: It was fantastic to be named Designer of the Year award in 2007 and finishing any fashion collection is always a high point for myself and the team.

LPA: Who’s your young designer to watch for 2014?

GD: Simone Rocha has a fantastic individual accessible style that feels new.

Love Ella. X

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5 Minutes With: John Camuto

John Camuto

I know I often say “it’s been a while since I last did such and such a post” but it really has been absolutely bloody ages since you last saw an interview on the blog. The onset of fashion month madness tends to make basically everything else a no go but now the SS14 shows are over you can expect a bit more variety on LPA… Yay! And kicking off this return to non catwalk related posts is an interview with John Camuto, son of footwear extraordinaire Vince Camuto and Manager of Product and Store Development for the entire, global Camuto Group. An impressive fellow indeed and, as I learned, rather charming too…

LPA: Given that your father, Vince Camuto, is something of a footwear legend one might assume a career in that field was inevitable. Growing up, were you always interested in the industry or was there a specific moment/event that made you realise you wanted to go down that route?

JC: I studied business and design in school and have always had an appreciation for fashion, art and architecture. Like my father, I enjoy understanding what customers are after, what they’re looking for, and figuring out how to give people what they want. We’re both product people and we like the challenge of continuing to deliver style, comfort and value across categories.

LPA: What does the role of Manager of Product and Store Development for a major international fashion company like the Camuto Group actually entail?

JC: I work closely on the development of new product, styles, silhouettes –working on everything from actual design, production, studying trend, the customer, new materials, interests, what styles are missing, what performing well, etc. I also work with the product development team to see about new categories and brand extensions including Two by Vince Camuto and Vince Camuto Men. I also work closely with the retail team on store development and have the opportunity to review the brand and retail presence on the ground, both domestically and internationally ensuring that all elements are on brand, and also appropriate by market. I love to travel, speak with store associates, participate in marketing events and more to enhance our current presence in various markets and also learn where else we may wish to extend the brand reach.

LPA: I’m guessing you didn’t start out in such a high powered role, talk me through your professional trajectory after graduating from the prestigious Fairfield University…

JC: Like my father, I started out in retail, at Nordstrom, and also at Vince Camuto retail stores. These positions allowed me to work with customers and helped me learn about the retail experience – how customers shop, what they look for, what influences a purchase decision. It truly has provided me a strong foundation as I embark on my career in this industry.

LPA: Have you ever been tempted to try your hand at design or has the business side of things always been your calling?

JC: Yes, absolutely. I love design and sit in the meetings with my father. I really enjoy all aspects of the business and I plan to continue exploring and understanding the business from every angle.

LPA: Besides working on the lifestyle product development for Vince Camuto, VC Signature and Two by Vince Camuto, you also assist on the retail development programme that has seen a huge expansion from 3 US locations to 35 global locations in just three years! What factors influence where the brand decides to open stores?

JC: I work with Greg Morel, President of International. There is a study of the market, where penetration seems like it may be most successful and discussion begins. Additionally, when we open a location, we employ marketing, advertising, PR, and social media, and look for strategic growth opportunities within each territory.

LPA: I was thrilled when Vince Camuto opened its first UK store on High Street Kensington this summer. What prompted this decision? Have you found the UK to be a strong market for the brand since partnering with Kurt Geiger in 2012?

JC: We were very excited too, and Kurt Geiger is a partnership we are very proud of. The UK is an excellent market for us – there is a strong appreciation for trend-driven product, particularly accessories. Our footwear and handbags make a statement as they are well-made and range between more trendy and classic/sophisticated. Vince Camuto offers collections with diverse silhouettes for a variety of occasions for women who appreciate fashion – and these women are most certainly in the UK!

LPA: What is your favourite aspect of your job?

JC: The interaction with the customers, media, and people I meet during my travels is one of my favorite parts of my job. Learning what each market likes and how they respond to the product helps us plan for additional growth.

LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping for a career on the business side of fashion? Would you recommend studying a specific degree such as Fashion Management or do you feel its more useful to gain hands on experience through internships?

JC: Going to school and studying what you love is very important. Chances are whatever subject that is, you will apply it in your career – so hone those skills. Whether English, or business, psychology, design – these are all used in various departments. After the school year ends and during the summers it is important to gain hands-on experiences in the industry you are interested in pursuing a career. It gives you direct awareness of how the business works and prepares you for future opportunities.

Love Ella. X

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5 Minutes With: Antipodium’s Geoffrey J Finch

It’s been absolutely ages since I last posted an interview so I’m very happy to be bringing “5 Minutes With” back with a bang! If you spotted last seasons London Fashion Week coverage you no doubt heard me wax lyrical about the wonders of Antipodium. The brand’s AW13 collection, “Sex, Lies and CCTV” was a favourite out of everything I saw in New York and back home in Blighty. PVC skater dresses with Peter Pan collars, acid hued tweed, velvet twinsets in off-colour combos, walking the fine line between Princess and punk… It was a dream.


Antipodium AW13

With just a couple of weeks until their SS14 show, I caught up with Antipodium’s Creative Director, Geoffrey J Finch… Enjoy!

LPA: What was your first job in fashion and how did you get it?

GJF: After a year on exchange in France I returned to Australia to scrounge cash to get to London. I tried desperately to get a job in retail but failed miserably. Ironically a job telemarketing photocopiers got me an in at a shop. The shop happened to be owned by some crazy fashion wholesalers who gave me a trial in the showroom. I was there for 3 years. It turned out that I was quite the salesman.

LPA: I was very interested to learn that you never really had any formal design training. Do you think this gives you a different approach to a designer who studied, say, BA Womenswear at Central Saint Martins?

GJF: I learnt just about everything on the shopfloor and in the showroom – and my mum was a dressmaker. I guess it’s given me a rather pragmatic approach to fashion. The consumer – let alone my mother – is an incredible and rather strict teacher.

LPA: Having been in the industry for some years now, you must have your fair share of stories. What has been your most fabulous fashion moment?

GJF: Liberty was the very first customer to place an order with us. I’ll always remember it coming through. I was 23 and had hair.

LPA: Antipodium was originally set up as a boutique PR and wholesale agency representing Antipodean brands. What prompted the launch of your own label in 2006? Was that always the ultimate plan?

GJF: It was more of a happy accident! Through the shop and agency we noticed a gap in the market for design-led wardrobe staples. We made up a few bits for the shop, Vogue and Liberty came across them and encouraged us to expand these into a collection. It would have been rude not to!

LPA: Given how hugely successful the label has been, I can imagine that aspect of the business has kept you very busy for the past 7 years. Has Antipodium continued representing and promoting other Antipodean brands too? If so, how do you and Ashe balance it all?

GJF: After we closed sales on our second season we were in a bit of a spot. Suddenly we had a rather big whack of orders to contend with and so we decided to close the shop and agency and focus our energies on the label. It’s been really satisfying returning to retail with I’m a shop girl at heart.

LPA: One of the things I love the most about Antipodium is the element of humour that comes across in your designs. Why do you feel this has become such a key aspect of the Antipodium aesthetic? Do you think that fashion can sometimes be at risk of taking itself a bit too seriously?

GJF: I guess that’s a reflection of our collective approach to life – and it’s such a luxury to perhaps improve someone’s day. It seems to sell too. Phew!

LPA: Your AW13 collection, “Sex, Lies and CCTV” was one of my absolute favourites during fashion week this season. What was it that particularly inspired you about that theme?

GJF: Between social media, security cameras, sex tapes and phone hacking; there ain’t much that’s private anymore. We’re all very much under surveillance – and maybe we’re enjoying that? I guess I wanted to create a wardrobe for life on camera – and I got to reference Sharon Stone in Sliver.

LPA: Who would you be most surprised to see wearing Antipodium?

GJF: Sharon Stone.

LPA: Your latest collection featured some fantastic PVC pieces and it also appeared on the catwalk everywhere from Burberry to Jonathan Saunders. Any thoughts on why PVC is so hot for AW13? And more importantly, any tips for wearing it?

GJF: It seems to be particularly about texture this season. PVC clashes so perfectly with mohair and velour – not to mention faux pony. It’s all so wrong but right. The kink factor is irresistible but must be balanced with demure shapes – high necklines and below the knee skirts – and knowing plays on colour. And, you’ll never have to worry about someone spilling a pint on you. Let the good times roll.

Love Ella. X

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5 Minutes With: Zoe Jordan

I think it’s fair to say Zoe Jordan is on a roll. In fact, she’s been on a roll since 2011 when the Formula 1 boss’s daughter launched her eponymous label, garnering rave reviews for her debut designs and landing a nomination for the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund 2012. Since then Zoe hasn’t put a foot wrong, producing stellar collection after stellar collection and gathering fashionable fans and global stockists as she goes. With fashion month now just weeks away (sh*t!), I caught up with the woman herself to talk inspirations, aspirations and the city we both call home.

Zoe Jordan

LPA: In little over a year, your label has landed some of the world’s most prestigious stockists and featured everywhere from Vogue and Elle to the FT. What do you think it is about your style that has made the Zoe Jordan brand such an overnight success?

ZJ: It has always been important for me to grow the business at a steady pace with a huge focus on our customer and longevity, with out concerning my self too much on being an overnight success.  The  UK press and buyers have been supportive and encouraging since the launch as they see a long term vision with the collections and understand that there is more to come

LPA: One of the things I’ve always found most fascinating about you as a designer is the fact that you previously worked as a bond trader. What prompted such a dramatic change of career? And how have you found the transition from finance to fashion?

ZJ: Before my time in business I studied architecture, so after 5 years in  the face paced world of being a bond trader it felt very natural move into a more design focused direction in which i could still use my business skills. The fashion industry is the perfect place to merge business, structure, design and creativity.

LPA: You also studied architecture and cited ‘stark minimalist monochrome interiors’ and the ‘cathedrals of Renaissance Italy’ as inspiration for your AW13 collection. How do you translate the aspects of architecture that catch your eye into wearable garments?

ZJ: By using these two contrasting architectural references  I am playing with the different light, mood and feel a space can create and how it sits among other structures, much like I do with my collections by bringing  contrasting elements and styles together; soft tailoring with structured dresses balancing the the androgynous with the feminine and the classical with the modern.

LPA: Famously stylish fans of your work include Kiera Knightly, Cara Delevigne, Laura Bailey and Helena Christensen. Is there anyone else you’d particularly love to see wearing Zoe Jordan?

ZJ: I am happy to see anyone who loves the brand wearing it and who is not afraid of not following trends and styles. A natural confidence is something I admire and like to see in women such as Gwyneth Paltrow Sienna Miller and Poppy Delevingne.

LPA: With a high profile father like F1 boss Eddie Jordan and no formal fashion training, did you feel that you had to work harder to prove yourself as a designer?

ZJ: I think anyone, regardless of training and back round who is setting out to be a designer in the fashion industry has to work hard to prove themselves!

LPA: According to your bio, you divide your time between your home in Hong Kong and your London studio. How do you manage all the travel? Do you have any tricks for coping with jet lag? If so, I’d LOVE to hear them…

ZJ: I have since moved back to London full time however for a couple of years I was back and forth quite a lot. The only trick for coping with jet lag is to spend time in natural light and do some exercise, the sun in particular really helps the body to adjust to the new time zone, and the exercise helps to improve sleep, so as much as you don’t feel like it you have to head out for a quick jog!

LPA: With major developments afoot at the BFC and so many fantastic independent designers working and showing in London, the British Fashion Industry seems a really exciting place to be right now. How do you feel things have changed since you’ve been a part of it? Could you ever see yourself decamping to show in Paris or New York?

ZJ: I have seen a recent push in the the British Fashion industry in the contemporary designer market which is very exciting as in recent years this side of the market  has been fronted by American and French designers such as; Philip Lim, Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, Carven  and Vanessa Bruno. I think the timing is perfect for brands such as Zoë Jordan to highlight this movement in London Fashion week and I have no intention to go else where. The brand is a homage to the London girl and her nonchalant glamour.

LPA: What is your ultimate aim for the Zoë Jordan brand?

ZJ: To grow from season to season both in the UK and Internationally building the brand and introducing more product lines, yet always staying true to the Zoë Jordan girl.

Love Ella. X

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More Than 5 Minutes With: Alexander Lewis

Alexander Lewis

Remember my post on Alexander Lewis a few months ago? (click here for a reminder) Well since that initial introduction, my obsession with the designer has grown big time. I may sound like some kind of crazed stalker saying this, but having fallen in love with his contemporary take on boy-meets-girl cool and been beyond impressed by how insanely savvy he sounded (thank you Business of Fashion) I was dying to meet this particular designer. So when the lovely folk at KCD London casually enquired as to whether I fancied popping along to Alexander’s studio slash apartment in Knightsbridge to check out his Resort 2014 offerings my answer was, obviously, a big, fat YES!

Resort 2014 mood boards…

Alexander Lewis

Alexander Lewis

Alexander Lewis

Manolo Blahnik for Alexander Lewis Resort 2014 footwear… AKA the dream

Alexander Lewis

After spending far more than five minutes with the man himself (partially due to the fact that halfway through out interview I realised my iPhone hadn’t recorded a thing, embarrassing) I can attest that not only are his designs to die for, Alexander Lewis is one smart, not to mention obscenely talented, cookie. Tom Ford better watch his back, that’s all I’m saying…

LPA: One of the things I found most interesting when reading up on your background was the fact that you studied Business & Communications at the University of California. Why did you decide to go down this route rather than studying, say womenswear design at FIT?

AL: I had been sketching and putting my efforts into the creative side of things for many years but I wanted to do degree that would put me in a good position going forward no matter what happened in my life, so I decided to study Business and Communications rather than going straight down the arts route. At the time was very heavily involved in acting so I actually went to university to do a theatre degree while taking business and communications classes alongside that with the idea that if I needed or wanted to, I could go on to an arts school after getting a more conventional BA degree. I just felt that it was something that would prepare me for whatever came as opposed to just one idea.

LPA: What impact do you feel your business background has on your work now you’re running your own brand?

AL: I think it’s definitely had a significant impact. When I start to think about a new collection I’m already thinking about a range plan from the outset, from the very beginning I’m aware of how much the fabric is going to cost and how that’s going to affect the product. I’m very aware that putting something in that might be really great creatively and show a lot of skill might not be the best thing for the collection because it just won’t sell or it’s a show piece and as I focus on pre collections those kind of products aren’t really necessary. From the first day of the new season and all the way through the design process I’m already thinking about the bottom line s opposed to only at the end once I’ve sold the collection then going back to the financial side and noticing there’s a problem.

LPA: Another fascinating point of difference is the fact that you’ve so far only released Resort and Pre Fall collections, rather than the more traditional route of launching with main line collections and then expanding. What was the reasoning behind this decision?

AL: I made that decision because of the business side of the industry. Basically, I was looking at the way the market was working seeing that buyers were starting to spend a lot more time, a lot more focus and a greater percentage of their seasonal budget within the pre buy. I viewed this as a really great opportunity for me to try and get into the market because any field you go into, there are going to be hundreds of other people trying to achieve the same thing. When you’re in the fashion world there are 101 people that want to be a designer so how do you have a point of difference? As a point of difference (only doing pre collections) is a major one. I though it just makes sense. I was looking at the buying opportunities and space in the fashion arena. Right before I started I did a count and realised that with the main season reviewed 300 plus collections whereas for pre collections they were reviewing just 100 so automatically there are far fewer people involved in the category. Creatively I also felt pre collections really served the ideas and the creative inspirations that I was hoping to focus on better than the main season collections.

LPA: Your career so far has been hugely varied, including a stint assisting legendary Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley, working as a personal shopper at Harrods and apprenticing on Saville Row. How have these diverse experiences shaped your design aesthetic?

AL: I’m not sure how much they’ve shaped the design aesthetic, they’ve probably more shaped how I’ve chosen to run the business. That said, I suppose they have influenced it just because I’ve been exposed to a lot. The tailoring element, working as a pattern cutter, has influenced me the greatest amount because of the way I now look at the clothing when I’m going through the twarling process and the fittings. I think that I maybe look into details that would perhaps be overlooked by someone else.The way that tailoring comes into all my work, from obviously tailored pieces like jackets and trousers right down to t-shirts, has definitely been greatly influenced by the way that I trained on Saville Row.

LPA: I love the idea of creating clothes for “fashion situations” rather than “fashion seasons”. Why did you decide to design in this way? What kind of “fashion situations” do you focus on in particular?

AL: I think that fashion situations are more in line with what the pre collections are all about. Pre collections go into a store at a time when people in the northern hemisphere want to be in the sun so they go on holiday, that’s what resort caters to, and in the southern hemisphere it’s the summer so they can wear it right. The main seasons are very difficult to translate in the same way. To me the pre collection has a much more global stance and how that feeds into the fashion situations goes into the way that I imagine this story for the woman who wears the clothing. For Resort 2014 the situation is really looking at specific pockets of culture around the world where you have a large ex pat Asian community mixing with local communities, which in this case are surf cultures. My woman is travelling to Sydney, Costa Rica, beaches of Brazil, Southern California or she’s in South China sea or surfing beaches in Japan like China or Shōnan and she’s dressing for that location. She’s finding herself in this very specific zeitgeist of a location situation and that’s what my designs are meant to reflect.

LPA: Talk me through your resort 2014 collection. What was your initial inspiration and how did you get from there, to the finished looks?

AL: I started with the idea that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. I had been in Sydney f orNew Year’s which has a very large Chinese population. I also used to live in LA which has the largest South Korean population outside of South Korea and I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Costa Rica which has a very large Asian community who go for golf and surfing and holidays and have a large influence there. My previous two collections have been about very specific locations or situations and I wanted this collection to be about a situation that a woman could find herself in in various parts of the world, so it wasn’t so confined, it was on a global scale. This led to me doing the development of the textile print that happens in the jacquards in the collection which is based in a Japanese technique called Kanoko Shibori and then there are elements of other Asian influences in the Cheongsam Qipao style collars and the t-shirts which I’ve called “rash guards”, on the dresses. There’s also a sporty nature to it and the seam detailing in a lot of the pieces which are referencing wetsuits and the colour blocking characteristic to them. I wanted all of those elements to marry together. They all sound totally ridiculous separately and maybe a bit cliché but then come together in a seamless and un ridiculous way.

LPA: Given how successful the Alexander Lewis brand has been already, it’s easy to forget that that this is only your third collection it’s still early days. Where do you hope to see your label in five years time?

AL: Thank you. I feel like the brand is very young still. I hope that in 5 years time I will have brought in the other two seasons but for now I really feel like focusing on these pre collections is a really important element for me. While other brands may focus on growing their main season and then eventually adding in pre, I’m doing the opposite of that. A healthy but steady growth is what I see coming for Alexander Lewis the brand. In 5 years time I’ll probably have a store but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge one. It might just be something modest and small that reflects what the brand is at that stage. I’m very aware of not pushing it beyond its limits.

Think he talks the talk impressively? Well then check out these resort 2014 beauties…

Alexander Lewis

Alexander lewis

Alexander Lewis

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