There are few things more enjoyable as a blogger than getting to know a designer and then watching how their collections evolve and change over the course of a few seasons. Maria Grachvogel was one of the first designers to invite me to their catwalk show when I was just starting out (thank you Maria and Bryan More PR!) and I fell head-over-heels for her dreamy SS12 collection. I last interviewed the lovely Maria about a year and a half ago (click here to read it) shortly before being smitten by the deco glamour of her AW12 collection. With just a couple of weeks to go until London Fashion Week comes around again, I managed to wangle 5 more minutes with the designer to grill her on what’s she’s got in store for us this season…
LPA: I interviewed you almost exactly a year ago to this date! How do you feel your business has changed/developed since then?
MG: We are in a constant state of evolution to come up with new ways to work smarter and better address the needs of our customers and retailers across the globe. For instance, we presented our first ever Cruise collection this year because of the growing importance of this delivery to the global luxury market. For quite some time I have wanted to expand our knitwear offering and have finally done so for AW13, I am excited about the texture and versatility it adds to the collection. On the business front, for the first time in quite a while I have enlisted the help of outsiders and experts in different areas across the business to give a fresh perspective and ensure that I am continually learning new things I can use to grow the business.
LPA: I absolutely adored your SS13 collection, what was the inspiration behind it?
MG: Thank you! I had a strong feeling for a futuristic simplicity with this collection which was expressed in the clean silhouette with sheer or colourblock details. The colour palette and prints were inspired by the cosmos and natures most simple elements, lunar white, opal pink, limonite and hematite alongside black and white to create an overall mood of understated, universal luxury.
LPA: SS13 was very different to the previous season’s deco glamour but I thought that both collections were recognizably “Maria Grachvogel”. How do you manage to stay true to your signature style while offering something fresh each season? I can imagine it’s not easy…
MG: My collections really do come from a place of internal inspiration, sometimes in ways that are difficult to articulate. Because of this, they are inherently me. They reflect my mood, state of mind or other things I have internalized and this somehow seems to resonate with other women and also the mood of the moment. I think this naturally results in a consistency from season to season, even if I am not consciously aware of it.
LPA: I remember attending one of your shows in 2010 and being amazed to discover that you’d very recently given birth to your son! How are you balancing motherhood with the demands of being a fashion designer?
MG: It isn’t easy and I am still learning! It does help to have a great partner and my husband’s support has been invaluable. I have learned to prioritize things differently, so this may mean I do a late night work call or paint prints at home after I have had bath and bedtime with my son. Having a child has also developed and inspired me in ways I could ever imagine. There is something quite levelling about it yet so incredibly inspiring and I have found that it has further enhanced my creativity.
LPA: Unlike a lot of designers, you cater to women from a size 6 to a size 20. Why is this so important to you? Do you think brands should have to go up beyond a size 12 or 14?
MG: My goal has always been to make all women feel fabulous, so I really don’t think about size. When women come to my shop and I see the happiness and confidence that take over when they have found the right piece, it validates all of the hard work I put in to running my business. I have clients of all shapes and sizes and I believe all women have a right to have that transformative moment.
LPA: Last time we spoke, I was excited to hear that your plan for 2012 was to expand further in the USA. How has that gone?
MG: We are slowly making headway but the global economic climate being what it is has presented some challenges. I did spend some extended time in the U.S. in the past year, getting feedback from retailers and learning more about U.S. customer and the needs of market. So we are evolving our collections to address those needs. At the same time, we do have quite a strong base of existing clients in the U.S. so we plan to focus on enhancing our web experience to better support those shoppers directly.
LPA: Having launched your brand in 1991, you must have experienced some pretty dramatic changes with the rise of online shopping and digital media. How has it affected you the most?
MG: I feel fortunate that I have been able to steer my business through the changes and challenges over the last twenty years. Everything is so transparent and immediate now, with people tweeting and livestreaming from the shows and sharing their inspirations and personal thoughts through social media. I am naturally a private person, so the fact that I now tweet is evidence of how much of what it means to run a global brand has changed! Opening myself up publically in that manner has definitely been a big shift for me. With the all the constant conversation and commentary that now goes on, I am actually more focused. It has become more necessary than ever to tune it all out and design what feels authentic to me in the moment.
LPA: Without revealing too much, can you give us a hint what to expect for AW12
MG: For my Autumn / Winter 2013 collection I wanted to convey a bold but quiet power. I have kept the colour palette simple with deep, rich colours and have incorporated more texture than I have in recent seasons. Artwork prints are always an essential part of my collection and for this season I have created deconstructed graphic prints that really play on the duality of both the strength and fragility of nature.
Love Ella. X