5 Minutes With: Atelier-To-Go Director, Jacqueline Stuart

Remember my post a couple of months ago about AMAZING new editorial driven online boutique, Atelier-To-Go? (Click here if you need a reminder) Well I was lucky enough to snag an interview with their lovely and incredibly inspiring Founder, CEO & Director, Jacqueline Stuart. Enjoy…


LPA: Tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up, study etc…

JS: I grew up in a small commuter town in the Sussex countryside and studied at the University of Manchester, which I loved. Who wouldn’t love a city that has the biggest student population in Europe, and was home to the Happy Mondays and the Hacienda? Brilliant.

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

JS: My first job in fashion was as a fashion model with Select when I was 17. My brother sent off some snaps to a magazine modeling competition and I won!  It was very exciting but I was definitely overawed by all the people I met. My heroes were always the ‘behind the scenes’ people on the magazines so to meet people like that in ‘real life’ was amazing and seeing how they pulled together a fashion story was very inspiring. I wasn’t the best model by a long stretch but it did help to fuel my love of the fashion world.

LPA: Setting up a company is always a high risk move, especially given our current economy. What prompted you to launch Atelier-To-Go? Did you feel fairly confident that it would be successful?

JS: You absolutely have to believe that you are going to succeed, so yes!  I also think that whilst the UK economy is in a parlous position, it is in testing times that new, creative ventures can flourish, as people tend to be more determined and resourceful in these situations. Plus, the wider picture is that the online market is doing incredibly well, so I hope that we are actually well positioned to take advantage of that. The reason I launched Atelier-To-Go is because I felt there was a real gap in the market for a curated compilation of luxurious, transitional brands presented in an accessible, friendly and engaging way.

LPA: One of the things that particularly struck me when I first saw the Atelier-To-Go brand book and website was that that is feels really personal in a way that doesn’t come across as cheesy or artificial. Why was this kind of connection with your customers so important to you ?

JS: Because I am one of them! I get a real thrill when I see all the beautiful clothes that we’ve photographed for our editorial shoots or when we interview one of the stylists, because I experience it as if I was a customer. And I want to convey that sense of excitement in everything we do.

LPA: From ASOS to Net-a-Porter, most major online shopping destinations now include trend edits and other fashion features. How does Atelier-To-Go provide something different to the editorial content these sites already offer?

JS: Clearly they do what they do phenomenally well, but I would like to think that we can carve out our own niche. Just as there is a space for different types of magazines on the newsstand, or different stores on a street, I would like to think that the same applies online. Essentially, we want our editorial voice to be colloquial and chatty – like shopping with your slightly cooler best friend. And none of the other online players in this space really do that.

LPA: The past year has seen a significant number of Fashion Editors leave positions at magazines and move into the retail field. In your opinion, why is this increasingly the case? Do you think it could spell the end of the fashion glossy ?

JS: I certainly hope not! There is nothing better than sitting in a comfy chair and flicking through a wonderful, glossy magazine. I think that this is happening more and more because the retail market is trying to capture that feeling you get when you sit down with a magazine – and translate it into a different medium, and for a different purpose. For me – coming from a traditional print & TV media background rather than fashion or retail -  it makes it a very interesting and fertile medium in which to try and push the envelope.

LPA: A feature of Atelier-To-Go that I definitely approve of but don’t entirely understand is the way you can ‘earn points’ which build towards getting sent a personalized surprise gift. Tell me a little about this…

JS: I liked the idea of a loyalty scheme but just felt that gathering points to get discounts is a bit like shopping in a supermarket. Every woman likes to be treated so I thought about what I would like, and I’d very much prefer a beautiful, beribboned little gift than get loyalty points – enough to put a smile on anyone’s face! The idea is that there will be a ‘tier’ element to the scheme – so the more points, the lovelier the gift!

LPA: Talk me through a typical day as CEO and Director of Atelier-To-Go.

JS: It sounds like a cliché, but there is no typical day. I deal with all aspects of the business, from the creative to the financial so it’s a very hands-on role. It ranges from visiting showrooms with our Retail Director, to meeting a stylist about an upcoming shoot, to devising budgets (and not sticking to them!) with our Head of Finance. I also like having a hand in the copy and tone of the site, as well as doing  the off-camera interviews for the stylists videos, so it really does vary every day for me!

LPA: Where do you hope to see Atelier-To-Go in 5 years time ?

JS: I’d love for us to be up there with the big players of the online editorial fashion world – but still have a small, passionate (and very lovely) team.  I’d also like to explore new and exciting ways to develop Atelier, and be as creative as possible. I believe that success and longevity in the online fashion market is all about building a brand that resonates with its target audience, but is also nimble enough to stay ahead of the game.

LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping for a career in fashion ?

JS: Show your enthusiasm and excitement for fashion to whomever you approach, make it clear that you have done your homework on the company, always try to be polite, modest and thoughtful and – when you get the job – work hard and feel passionate about it! I think that applies to most things in life though?

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Interviews 2 Comments

5 More Minutes With: Maria Grachvogel

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…

Maria Grachvogel

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

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5 Minutes With: Jenni Kayne

Since being introduced to her label during New York Fashion Week last September I’ve been waxing lyrical about the talents of an American designer by the name of Jenni Kayne. The every-day colour pop tailoring and punchy prints in Jenni’s Pre Fall 2013 collection only served to make me more enamoured with her effortless aesthetic and I for one am dying to see what she comes up with for AW13. With just days to go until her NYFW show, I caught up with Jenni Kayne to talk inspirations, aspirations and Kate Moss…

Jenni Kayne

LPA: I had no idea you launched your label when you were just 19! What prompted you to make such a bold and potentially high risk move?

JK: I knew I wanted to be a designer and I decided to take whatever steps were necessary to get there. I interned for some amazing people, worked as a buyer, and then started my line.

LPA: Before launching Jenni Kayne, you worked as a buyer for a Santa Monica boutique. How did you get the job? Do you that experience has had a lasting effect on you as a fashion designer?

JK: The owner of the store was a friend. Buying was a great experience for me – it’s given me insight into what buyers are looking for and also helps balance out the collection.

LPA: At just nine years old, Jenni Kayne is a New York Fashion Week fixture and stocks everywhere from Russia to Japan. How did you get the label from start up to global brand? I can imagine it wasn’t all plain sailing…

JK: It’s definitely been a learning experience. I’m selective about where I sell to – I look for partners in retailers – buyers who believe in the collection and are committed to selling it – not just buying one or two items and inconsistently. That’s helped strengthen my business and also opening my own stores as helped with brand recognition, which has been an important component of what I do.

LPA: Do you have a specific design process you go through each season? Are there any particular sources you look to for inspiration or is it different every time?

JKL I start with my team and we create an inspiration board and then talk color, shapes and fabrics. The California lifestyle and landscape are always an underlying theme in my collections.

LPA: Talk me through a typical day in the Jenni Kayne studio…

JK: I normally start with design and we go through fabric, make revisions to the collection, try on samples and then after lunch, I focus on my blog Rip+Tan. No day is ever the same because things are constantly changing!

LPA: How do you balance running a rapidly growing fashion brand and having a family?

JK: I’m still not sure I’ve mastered that balance but I do the best I can!

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

JK: Kate Moss

LPA: What is your ultimate aim for the Jenni Kayne brand?

JK: To open more stores and ultimately become a lifestyle brand.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Interviews 1 Comment

5 Minutes With: John Rocha

With Fashion Week now mere DAYS away, I thought it was high time to catch up with a few of the designers who’s collections we’ll be ogling. First up, John Rocha…

John Rocha

LPA: I’m extremely partial to a bit of colour so I was thrilled to see it on your SS13 catwalks! What prompted you to deviate so dramatically from monochrome looks this time around?

JR: Time spent in the South of France, the colours of the landscape influenced the palette for my Spring Summer collection.

LPA: Should we expect more of it in future?

JR: At this moment in time, yes but who knows what will inspire my future collections.

LPA: I always think your designs are works of art as much as clothes. How long does it take to make one of your sculptural catwalk looks?

JR: This depends on the individual piece; a garment can take two weeks to make or sometimes many weeks with a team of people working on hand embellishing or crocheting and involving many techniques.

LPA: Having been in the industry since the 1980’s, you must have weathered many ups and downs during the course of your career but clearly come out unscathed. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?

JR: The biggest challenge is designing a collection every season that excites and inspires.

LPA: Between winning Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards and receiving a CBE in 2002, you’ve had some incredible career moments. What would you say has been the all time highlight so far?

JR: Showing my collection in Paris for the first time in 1995 was significant for me and seeing my daughter Simone show her own collection during London Fashion Week last season was a happy moment.

LPA: Besides fashion, you’ve also designed cut glass crystal for Waterfords, homeware for Debenhams and the interiors of the Morrison Hotel in Dublin and Orion Building in Birmingham. How did these alternative collaborations come about? How do you balance your work in the different creative areas?

JR: Clients approach me in view to collaborate a space or an idea based on my design philosophy.  I spend between six and eight months of the year working on the catwalk collections and the rest of the time is spent developing ideas for other design projects. I have a good team who help bring these ideas to life.

LPA: Over the past 20 years, I can imagine you must have experienced some pretty dramatic changes relating to the rise of online shopping and digital media. How has it affected you the most?

JR: This change has not affected me a huge amount, but we are working on developing the new online store which is exciting.

LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping for a career as a fashion designer?

JR: Find your own voice, work hard and follow your dreams.

LPA: Without revealing too much, can you give us a hint what to expect for AW13?

JR: Unexpected winter colour.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Interviews 1 Comment

5 More Minutes with Stella McCartney

If there were ever a designer who needed no introduction, Stella McCartney is it. As anyone who didn’t spend 2012 living under a rock will be well aware, she designed the (very stylish) Team GB kit for the London Olympics. On top of that she continued creating ready-to-wear collections so chic they sold out in seconds and picked up both Designer of the Year and Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. Oh and on top of that she has FOUR children and from what I can gather, looks goddamn gorgeous all the time. Like I said, and no doubt didn’t need to, a very impressive lady. I was lucky enough to meet and interview Stella at her Adidas by Stella McCartney store back in July and was even luckier to do so again last week.

Stella McCartney

LPA: What was the inspiration behind your SS13 collection for Adidas?

SM: It’s just building on what we’ve done in previous seasons but really pumping it up. There’s a lot of colour, unashamed colour, matching and not matching. It’s about layering pastels, prints and brights. It’s just a bit wrong, which I love and I think is very courageous. I think that sportswear and sports in general for women is courageous. You have to really push yourself to do it. Getting up in the morning and exercising isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do but you know you’ve got to do it. This collection was really about encouraging that and inspiring something that’s not always so easy when yo’d rather chill out, watch telly and eat a brownie.

LPA: When do you exercise?

SM: I try and get it out of the way first thing in the morning so I can get on with my day. Time wise that’s when I can fit it in. I drop the kids off at school and then work out. This collection is really about encouraging outdoor sports as well. We wanted to celebrate bringing sports outside for summer and encourage people to look different and express themselves in a bold way. There’s a lot of sportswear out there and I really feel that we still bring something different to the market.

LPA: I can imagine that in some ways, designing sportswear might be even more challenging than fashion because of the practical requirements and the fact that to a certain extend, you’re re-designing the same garments. How do you manage to deliver something fresh each season?

SM: That’s a big part of this collaboration because it really is genuinely a sports performance brand. First and foremost it’s about performance for me and I love that because I don’t get to do it in my day job. You can put pretty much anything down the runway and give an excuse for having it there whereas with this range, if it doesn’t perform, it’s not in it. With that comes a lot of little alterations and challenges but I enjoy them. I think they’re really exciting and it’s really modern to have challenges like working with clima cool, techno fit and engineered pieces that you can only do a certain shape or a certain kind of design in. They’re important limitations they’re not just whimsical. We’re currently working with dyes that use no water and really trying to push ourselves in not only working with technical limitations but also environmental ones. If you’re working with a non water dyeing process for a t-shirt you only have one colour available to you but you’ve got to make it work for the right reasons.

LPA: Last time we spoke, you had finished designing the kits for team GB and we were all eagerly awaiting the London Olympics. How was the experience of seeing your designs on the medal winner’s podiums? Was there a particular moment that really stood out for you?

SM: It’s funny, it took up so much of my life last year and it was an incredible experience. Working on something like that and getting to be part of that in a very small way was just incredible. My memory of that is mainly just experiencing it like everyone else did. I think it was so surreal that when I watched the games it was just too huge to really think about the fact that I was seeing things I’d designed. Generally I think I just watched it like most people. When I saw one of the athletes on the podium I was a bit like “oh look, they’ve got my jacket on” but it quite overwhelming because it was so recognisable and because we hosted it, it was in every newspaper everyday. It became like it was another person. Would I do it again in 2016? I’d love to forever and ever! I’d like us to host it again.

LPA: 2012 was a pretty major year for you. Do you feel under pressure to really deliver something special or different during 2013?

SM: No because I think I’d already done it! All the timelines are so crazy on this kind of thing that it thankfully didn’t even cross my mind. I set my own standards for myself. I always feel like I have to really deliver no matter what it’s for or who it’s for because at the end of the day my name’s on the label and I want to be proud of it.

LPA: London 2012 has been praised for raising the profile of women in sport. Do you agree feel this has been the case? What steps should people within the sport and fashion industries take to ensure that this progress isn’t lost as we move forward?

SM: Yeah I think women’s sports are totally undervalued and my whole reason for doing the collaboration with Adidas all those years ago was to really give women a platform and an importance and give them pieces that they deserved. I still feel that there’s so much work to be done in that area. Men still drive the industry, their products still sell more and have more investment in the sport. There’s a million reasons to encourage women to do sports and that’s what I’m championing here. Having the right gear to do it in is so important and that was the whole starting point for me. I think men really take a pride in the technical side of sportswear, they get really excited by it, and I want women to be exposed to the same cutting edge techniques. I want to just help women understand that they deserve to have a t-shirt that looks really great and has a clima cool or a breathability to it. I’m all for re-educating women in how they wear sports clothes.

LPA: Do you feel that the line between fashion and sportswear has become more blurred in recent years?

SM: There’s always been a great energy in sportswear and fashion’s always drawn from different energies whether it’s sports or the art world. I think sportswear’s got a great edge to it and I’ve been drawn to those kinds of silhouettes at times. But to be honest, I think the lines always been very blurred. Look at the 80s, street style… I don’t think it’s particularly now that we’re seeing it. I think everything on the runway has a resurgence. Whether it’s sportswear influences or masculinity or surrealism, at some stage everything ends up on the runway.

LPA: Do you really push the eco side of things in your collaboration with Adidas?

SM: Yeah I do but Adidas actually, more than anyone else I’ve worked with, are really aware of it. I’ve actually learnt a lot from them, like not using PVC for example. I don’t use leather and fur in my own collections and it’s great working with Adidas because they don’t use fur and a bit of leather on some pieces but much less than most people in the industry. It’s a very like minded partnership and for the eco sensibility we have a set of rules and regulations and a percentage of every collection that has to be within them. It’s obviously something I encourage but they respond really well.

The Adidas by Stella McCartney store can be found at 97 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6HR and I highly recommend paying a visit because the SS13 collection is awesome!

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Interviews 2 Comments