We meet Alice Temperley in the sun drenched loft above her sprawling West London studio. A couple of days before her highly anticipated show in London Fashion Week, the Temperley London team are buzzing, a fitting is going on below us, sophisticated machinery efficiently printing out dress patterns, little paper dolls mirror her indicate embroideries, and at the centre of it all — is Alice Temperley.
A valued member of the British Fashion Council Advisory Board, and with an MBE, Alice Temperley has been making waves in the British Fashion scene since launching Temperley London in 2000. In conversation with Alice, we talk about her inspirations and yoga trips to Mexico, while she gushes about her darling son Fox. A resolutely independent and individual presence in the industry, Alice Temperley has taken her modern bohemian aesthetic and created a fantastical world with each and every collection.
Before starting your eponymous brand, you studied at Central St. Martins and the Royal College of Art? How do you think your background influences the way you approach your brand?
Growing up in the countryside, I grew an appreciation for nature and a free spirited attitude to life. Life in Somerset has always been an important influence on my creative vision. Temperley London is built with a spirited and romantic aesthetic, inspiring an eclectic British lifestyle. London also plays a huge part in the Temperley London DNA. I have always loved the energy and diversity of London - it is a stark contrast to the Somerset countryside.
What inspired you to start Temperley London?
My family, especially my mother, has been one of my biggest inspirations. Growing up in rural Somerset, I was incredibly free and my mother had always encouraged me to make things. I would rip up fabric and get into lots of trouble for destroying my mother’s favourite fabric and shawls; and often breaking the sewing machine. From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be creative.
What was it like starting out as a young creative in London - what were the early days of beginning Temperley London like?
When I first started, I was doing absolutely everything on my own and it was extremely challenging. The hardest part is finding loyal, hard-working people who understand the industry and share my vision. Setting up a business is not easy — but I was young, strong, driven, and possibly being a little naïve at the time, which worked to my advantage.
Since your brand’s inception in 2000, you’ve always remained resolutely an independent brand. What are the biggest challenges to being an independent brand you face today?
My biggest challenge is to find the balance between my vision and the reality of the market. Fashion is a challenging industry, regardless if you are independent or part of a big luxury group. Being independent gives me more creative freedom, however it is very hard work as the industry is fast paced and ever evolving — it is key to stay relevant to be successful.
You have been a member of the British Fashion Council Advisory Board for several years. What does it feel like being able to influence the next generation of British designers?
As a British designer, I feel that I have a responsibility to lead by example and support the next generation of creatives. After 16 years in the industry, I have learnt that sharing my knowledge and my experiences is the best way I can support young designers.
Your British heritage has always been evident throughout your collections. Do you think that London and being in London is an intrinsic part of your brand?
I am very proud of my British heritage. There is absolutely no question that London has produced some of the most inspiring and creative designers in the world. The British Fashion Council has nurtured new talent to not only be hugely creative, but commercially successful as well. Personally I think London is the most exciting place for the industry at the moment. Receiving my MBE from Her Majesty the Queen was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. It made me feel very proud of my achievements.
Back in 2005, you moved your show to New York. What made you decide to move your catwalk show back to London?
I am a creative person and a business woman, but first of all I am a mother. I loved New York but it became increasingly hard to travel for long lengths of time away from my son Fox. I knew I wanted to return to London eventually, it was a huge decision but I don't regret it.
What are you working on now, what can we expect from Alice Temperley in 2017?
I am about to shoot our spring 18 look book, fit the summer 18 collection, and start sketching winter 18 bridal. On top of this, I have been working on a very exciting project. Watch this space…
Finally, how do you think young creators like yourself are changing the face of London Fashion?
London is still the most creative place I know. The city is a hive of creativity and an exciting place to be. With the prominence of social media and the appetite for newness amongst consumers the need for content is forever growing. Staying true to one’s voice and remaining consistent is more vital than ever.
Portraits by Chris Baker
Words by Hannah Tan