Any conversation about contemporary luxury London fashion would not be complete without Amanda Wakeley. The self-trained designer began her career as a model back in the 1980s, before starting her namesake brand in 1990. Since then, her sleek sports-luxe aesthetic and refined tastes have garnered her countless patrons in the London fashion scene.
In conversation with Amanda, in her sprawling 18 Albemarle Street flagship store in the heart of Mayfair, it becomes clear that her brand is a reflection of her own style sensibilities. A timeless elegance that breathes luxury while also designed for the everyday, resonating with women from all walks of life, from Angelina Jolie to Diana, Princess of Wales.
We sit down with Amanda Wakeley and discover her journey to becoming one of the leading forces in the fashion industry. While the journey hasn’t always been perfect, with three British Fashion Awards, and an OBE under her belt, Amanda Wakeley shows us that it has definitely worth it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Where did your interest in fashion come from?
I had a very glamorous mother and I remember being absolutely fascinated by her wardrobe. I began to intuitively create and craft; I innately had a passion for all things beautiful — to touch and to see beautiful things. I loved diving into my dressing up box, which was full of my grandmother’s cast offs, and chopping things up and recreating and customising them. It’s a family joke that no-one knows where this came from, as there was no-one else artistic in the family. It was a wonderful journey of self-taught discovery. I decided that when I left school that I didn’t want to go the formal route, I was always in a real hurry to grow up and be an adult, so I took myself to America and lived and worked there for four very formative years. I always think of my time in America as my university education.
You started your career as a model and had no formal training as a designer, what inspired you to shift your career in the industry and begin your own brand?
I was getting stopped in stores like Browns and the sales assistant saying to me “where did you get your black suede duster coat from," and I would answer “well of course I’d made it” — in that youthful arrogant way. I thought that there must be a market for my style; and so I created this little collection of all my favourite pieces and started selling them to friends and friends of friends. It just hit the mood of the moment.
How would you describe Amanda Wakeley, and the woman who wears your designs?
The Amanda Wakeley Woman is completely ageless. Her style is pulled off effortlessly. She is a busy woman who appreciates talent and craft. The clothes empower her to wear it in her own unique way. To me, the most important thing is the way a garment makes you feel: beautiful from the inside to the outside.
You’ve been through a lot of struggles since launching your eponymous brand in 1990. How did you overcome these challenges throughout your career?
I don’t focus on negatives, what always keeps me going is passion for what I do.
Back in 2010, you were appointed an OBE for all your accomplishments in the British Fashion Industry. What was this experience like?
Receiving the announcement of my OBE was incredibly surprising. I remember it was just before Christmas and I had had quite a challenging year. It’s a great honour to receive something like that for doing something that you love doing.
How do you think Amanda Wakeley has changed throughout the years? Do you think that your aesthetic has changed along with the times?
My aesthetic has in many ways remained the same. I would say that over the years it has become more refined and focused. I think it’s important to have a signature and stay true to it.
You are an advocate for Women for Woman and also co-chaired the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer appeal. Could you tell us more about your passion for philanthropy?
It is important to me to help in any way that I can. Back in 1996, I was approached to co-chair Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, which was a charity campaign founded by Ralph Lauren when he lost a great friend to breast cancer. We’ve been incredibly successful with it and have raised over 20 million pounds to fund vital breast cancer research. I am so proud of all that we have achieved!
Women for Women is another amazing project that I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. As a woman designing for other women, I am thrilled to be part of such an empowering and loving collaboration.
Finally, how do you think creators like yourself are changing the face of London Fashion?
I think the creativity that comes out of London is phenomenal – it always has been this amazing creative hub – whether it’s music, art, film or fashion. I’m really proud to have a London based brand and to live in such an inspiring city.
Portraits by Chris Baker
Words by Hannah Tan