British designer Philippa Long launched her own luxury womenswear label last year after two seasons cutting her teeth at Temperley London and an ongoing collaboration with knitwear maestro Derek Lawlor. Citing 1920s couturier Madeline Vionnet as the inspiration for her first collection, her uniquely feminine, luxurious aesthetic has since caught the eye of the industry.
You’ve said that your AW12 collection was influenced partly by African wax prints seen at your local market – where else do you hunt for inspiration?
My inspiration ranges from people I see waiting at the bus stop, to ceramic sculptures made out of soap I saw at the Saatchi a few weeks ago.
You worked at Temperley after graduating – tell us about your experiences there?
Working at Temperley was amazing. I learnt more about the industry in the nine months that I was there than I did in the three years that I was at university. I have definitely adopted the classic femininity of Temperley and the fabrics I use are inspired by what I was working with when I was there. I also really aspire to building a brand as successful and as committed to its British roots as Temperley one day.
What element of designing do you enjoy the most?
Shape and structure are probably the most important elements of design for me. I have to say that I enjoy the shape making/ pattern cutting element of the design process the most. It also really helps me to understand how things are made and really informs my design process later down the line.
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Which other designers are you inspired by?
The answer to this question changes all the time but right now I’m very intrigued by Dries Van Noten. He continuously delivers beautiful, well-cut collections that always consist of interesting fabric combinations, texture and colour. You can just tell that every detail has been carefully considered and executed to perfection.
How have you seen your designs evolve as you’ve become more experienced?
When I first started at university I tried to be as innovative and avant-garde as possible – I never really thought about wearability. Since having some exposure in the industry I have now learned to try to incorporate the innovative with the commercially viable. It’s not always easy but when it’s done well, I think it’s a real skill. I’ve also become a lot more experimental with colour and fabric combinations. In my current collection I combine African wax print with Chantilly lace; that would have never happened three years ago!
Who would you love to dress, that you think would embody the spirit and aesthetic of your brand?
I would love to dress Chloë Sevigny. I just think she’s bloody cool! She does feminine glamour with an edge very well.
What do you like most about working in the fashion industry, and what frustrates you?
I love the pace of the industry. It is constantly moving and changing, and as most designers work better under pressure, it’s a great environment for creativity to thrive. I get frustrated by the lack of ethics in fashion; from interns working for free for months and months to illegal sweat shops. For an industry so big, influential and so necessary I find it hard that so many people who work in fashion are exploited.
Do you have a long-term game plan? Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Long term, I really want to see my brand grow into the international fashion market. I would like to introduce menswear in a couple of years and I really want to open a factory here in the UK. I’m committed to British manufacture and would really like to see the garment and textile industry revived in the UK.
Words: Olivia Gagan