Wonderland catches up with Reiss‘ Creative Director James Spreckley to chat film noir, London fashion and the brand’s timeless appeal


If we look to womenswear, what do you mean when you say “The Cry of the City” was the inspiration?

James: Well we took a lot of inspiration from French film noir. Glamour with a touch of malice. The “Cry of the City” represents for us that kind of old school feeling of dressing up, going out, but doing it in a really sophisticated way. We wanted to get a kind of rebellious, coming of age vibe. I just wanted to toughen Reiss up a little bit, harness a strong point of view allowing it to break the mould, and that’s what we’re trying to do. Our core aim is to maintain that femininity, create a collection of timeless, beautiful pieces and to continue trying to bring couture wear/vintage inspired pieces into daywear but styling them in a way that’s very contemporary. We’re just trying to turn things upside down a little, create something that’s unique to everything else that’s out there.

I was going to say it’s feminine but with an edge, and that’s very appealing…

I mean one of the over-riding themes was extreme contrasting elements so when we were looking at soft fabrications we had to put them in a really tough colour, we also tried to break traditional silhouettes – so it was this constant and extreme contrast running right through.

What about the shapes and silhouettes?

Again being sensitive to who we are as a brand, we were trying to get a bit more body conscious, so even  our shift dresses we were nipping them in at the waist a little bit, to achieve a real femininity with an undertone of sexiness. We also felt that the split into two main seasons was a bit old hat, so we were trying to make each season, each month count, with constant newness arriving in stores weekly offering a really strong point of view throughout each themed collection.

So what are your personal references that you always hark back to?

I set the tone with all the mood boards usually influenced from film, vintage pieces often words and then I put that into stories. We’re trying to surround the consumer with a really confident point of view, strong visual language with a sense of originality, giving them direction. That’s something I’ve learnt over the past few seasons. This time around we dropped our look book online a lot earlier, allowing the customer to view the whole collection hopefully offering them solutions for purchases later in the season.

If we look to menswear, would you say it’s now more in synch with the womenswear?

Menswear was my background for about 15 years, but what I love is that we don’t chase trends, we’ve always done our own thing, carved a sense of a unique viewpoint and that’s got us traction and a following. So we’ve kind of got this real buzz of guys who come to us and trust in how we allow them to push themselves creatively without going over the top. The ultimate aim is to leave our stores feeling twice as good as when you first stepped in.

Yeah I think there’s a much greater focus on menswear in London now with LCM and everything.

Yeah we’ve been talking about that internally a lot and we ask if it means there will be a point where fashion switches off for men. But when I look back over my career, men have never been so able to be enjoying fashion without being seen as emasculated, as they are now. So I think it’s going to continue. As long as we keep feeding them really exciting product I know guys will remain in tune with taking care of themselves. They will never tire of feeling good dressed up.

Definitely! Obviously the core aesthetic of Reiss comes through in every collection, how do you ensure this?

Our customers know more about how to put things together now, so the DNA of the Reiss womenswear has been totally re-modified. Even when we look at day dresses, it’s like: “How do we shake off that occasion-wear feeling?”  By keeping things looking modern, stylish and desirable. I want young women to come to us for new cool occasion-wear, but I also like the idea of someone who may not have shopped with us before creating their own look wearing a beautiful evening piece with boots and leather jacket as daywear.

I think the great thing about Reiss, the inter-generational appeal. I mean, I came shopping with my mum last Christmas and she came out of the store with a dress whilst I cane out with a backpack!

That’s actually a perfect example, because that hardware is original, it comes from vintage, and we’ve put it into what is a trend piece, that also allows you to wear it as a bag. So I’m picking the product in a really considered way: it’s quite intense, and we talk about being very reactive as a business. Whenever we’re fitting prototypes, if we feel that we can improve it we tweak it, and it’s quite a luxury being able to manipulate the product right to the very end, to the point of actually pressing the button on production. As for our customer I don’t care if he’s in his 60’s and coming out feeling super cool like Daniel Day Lewis or if he’s an 18 year old kid who’s going to his first interview and wants to feel the business! Stand out from the rest. We don’t have any snobbery on that front at all and that’s what we’re trying to do on womenswear. If you’re not careful you sit in the middle and generally don’t mean anything to anybody, and we want people to feel fantastic so we’re looking at offering broader price architecture with some things that are really high end, limited edition pieces and at the same time broadening our wardrobe staple garments at sensible prices.

Reiss definitely helps to make you feel more sophisticated.

Exactly! The other key thing is timelessness. The tone of the mood boards is such that you could make a little coffee table book out of them – they won’t date. That’s really key. We’ve been talking about this with the archive collection, so that three years down the line you can look at a product and it won’t be particularly dated, but it’s easier said than done! Creating future proof pieces that we hope become classic wardrobe collectables.

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