AN INTERVIEW WITH DESIGNER JAMES LAKELAND


Looking through some of the press coverage for London Fashion Week, you have to wonder who on earth wears the kind of clothes which make it down the runway.

The great fashion shows by high-end designers are the inspiration for the rest of the high street, whose designers then make the clothes more wearable for the rest of us.  Now I’m not very creative with clothes, and I’m not the kind of person to push the boundaries with fashion, so you’ll have to excuse me for sniggering at some of the outlandish and outrageous creations from some of our bright new designers, although I take on board that London fashion is supposed to be edgy!

So it was extremely heartening to talk to designer James Lakeland at a trade show earlier this year, whose passion for design is matched only by his understanding of the female form – and he talks common sense to boot!

I have a few key James Lakeland pieces in my wardrobe, so I was excited and extremely privileged when he agreed to be interviewed for our blog.

The first thing to know about James is that he loves dressing women!  And the second is that he understands that we are all different weights, heights, shapes and sizes. 

James began designing more than 25 years ago and now employs 158 people within his company, and indirectly another 400 in factories and supply trades.

He is surrounded by women – his grandmother at 96 is still beautiful, according to James, is very glamorous and loves Chanel!  She is a huge asset to his business -  giving him inspiration, since she is passionate about looking good and is still full of creative ideas.

His late mother too, was always beautifully dressed, and from an early age instilled in him the values by which he still lives, while his wife is very glamorous - loving beautifully made clothes (and partial to a little bit of bling, so a woman after my own heart) and the feeling behind the creativity, though he says she can be very critical when necessary.




The first stage in his design process following the concept, is the cut.  Fit is so very important – he showed me a prototype dress made up in his factory in Italy which he promptly rejected.  “The fit was all wrong, it was too short…. the sleeve…. the collar wasn’t right.  Fit is so very very important.  I want my clothes to last more than one season:” he said “And I want mine to be the favourite piece in the wardrobe.”

James’ clothes are all made from his factory at Lake Como Italy, using luxe Italian fabric.  His clothes often incorporate stretchy Viyella which is very forgiving and easy to wear, along with taffeta, which gives the garment movement and a bit of “swish” and detail.

He doesn’t copy what’s going on in the high street – “we’re not Next, and you can tell.  I see everything in colour:” he said, “and I thought everyone could see what I see.”

He admits to being a perfectionist.  “I never forget who the customer is – you don’t have to be model-tall, but my garments have to have shape – the fabric, the cut, the production – all has to be perfect.  My customer loves herself and loves clothes.”

Obviously, I took the opportunity to mention some of my own gripes about clothes – being short and curvy – and a different size on top to bottom as well – means I struggle with sizing. I also tend to not wear very many patterned clothes, but James’s advice was to go for it and put some pattern into my wardrobe.

We also had a discussion about cold shoulder design, of which I am not a huge fan, but James was adamant that this works well for women who are concerned about covering their “bingo wings”.  “It’s a problem a lot of women say they have – they want to hide the tops of their arms.  But the cold shoulder look works very well for them, since women tend to have lovely shoulders anyway, even if they are not happy with their upper arms.”

Since we were at a trade show for Autumn/Winter 2018, I got a sneak peak of his current collection, which featured a number of beautiful metallic fabrics.  Colours were mainly grey, raspberry, maroons, navy and a splash of blue. “Metallic fabrics are huge for the Autumn/Winter season;” he told me.

There was also a range of beautifully soft wraps (my downfall….) in lovely pastel shades for the colder months.



“I love coats too” said James – I would love to have a separate “Coat Room” to showcase new designs.  And to illustrate the point, he brought out a beautiful raspberry winter coat, with which I instantly fell in love.  Reminiscent of the 50s, it was fitted at the top with a large shawl collar, single button and flared skirt – perfect for my shape – and one to look out for.

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