Grannies, Penguins and Dick Van Dyke…

This is my third interview post for my investigation into how the fashion industry has been affected by the recession (the features and analysis will be put on a separate page once they are all finished), and this time I spoke to up and coming designer Charlotte Taylor and her photographer for the look book Claire Pepper. The Charlotte Taylor label was created during the recession, and launched at London Fashion Week earlier this year. Kudos to Charlotte for designing a fresh and exciting yet classic and elegant collection.

My interview with Claire Pepper comes first, followed by my interview with Charlotte Taylor…

Permissions for use of images has been granted and credits go too; Photographer – Claire Pepper, Stylist – Ellie Grace Cummings, Make Up and Hair – Camilla Hewitt, Model – Rachel @ Models 1.

Claire Pepper

What sort of photography do you do?

I shoot for small fashion and accessories brands doing catalogues look books, press images, website images. I do some commercial work not related to fashion as well but most of it is centred around fashion, beauty or accessories.

What is your biggest achievement?

Winning Young Fashion Photographer of the Year in 2008 but also receiving a bursary from the Royal Photographic Society in 2009 was a great achievement.

Have you always been into photography?

Yes, I did a degree then went straight into freelancing, as a photographer but also as an assistant. I was even taking pictures when I was a kid – and I used to take pictures of bands and stuff when I was about 17 – I didn’t do it at school as it wasn’t offered but always did art and graphics at school.

Tell me a little about yourself…

I went to University in Brighton but moved to London after graduating and have been here about a year and a half now. Lots of the stuff I do is for smallish clients so I’m not jetting all over the world just yet – but the hope is I will grow with my clients and that will come at some point. I try to get involved in as many creative projects as I feasibly can whilst still making a living, meet new people doing interesting stuff and just generally try to develop my work as much as I can. 

How long have you known Charlotte for?

I do a bit of work for Topshop and found Charlotte through them. They blogged about her blog, and I thought her blog sounded really interesting, something about it was very endearing. I got in touch to say if she needed look book pictures I would be happy to do it. Thankfully she liked my work, and did in fact need look book pictures, so we got together to discuss ideas and shot in late January, about 2 weeks before fashion week. I loved her collection and it was great to meet a new team who were all fantastic. Everything was done very professionally and the pictures are great for my portfolio. 

What do you think of Charlotte’s designs and what is your favourite outfit?

I love the collection – it is very my kind of thing, it’s funny because when I first contacted Charlotte I hadn’t seen any of her clothes or designs but sometimes you just get a feeling that someone thinks along the same lines as you. It is very elegant and wearable without being predictable and I love the range of influences that is subtly coming through. My fave piece – I love the high waisted trousers especially the ones with the crossed-over waistline that we paired with the penguin print top for the look book. And I do love the penguin print; I know everyone says that.

How did you want to present the clothes in your photographs?

As it was a look book it was really about just making some nice clean images to show the clothes at their best, so there wasn’t much room for a concept or story behind the images themselves, but we talked about the images having an old Polaroid feel, which we mostly did in post production giving them a bit of a tint. The lighting was quite soft overall but with still enough definition to show off the lovely folds and drapes in the garments.

Have you personally experienced any issues with your work during the recession?

It was hard to get started as I began working in summer 2008 and by the end of the year it was really starting to hit people hard so work was quite scarce. I was waitressing for a bit, but in some ways it has been good as people are more willing to use a young photographer as they need to do things on a smaller budget and can’t necessarily afford the big guys anymore.

What do you think was the biggest hurdle for Charlotte in creating her label during a recession?

I think buyers are going to be a lot more careful, they can’t afford to stock things that aren’t going to sell. Hopefully this will not discourage designers from being creative and pushing the boundaries but it does mean that collections have to be wearable and sellable more so than in the past. However I think Charlotte will fare well in this as her designs are very wearable and are also very classic – they are investment pieces that will be worn season after season.

Have you and Charlotte got anything planned in the next year or for the next season?

Not yet, just giving the poor girl a chance to recover from her launch but I hope we will work together again.

What was the inspiration for the look book?

We tried to take a lot of Charlotte’s references for the collection and apply them to the look book – headscarves for example and that ‘old’ feel I talked about earlier.

What do you like to do in your spare time outside of work? 

Photography does take over my life a bit, although I don’t take many pictures of friends and family (I should take more) or holiday snaps, it is mostly work. I do a few photography projects on the side not related to fashion. I try and read books, I read lots of magazines, I  also like cooking. I watch lots of films, go to gigs, go to exhibitions, and go shopping the usual stuff really. I used to go rock climbing and keep promising myself I will start again but so far it hasn’t happened. I am generally useless at most sports.

What would you and Charlotte talk about during your shoots?

The look book shoot was quite focused as we had a lot to get through – always time for a cup of tea though.

What do you like to emphasise and portray in your photographs?

Femininity, elegance, softness, I do have a strong style and I am trying to develop it a bit further. I’m not really interested in Terry Richardson-style photography or anything with a shock factor; I am more interested in creating a work and creating something beautiful with a bit of an ambiguous story behind it.

Charlotte Taylor

Who do/ have you worked for?

Peekaboo Vintage, Frost French, Petra, Luella.

How did you get involved in fashion, and have you always wanted to go into the fashion business?

I have always been artistic. I spent my weekends painting the Lake District where I grew up in Watercolour (could I be more twee?!?). I initially wanted to be an architect but changed my mind in my late teens. I am definitely a designer as opposed to a ‘fashionista’. I love being creative and experimenting. I’m also one for pushing and challenging myself, I think it comes from having an older brother. If I didn’t keep up I got left out.

What made you decide that 2009/2010 was your time to start a collection and start your label?

I guess it was a combination of things. I am not the sort to sit still. I need entertaining and I was bored of my life. It was a bit too easy. 9-5 job, nice flat and friends and family all living really close, I needed a challenge. I then went about finding the funding and putting a plan together. I actually made the decision within a week. It just felt so right and the months notice I had to work felt like hell as I was so desperate to crack on with everything.

How would you describe your personal style?

A mis-match really. I’m not far out wacky and I’m definitely not a high street clone. I’m a little bit tom boy, with what I hope to be a subtle elegance. I wear what I want and always have. I have never been worried about other peoples’ opinions on my dress sense, but I always hold my hands up eventually when I realise I look like an idiot. I turned up to a school reunion recently in full farmers’ gear…god knows why. I think my worst outfit was when I was 18 and I wore white flares, a red and white striped top and a red beret on a night out in our local town Lancaster. I got rinsed. I might as well have had onions around my neck.

Where do you like to shop and what is your favourite shop?

I actually mainly do all my shopping in charity shops. I’m on a tiny budget at the moment so can’t afford much. Everything goes on the business. I think the last things I bought were a pair of pj’s and some undies from Tesco. I buy a lot of stuff off eBay as well and I have a thing for Kurt Keiger shoes.

What is your favourite piece in your wardrobe?

My deck shoes.

What is the most unusual item in your wardrobe?

I have a selection of lycra all in ones in different colours, they come out on a special occasion. I got my bro in a pink one and I was in the green and we dressed as power rangers to a pal’s party.

What advice would you give for people wanting to look good on a budget?

Charity shops and eBay, but don’t try and combine too many statement pieces at one time, you’ll look like a mess or a Saint Martin’s student in their 1st year.

Do you make and customise your clothes? What advice would you give to people who wanted to do the same?

I make a lot of fancy dress costumes and I alter all my clothes. It means I can be flexible when I buy second-hand clothes as I can always make them fit me. It broadens your shopping; I highly recommend investing in a sewing machine and learning how to sew.

Do you like to stand out from the crowd in your clothes or blend in?

I like to mix I guess. I don’t like to stand out, but I don’t look like a Topshop clone. I try to be individual in my own way; I never follow trends (on purpose anyway).

What advice would you give to someone who also wanted to start their own label?

1.     Plan
2.     Be Organized
3.     Don’t be scared
4.     Research
5.     Think about the business side just as much as the design side
6.     Eat well, sleep, prioritize and take time out when you need it. Clarity is key.

What is your inspiration for your collection and why?

3 Things:

Grannies – My obsession with the elderly stems from my childhood. My grandmothers’ face, which in later years I studied, sketched and painted. The style of the elderly, their random collaborations of clothes from all the different decades and trends throughout their lives. Magic can be created and I went hunting for it on the Isle of Wight, the island is like the Victoria and Albert museum for the elderly, it’s wonderful.

Penguins – It developed onto penguins because they walk a little bit like the elderly and they have been mine and my brothers favourite animals for ever. The way they move, huddle, fall over and their colours, contours and shapes. I love it all. I obviously designed a print with penguins on but the colour palette from the collection is also inspired by the emperor penguin and a lot of lines in the pieces come from the penguins too.

My old favourite movies and soap operas – Dick Van Dyke was a childhood hero and my pop and I used to sing along to Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for hours on end. I love the eccentricity of the characters in the films. They’re all a bit bonkers. Open all hours and the last of the summer wine also feature. I guess I am drawn to nutty characters. I’m pretty light-hearted and I want this to reflect in my clothes.

A Closetcharms favourite…

Have you previously done any collections in your spare time?

I did my graduation collection at CSM that included 7 outfits and a bag. I did a photo shoot and look book for that too and created a load of branded products to support it. At that stage I was going to call the label TAYLOR, but I’m glad I changed it. I don’t really design collections in my spare time. I don’t have the luxury of spare time at the moment.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My main hobbies are sports related. So on the island I’m always in the water wakeboarding and I’m learning to surf. I run a lot and have recently got into triathlons, as I’m a keen swimmer to. I also love to ski, especially with my family. When I’m in London I play netball and Hockey too. I sound like an obsessive but please bear in mind a lot of the time I do none of the above. Apart from that I like Sunday lunch with the girls or a glass of vino at the local.
I love being stupid and fancy dress is also a big part of my life.

What made you bring cupcakes and tea to your exhibition?

I knew no-one else would bring them and people remember quirky bits like that plus I also love cake and tea so it kept me going.

What is your favourite tea?

Green tea with Pear or a standard builder’s tea.

How long did it take for you to get your collection together?

I left my job in July I think and I was researching all summer, although I took it slowly and had some fun too. I really got into it in September, with pattern cutting probably starting in October/ November and production of the samples starting in December. I started the blog in October to get the PR ball rolling. Applications to the LFW show started in November.

How did the recession impact on starting your collection?

To be honest at the moment I haven’t noticed a huge effect. Mainly because I don’t know any different. Obviously retailers have a smaller budget so they are buying less stock and from fewer designers so it is hard to sell. Because I don’t have a shop I have no overheads and because I live with my family I have little costs there as well. I think I will notice more of an effect in the future though. I guess you just have to be able to manage where you are at and not get ahead of yourself, producing too much stock and not being able to sell.

Do you think you would have been able to do the same without the recession?

They say that the best creative’s come out of a recession, turning negatives into positives and finding inspiration in the bleakest of environments. In that sense it is a great time to be launching. To be honest small business’ can thrive in this time as they have little ties and can monitor their growth on such a small-scale. A lot of people thought I was mad but I love a challenge and I’m doing ok so far.

Did the recession affect any of your designs or fabrics you used?

I had a set budget for the collection and I stuck to that.

What vision did you have for your label/ collection/ look book?

Label:

The CHARLOTTE TAYLOR woman is endearing, effortless, individual, elegant and a bit tomboyish and athletic.
Nothing is pretty or frilly. It’s more about contours, shapes, contrasts and bold colours. The label is flexible, it can be worn day or night and by a diverse range of customer. It’s designed for people who don’t take themselves too seriously. I want it to be aspirational but attainable.

Collection:

An eclectic, yet cohesive ensemble of inspirations has infiltrated the designs for the première at London Fashion Week and AW’10 collection. Trashy grannies, penguins, old soap operas, movies and the eccentric within provide fuel for the fire in this bold yet elegant collection. Dashes of colour through tweed, navy, cream and pearl, twist through folds and pleats. Weighty fabrics and concealed contrasts create clothes that flow, move and transform with the movement of life. The dresses are ripe for the winter dance-aholic, whilst coats and capes engulf you in a sea of wool, chunky zips and head consuming hoods. Tops and blouses emblazoned with a unique penguin print make for a strong, memorable statement. Elegance is also key; as is the strength of tailoring. Lines and seams are there for a reason, subtly and beautifully accentuating the female form.

Look book:

Combining a vintage Polaroid feel with an emphasis on colour contrasts, a bit tomboyish and elements of the eccentric influences. I wanted it to be fresh, raw, elegant and quirky in a subtle way. I was over the moon with the result.

A Closetcharms favourite…

What have you got planned for the next year, any ideas for new collections?

With the business I would like to be selling worldwide and have opened at least one stand-alone CHARLOTTE TAYLOR shop. I would like to have done a couple of collaborations with brands. Fred Perry or a similar sports brand would be great as well as potentially children’s wear and leather goods (although I hope to develop these within my label). On a personal level I would like to own my own house. I desperately would like a camper van and an old school Mercedes SL and to be able to travel to at least 1 new country per year.

What were you major obstacles during this time and how did the recession impact on them?

Major obstacles are of course funding. People are less willing to risk investing in a risky project, and the fashion industry doesn’t have a great history in new designers making a ton of money.

Where can you buy your clothes from?

Watch this space! 

For all enquiries and further information please contact charlotte@charlottetaylorltd.com and visit http://charlotte-taylor.blogspot.com/ or http://www.clairepepper.co.uk/

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