Fashion designers often dabble in interior design by launching homeware collections, with varying degrees of success. But what about the reverse? Can interior designers turn their clothing style into a business asset?
Jenna Fletcher is the founder of Oswalde, a UK-based interior design service and online store specializing in 1960s and 1970s furniture, particularly Italian plastics. She honed her look to match her company’s pop aesthetic by collecting 1990s Comme des Garçons and vintage Japanese pieces to wear with a range of primary-colored sportswear. The effect, she says, is “a lot of sleek, slightly wacky silhouettes.” Dressing for client meetings is always “strategic and thoughtful” – and an important part of her sales technique.
“My style wins me places,” says Fletcher. “What people are paying for is my overall sense of taste, and that carries over to the way I dress. If someone is investing in my looks and my eyes, then my looks are part of it.
Fletcher, who has just finished work on the interiors of a new Story mfg store in Brighton, will open its first store in east London later this year. She talks to me via video call, for which she chose to wear a chunky black hoodie with a pastel green baseball cap with the logo of a Los Angeles table tennis club. It is a set with a somewhat caricatural graphic character that corresponds to his overflowing enthusiasm for Joe Colombo Boby carts and Rodolfo Bonetto fiberglass chairs.
She points out that her favorite genderless look has practical benefits: rugged Bottega Veneta Tire boots worn on site visits, for example, and Kiko Kostadinov’s menswear “cut from vintage T-shirts from America.” “My thing – Oswalde’s personality – is all about the unexpected.”
Others go further. Designer and FT interiors columnist Luke Edward Hall has turned his Bright-Young-Thing-on-Acid fashion instinct into a knitwear collection and online store called Chateau Orlando, which falls somewhere between English eccentricity and the wearable art project.
Hall has expertise: he studied menswear at Central Saint Martins College in London before moving into art and design, and previously designed a capsule collection of clothing for Gant.
But while trendy clothes can get you noticed, they can be a distraction. Anthony Kooperman, director and co-founder of ultra-classic interiors company Albion Nord, takes a more understated approach to sartorial signage than Fletcher. “It’s more about the reference to craftsmanship,” he says.
Kooperman describes himself and his three co-founders as “young traditionalists” – they have worked on large, expensive residential developments in London such as Chelsea Barracks, and specialize in furnishing homes with a mix of antiques and contemporary furniture, with expensive furniture, deliberately low. -key looks. He equips himself exactly the same way.
Kooperman tends to favor a very repeatable look of plain dark clothes, handmade boots from Red Wing and glasses from Cubitts. “If a client is savvy enough, they’ll recognize the odd mark on me, which sends a strong message about our approach,” he says. “It transcends interiors.”
He’s opted for an unchanging uniform that allows his interior work to take center stage – he says he would never dream of wearing huge patterns or bright colors to meetings with clients. Rather, he wants to reflect a “clean-as-inoffensive” aesthetic, although he believes that on rare occasions his tendency to avoid adornment for client meetings has led to him losing business by misjudging the atmosphere. That, he says, is OK with him: “We don’t want to be disruptive.”
A minimalist style like Kooperman’s saves time, but maximalists also find liberation in sartorial repetition. Parisian interior designer Laura Gonzalez, whose eponymous agency specializes in lavish, colliding patterns and textures, selects her work wardrobe from a curated collection of vintage silk kimonos “for the night, for daytime, for breakfast – they’re easy to put in luggage, mix and match with jeans. I wear them all the time.”
But then, like most interior designers, Gonzalez, who has worked on the flashy interiors of Cartier boutiques in Paris, Madrid and New York and the Relais Christine hotel in Saint-Germain, Paris, is absolutely sure of her instinct: “I have the skill to mix it up and I have the confidence to do it,” she says casually. “I find what I like and I don’t change my mind.”
Gonzalez also favors La DoubleJ’s wild prints – “full of joy!” — and as the owner of a Loewe Elephant bag, is not afraid of novelty. She invests time shopping for seasonal trends at Liberty in London, while vintage items come from flea markets: “When you’re used to finding furniture, you can also find clothes, it’s the same way of looking.” Gonzalez admits, however, that she often composes the exuberant models for a first business meeting. “I try to be safe,” she says. “But it doesn’t last.”
Fletcher, Kooperman and Gonzalez chose very different professional looks. But all three say that, in their professional lives, creative professionals have a certain license to dress as they see fit. Normal workwear rules don’t apply, and that’s liberating. “You’re admired for that,” Kooperman says.
Again, expectations are onerous. They need to dress properly and in style — day after work day.
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