Stylist Laura Parkes talks to fashion designer Amanda Thompson about her move from Bermondsey street to the Notting Hill area.
What’s it like being in Notting Hill?
I love it. I find it creative, vibrant, exciting. It feels more relaxed and the women over here are more playful with their style.
Why did you choose this area?
This is a better match for my style of clothing.
What positive impact do you hope this change will bring?
The only impact is that it’s about being around more like minded people. People's wants and needs here are different to what people want in the city.
Do you think it has affected your creative process?
Yes I do. I think it has freed me up to express myself rather than focus on everyday clothes.
What's your new collection like?
The collection is called “Urban Legend.” We’re working on a story about the woman that would wear the collection. She is a strong, free-spirit; someone not afraid to express herself.
What are you excited about?
The potential. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I feel there is potential around the corner, but unrealised at this moment.
What fabrics are you working with?
It’s an eclectic collection of folk-lore prints, to florals, to checks, with a nod to the 70’s. Most of the fabrics are from Italy and are silk-lined. The fabric is everything to me, all my inspiration starts at the fabric.
What is important to you through your collections?
I believe in making things to last. Pieces that you can still pull out of your wardrobe 5-10 years later and wear. Clothing should be things that we cherish, not something that is disposable. I’m a strong advocate of slow fashion. I make all the patterns myself and everything is made in London, either in house or a small unit in London. I go to Italy to the mills to source fabrics, which are turned into limited edition pieces.
What’s your favourite part of the design process?
Buying the fabric and then draping it on the stand and seeing what it will do.
How did you end up in the fashion industry?
I was a poor, starving actress with no clothes and no money who coveted Oscar dresses. At the time I had little self worth, I felt like a shoplifter going into stores. So one day I went to Shepherds Bush market and bought £4 worth of fabric to make myself a pair of trouser. They were rubbish, but I loved them because they were new. An obsession grew from that as it had unleashed my creativity. I no longer had to wait for the phone to ring to be creative, I could go out at anytime and source fabric and make whatever I wanted. Then after a few years, people started asking “where did you get that from, I want one.”
Have you ever worked with any interesting characters you could tell me about?
One client, who was an artist, asked me create a dress for a special occasion. When designing a bespoke piece I always ask my clients to bring in their ideas so I can get a sense of who they are, what they are like and their personality. This lady brought in a picture of sleeve detail and a picture of a rusty old ship, so from this inspiration we made an evening dress which was all about texture and structure. She was great fun to work with.
Who would you most like to dress?
Erin O Connor... She's gorgeous - old school couture with a very contemporary edge, I love her androgyny.
Do you have a style icon?
I'm not sure I do specifically. I like a lot of different people for different reasons. Sounds like a cop out but it’s so true... Tilda Swinton, she's stylish, thoughtful, intelligent, creative and makes incredibly interesting choices... Cate Blanchett, she's breathtakingly, naturally beautiful but not afraid to bear her soul within her work... Vivienne Westwood, I don't know her but has had such an interesting journey. She had the courage to follow her truth regardless of everything else. And has never lost her passion even in her lowest points. She broke the model and carved a path for other young designers and has such distinctive style, you can spot a Westwood anywhere.
Was anyone a role model for you growing up?
I grew up wanting to be a ballerina, so my inspirations were dancers like, Gelsey Kirkland, Margot Fonteyn and later when I discovered contemporary dance, Pina Bausch and Martha Graham.
How do you try to be sustainable in an industry which is the second biggest polluter after oil and gas?
My focus has never really been about high fashion per say but more about beautiful clothes that stand the test of time. It has always been important to me to use quality, natural fabrics such as silks, wools and cashmere. It's about slow style as opposed to fast disposable fashion. Truthfully, even though I have probably always been sustainable, it's only been just recently that I am conscious of being so, if that makes sense.
Where do you see the future of fashion? How would you like to see it evolve?
I think that we are at a very interesting time of change. Slowly people are getting educated to be aware of what, as consumers, we do to our planet and how can we make a difference. This is now filtering through to all industries, so there is a conscious effort to make things better. Like everything it will not happen overnight, but as long as we are planting the seeds, it will happen over time.