Friday, May 08, 2015

Being the 4th largest city in the US has it's perks. Not only is the city of Houston thriving from it's booming medical and oil & gas industries, but it's fashion industry has grown exponentially in just the 5 short years I've been here! More and more designers are wanting to have their clothes sold in Houston, and they want to come and visit this great city, including London-based Fashion Designer Jenny Packham. You may recognize her name from dressing many a celebrity on the red carpet and most recently for being the designer of the dress Kate Middleton wore out of the hospital after giving birth to Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana! That has to be so amazing for a designer! Anyhoo, Jenny Packham was in town, and I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her a few questions about her career! You can read the transcribed interview below or listen to the interview below or on my YouTube channel here!
Photo Credit:


This is your first time in Houston. What are some other places in the U.S. that you have visited? Obviously New York?
Actually, we've just been away for a couple of weeks. We went to Los Angeles to show the collection to the stylists. We took them to the Chateau and then we go to New York where we have our shows. We had our bridal show over the weekend. I spend most of my time coming to New York and then ,when the show is over, I generally have to get back. It is slightly frustrating. I haven’t done too much traveling. I've obviously done Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon; which was fantastic. I went over to  Phoenix. I've been to  Philadelphia and now I've been to Houston. Oh and I've been down to the Keys ,which was really great! We've always had the greatest holidays coming to America.

You're based in London and I was curious as to why you choose to show at New York fashion week?
Well, we showed in London for a long time and then we also showed in Milan for a few seasons, as well. Really nowadays, you don't have to be right where you are {based}. We wanted to come to America for various reasons. We started getting a lot of interest from the shops here and we felt that it was very important for us to have an office space, which we do. We have a showroom in the Meat Packing district. From a business point of view, it was a good move. We found showing here, there's a real love of glamour, which links up with our LA/Celebrity dressing. It all just made sense, really. For me it’s great to show at the beginning of the season, when everyone is depressed and the buyers and everybody is really fresh to the season. I find the American culture is very welcoming to us and supportive and I love the “can-do” attitude.

That's good! We're glad you're here! I know you do a lot of red carpet dressing. Are there any celebrities that you haven’t dressed yet, that you would like to?
I would love to dress Cate Blanchett and Carey Mulligan. There's always people, and lots of new talent, as well, which is always really sort of exciting. There are a lot of people out there that I would still like to dress.

Great picks! I'm obsessed with red carpet fashion and I like to pick out designers before the celebrity says who they are wearing. Let’s back up a little bit and talk about how you got into fashion designing. When did you decide that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I think I was about eleven. Actually, I can’t really remember how it happened. I was brought up in a family that was all about making and creating. My mother used to make all her own clothes, my grandmothers were dressmakers, but also they were very creative. My mom used to do sculptures and painting and my brother was very creative. I thought it was a natural way to marry together my love of the practical side of fashion, actually turning something that's on a piece of paper into a 3D thing, with the more creative side.

Where did you end up studying fashion design?
I went to Central Saint Martins and I did a degree course there. It was a 4 year course and I incorporated textiles; which I think has been a great thing for me throughout my career because I've always wanted to create the fabrics. Now and again we do our own prints, but more than anything we create the actual design of the fabric with embroideries and beading.

Interesting! I've been trying to think, with my Engineering degree, how I could use it towards fashion! I hear a lot of people talk about textile engineering!
It's fascinating! Obviously, sportswear has really taken the lead in innovation of fabrics. Strangely enough, when you walk around and see clothing you see new textures but basically they are still sewn together with machines.  You'd think that by now, there'd be some other way of forming clothes. I love reading about these dresses that change colors with your mood, but we still just love the way things are made.

I attended New York Fashion week, last September, and I saw a brand there that incorporated digital lights in their clothes. It is interesting that even with all the tech, that clothes overall are still made the same.
What women love about clothes, that we don't always realize, is the flow of them and the movement. I think a lot of these fabrics, like the sportswear and all those firmer fabrics may still need a little bit more work.

And to clarify, you started off in bridal?
No, I started with ready to wear, evening wear.

Oh ok! I read so much about Jenny Packham Bridal, I assumed that was the start.
Well, we we did start it about ten years ago, and it’s probably about 40% of our business now. I love doing bridal! It is very rewarding to be apart of people’s history in that way. When I started to do bridal, the transformation between then and now has been extraordinary. There has  been a complete revolution of bridal wear and I hope that we helped with that.

I'm sure you did. I love the change in bridal wear. From the traditional shapes and styles, and even from the traditional white.  Right now it's wedding season so I'm sure you're even busier now, than before! Everyone is getting married.
It's all falling into place, becoming more in line with fashion; general fashion. The brides want to wait until the new collections. Whereas it used to be they would just go into the shop and that was it, but now they are waiting. They are looking at the catwalk shows straight away. Historically, if you think of the twenties and the thirties, they used to just wear a more extravagant version of what general fashion was and then it all became more historical referencing. Now the brides are really seeing this as their red carpet moment. 

As it should be! It's their special day! Between ready to wear, bridal, evening wear, etc., how many collections do you do a year?
I should count that out loud (laughs). We have resort and fall. We have two show collections, a bridal collection.  We do accessories and evening wear and I do a couple of different licenses. We are getting in to about 9 to 10 collections a year.  The main ones are the one bridal a year and two bench wear collections we show in New York.

How do you stay inspired for all of these collections?
Well, to me that’s the fun bit. Actually finding the inspiration and deciding whether or not it's the right thing for the moment and then working into to it. For me, that’s when I discover all sorts of things. I have a great team and that's the best bit!

Who do you see wearing your clothes? Who’s your ideal client?
Well, we are very lucky, because we have such a diverse range of clients. We were talking earlier about how we dress Dakota Fanning, Oprah Winfrey and Adele. They are all different shapes, sizes and ages, which is great.

Eek! I love Adele! I think that’s what keeps a company going, if you are able to transverse sizes and ages.
From very early on in our business we've been selling internationally. You have to take into account all the different women in the world that want to walk into a room and be admired in what they are wearing, which is obviously the goal. There is amazing diversity in the country, so when I put a collection together I am really thinking about lots of different women and how they want to look.

How did your trunk show today at Neiman Marcus transpire?
We are very excited! We did a trunk show in Los Angeles with Neiman Marcus. We haven’t done many trunk shows in America. It was just really fun, and we met some amazing clients. They were telling me how wonderfully glamorous the Houston ladies are, so we wanted to come down here!

Thank you so much Jenny for the interview! It was a pleasure meeting you!  


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