Louise Gray’s bold, playful frocks reflect the designer’s personality. After graduating from the prestigious MA program at Central Saint Martins College, Gray was signed by Fashion East, pioneering British non-profit that nurtures exciting young designers. Described as a “mini-Westwood,” Gray is a maximalist. For Fall 2011, her models were covered in polka dots and sported coiffures inspired by Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Stylist Tracey Nicholson meets up with the Scottish designer for a cup of tea at Gray’s hectic East London studio.
TOP: How and when do you start preparing for the next show? Or are there no breaks because you’re continuously working on the next thing?
LOUISE GRAY: I don’t really switch off because even when I am on my day off I am going to see fashion movies or something. By the time I do sales in Paris and then go to New York for press, it’s time to come back to London and start over again.
TOP: Describe the process you go through when you begin thinking about your next collection.
LG: When starting a new collection, you instantly want to flip your previous train of thought on its side and change it. Usually we’ll begin with the prints, which is always a nice progression because we get so sick of the old prints by the end of the previous season. It’s exciting to do something else! The shapes, I sometimes already know—it will be something that I’m wearing that will trigger it off. I think about it quite personally.
TOP: Which is a very good sign! Do you consult for any other brands?
LG: I have done bits and bobs but now if I do something it’s more a collaboration involving my own stuff, which is really fun to do. I’ve just launched jewelry and I’m doing shoes through Nicholas Kirkwood and Pollini.
TOP: Your clothes may not look conventional but there is still a feminine and traditional craft element to them. Could some of that come from growing up in Scotland? Are you from Glasgow?
LG: No, I am from closer to Aberdeen but I lived in Glasgow for five years.
TOP: What do you think are the main differences between London and New York?
LG: I think one of the big differences is that in London you find a lot of young designers living and working in the same area.
TOP: Are you friends with any of the designers here?
LG: I would definitely say Richard Nicoll. I met Richard after I graduated and was about to do Fashion East. But there are loads of us in East London.
TOP: And do you see one another a lot?
LG: I have a circle of people that I see all the time. But there are so many work-related things you have to do, so we are all quite busy. Everyone is always happy to see one another though; there is no competition between us and I like that. I remember when I was starting out, calling every person that I knew and being like, “Hi…where do I get buttons?” I think it’s because we all know it’s not easy, so it just seems natural that everyone would get along because you’re all in the same boat and pushing for each other. I guess in New York they are more business-orientated.
TOP: At the end of the day, doing well commercially is not a bad thing though, right?
LG: It’s not a bad thing. I think it’s important not to be nervous of those thoughts or nervous of producing cheaper items. For me, fashion isn’t necessarily on that pedestal that it once was when I fell in love with it—it’s a completely different time and you have to go with that.
TOP: Outside of fashion, what sources of inspiration do you have? Do you draw from films, books and everyday life, or is it more random?
LG: I have always just gone by how I live my life and what I do. I’m obsessed by fashion, but you know, I’m 28 and I’m married so of course I like going to the cinema and viewing art (laughs). I’m obsessed with Frieda Kahlo right now. Women play a big part in my life and just people and personalities generally. I alternate between reading autobiographies and novels. In terms of women and fashion, I’m a bit of a feminist for sure. I mean you have to start with Coco Chanel, who was amazing. I love her, and she is one of the first reasons that I wanted to start doing fashion stuff. Just having that voice and figuring out who you are and then getting that point across is a good example of how people should be.
TOP: Aside from Chanel, who else inspires you?
LG: There are amazing amounts of people in London I admire. I was in Christopher Kane’s year at Saint Martins and I love what he does. Also, Richard Nicoll, Jonathan Saunders and Meadham Kirchhoff, whose clothes I could just wear all the time. It’s great at fashion week to see what’s going on. I think that it is important to go and support everyone and I love it!