Elizabeth Street Meets Alice Temperley
The British design sensation talks to us about her label’s 10th anniversary, seeing her dress at the royal wedding, and the clothes she relies on for running around with her son
Alice Temperley is synonymous with British fashion. In fact, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen herself. In addition to overseeing her Temperley London label, she also designs Alice, a more affordable sister line with casual pieces. Temperley became a mom in September of 2008—just days after showing her collection. Here, she talks about quality time with her son, Fox, and her knack for combining the comfy with the eclectic when it comes to mommy clothes. —Melissa Schweiger
Congratulations on celebrating Temperley London’s 10th anniversary last year! What have been some of the most memorable milestones along the way?
Thank you! There have been so many, from opening our first shop under our flat in Notting Hill to being chosen by Anna Wintour to represent designers in their 20s in a large feature shot by Annie Leibovitz for American Vogue in 2004. And of course, being awarded my MBE by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the 2011 New Years Honours. I am also very proud of the fact we have been able to stay independent and it goes without saying—seeing my clothes being worn and loved by so many women over the years.
How did it feel to see Pippa Middleton wearing the emerald green dress from your collection to the royal wedding reception?
It was very flattering—I thought she looked beautiful. It is such an honor when someone wears your clothes, famous or not.
How has becoming a mom changed the way you dress?
It hasn’t really changed at work. But in the countryside, I know I am going to get very dirty, as we spend a lot of time in the garden and in the woods. I have lots of cotton sundresses and wear jodhpurs and cords that I designed for our collaboration with Barbour. I don't wear jeans, so I wear alternative practical things I can put in the washing machine often.
How would you describe your mom uniform?
I don’t have a mom uniform as such—I stick to what I have always loved wearing. It is important to dress for your body and find out what works on you, rather than following trends for the sake of it. I often dress in black and white for work so as not to confuse the patterns and colors I work on. I have plenty of versions of men’s style brogues, white oversized shirts, and waistcoats. I also dress for the waist, so I often create shapes with one of my many waistcoats. When my son was little, it was important to wear things I could move around in freely, as I was running after him a lot—so I lived in my oversized shirts and waistcoats. I like classic elegance with confidence, not trying too hard, appearing effortless. Your own look is created by being eclectic and knowing what works for you and your body. Comfort is key.
What items really go the distance and can be worn when you’re playing with your son as well as to a work meeting?
I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I’m also not overly precious with my garments. I don’t keep things unworn for years because they are too nice to be worn for the everyday. Clothes should be worn and loved. I also design 16 collections a year, so a lot of new items come through my wardrobe so I can see how to redevelop them and make sure they are functional and versatile.
What do you think the difference is between how moms dress in London versus the U.S. or elsewhere in the world?
London moms are very chic. We have a very good high street in the UK with great budget options. And I have seen very many chic U.S. moms, too. However, I never really wore maternity wear. I wore lots of floaty dresses and jersey dresses. We also do lots of knitwear at Temperley and the tunics are really useful as they provide coverage while still making you feel feminine. Our kaftans and embellished evening tunics are great for being able to go out and feel good.
Any style advice for expecting moms?
My advice to mothers-to-be is to look for versatile clothing that can be worn after your pregnancy as well as during: floaty dresses, knits, tunics, kaftans, oversized t-shirts, and shirts.
How does your son dress?
Fox is almost four-years-old now and very determined. He likes to choose what he wears himself. He’s got a bit of a rock ’n’ roll vibe going on. He likes his Converse and fur gilet and t-shirts.
What are your favorite children’s brands?
I love Portobello Market in London and the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Los Angeles for retro clothes, and I mix these with basics from the best of British high street, such as John Lewis. I buy these online so I don't have to waste precious kid time shopping.
Are there any pieces from your son’s wardrobe that have special meaning to you?
His mini cashmere jumpers—they are all bagged and protected for the next baby. I love his little mini military jackets, printed Indian cotton shirts, Victorian jodhpurs, and his Mexican Matador outfit. He has a lot of amazing treasures I pick up for him on my travels.
Where are your favorite places to travel with your family?
A private resort called Cuixmala in Mexico. It is paradise on earth—an incredible place with miles of private, untouched beaches. You can go whale watching, riding through herds of zebras, and have home grown organic food. My son and husband both love it. But anywhere remote is for me. I am off camping with Fox next weekend on the English coast. We will cook on a little campfire and sleep under the stars. Kids are happy anywhere with their parents and nature and freedom.
What’s your advice to moms who may be going through a fashion rut, reaching for the same pair of sweatpants every day?
Keep it easy for yourself! Slowly try different cuts once your body is getting back to its normal size. Try pretty blouses or an oversized white shirt (also good for feeding) or add some color if you want to cheer yourself up. Add easy accessories—these always make you feel better. Look through magazines and rip out looks you would like to try for your body shape when you’re ready.