Founder of knitwear brand Ille de Cocos, Deola Charles, on her passion for classic designs and her love of independent labels.
Deola Charles left behind a career in merchandising to focus on her passion for knitwear, founding the luxury label Ille de Cocos in 2014 in pursuit of a more creative career. Alongside her own label, she also co-founded the pop-up shop A Luxe Story, which showcases a curated collection of independent, British designers. The latest edition runs from 1-15 March at 340 Kings Road in London’s Chelsea.
What is it you find particularly appealing about designing knitwear?
I love the versatility of knitwear. It can be tailored to suit the modern women and easily worn from day to evening and dressed up with embellishment from accessories. I also really enjoy designing pieces that I love to wear myself.
What prompted you to set up Ille de Cocos?
I developed a love of knitwear in my previous role as a merchandiser at The White Company, and I wanted a career change that was more creative. I started with a small collection of modern essentials in grey and navy. I still adore these colours and they are an integral part of the Ille De Cocos colour palette.
Where do you find you inspiration when designing?
I find inspiration in a lot of areas, but most importantly from the women I meet every day. I want to find out how they spend their days, what they love doing and what they expect from their wardrobe essentials. I translate this to my collections, and design knitwear that women feel great, elegant and confident wearing.
Logo sweater navy coral 2
How did the idea for A Luxe Story come about?
Sonia Padam, founder of sleepwear brand Eight Hour Studio, and I founded A Luxe Story together because we wanted to create a shopping environment where we could meet our customers and talk to them directly.
How do you decide where to take it?
Sonia and I choose locations that are reflective of our brands and the other brands we include. We are passionate about the “local” neighbourhood feel, as opposed to traditional high streets, and we look for retail spaces that share these values.
What are some of the best brands you’ve discovered as a result of the pop-ups?
Marlow London’s beautiful collection of scarves; Harry Rocks, for unique, personalised jewellery; and Maza chocolate, which is truly decadent.
Do you show at trade shows?
I have experienced exhibiting at trade shows, but the biggest challenge for me is that the collection needs to be developed so far in advance. I want to ensure our designs are as relevant as possible and that I stay as close to the customer as I can, so I prefer not to develop final designs until closer to the season.
Who do you admire most in the fashion industry and why?
Victoria Beckham. She has made a complete career change and gained so much respect from the fashion industry. Her designs are immaculate and beautiful. I’m inspired by the fact that she is not a fashion designer in the traditional sense, but she had contributed so much to the industry and has made it more inclusive.
Qui moi new front
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
I hope the seasons keep getting more in line with reality, so that we shop for winter clothes when we need them and not when they are ‘new’ and typically out of season. I think fashion needs to slow down and become less disposable.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Opening our first A Luxe Story pop-up boutique. We worked really hard to be selective when choosing which brands to include and finding the right location and it was so incredible to see it all come together and flow so beautifully.
What’s the best business advice you were ever given?
I once read a quotation that really resonates with me and the way I run my business: “Sales are vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality”.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
I have a pretty good singing voice, but it’s usually kept for the shower!
Favourite clothing brand
Favourite places to shop
I prefer to shop in independent boutiques. My favourite is Aimé, in London.
Last fashion purchase
A pair of Rose Rankin trainers.
Biggest fashion splurge
My Acne boots.
A weekend away in Madrid.
Last book you read
Quiet by Susan Cain.
Last film you watched
Merchandising assistant at Laura Ashley.
To run a boutique hotel on a far-away beach.