The Made in Chelsea star on creating Serge DeNimes and being Barack Obama.
Why did you set up men’s streetwear label Serge DeNimes in 2011?
My two main passions in life have always been art and fashion. At school I spent the majority of my time in the art department; it was the one place where I felt I could express myself freely. Throughout those years I split my time between art and fashion, buying items of vintage clothing and treating them like blank canvases to create unique garments that I would wear and sell. After school, I went to Central Saint Martins for an art foundation course, then shortly after decided I wanted to specialise in fine art, outside London for four years in Newcastle. When I returned to London, I needed a break from painting, and for me making the progression from art to fashion was a natural process.
What was your starting point with the label?
I wanted to work with a product I was familiar with and do it to the best of my ability. T-shirts were the obvious answer. I had worked with them for years, having printed my artworks on them and exhibited them alongside my paintings. First came the name, which references the origin of denim. It’s a fabric I have been obsessed with since I was a kid, introduced to it by my mum, who had her own denim business called Denim in Style. [The word denim derives from the French Serge de Nîmes, referring to the city of Nîmes.]
We released our autumn 14 collection [pictured] in September for pre-order on our website. Having moved our factory to Turkey, the quality is better than ever and our product range has developed to include bombers, hoodies, sweat pants, sweaters and our staple T-shirts. We are also designing a women’s collection, which we plan to launch for spring 15, and we’re in talks with some larger retailers who are keen to collaborate with us.
What are your thoughts about opening a store?
Next year, now I’m happy with the brand foundations, we plan to push abroad and gain some stockists in the US, Australia and Asia. One day I would love to have a Serge DeNimes store in London, as well as a few around the world. However, at the moment we’re focusing on online and our stockists. We’re planning a Christmas pop-up this December. We haven’t decided on a location yet, but we are excited as it’ll be our first pop-up of the year.
Have you found being on television show Made in Chelsea a help or hindrance in being taken seriously as a designer?
The brand existed before I started on the show and any possible negative effect was my main concern when deciding whether or not to do it. It was definitely the hardest decision I have ever had to make but, looking back on it, I have no regrets. My brand is everything to me, and when people put aside the show and actually meet me and are introduced to my brand, they realise how serious I am about it. As with most things in life, it has its pros and cons. In this instance, thankfully I think the pros outweigh the cons.
Who is the best dressed on Made in Chelsea?
Mark Francis [Vandelli]. Although his style is quite one-dimensional, he always looks very dapper.
What labels do you wear?
Aside from Serge I’m very much into clean and minimal brands like Acne Studios and Sandro. The one I never get bored of is Ralph Lauren.
What was the hardest part about setting up your own label?
There were several hurdles. The main one for me was finding a factory that could produce T-shirts of the quality I wanted, but also at the minimums I could afford. This took months and even when I did find a factory in the north of Portugal, it still wasn’t perfect. Having moved factories five times, I’m now finally happy with our newest factory in Turkey.
Are there any particular stockists you’d like?
So far, I’m really happy with our stockists [which include Asos.com, Harvey Nichols and independents such as Jonathan Trumbull & Hatters in Norwich] but, of course, there are still many more I’d love to be stocked in: Selfridges, Cruise and Choice along with independents like Richmond Classics. Overseas, I’d love to get into leading New York stores like Bloomingdale’s or Jeffrey and independents like Colette in Paris.
[Wholesale prices for the collection range from £14.50 for a T-shirt to £47 for a bomber.]
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
One lesson has been stock control. For my second collection, after under-ordering on my first collection, I ended up over-ordering and was left with stock. This can be very detrimental, and we’ve now installed a proper stock control system that’s working well for us.
Who would you like to see wearing Serge DeNimes?
Top three would have to be A$AP Rocky, Pharrell Williams and David Beckham.
You must get recognised in the street. What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you?
I was in one of my pop-ups doing interviews with bloggers and someone, who I presumed was a blogger, asked me why I hadn’t come to her birthday party and claimed she had known me since I was four years old. We’ve recently discovered that she believes she works for Serge and has emailed us asking us to pay her monthly salary. The whole situation was very strange.
If you could swap lives with someone else for a day, who would it be?
I’d swap with Barack Obama and spend the day at the White House. I’d organise a dinner party with some of my icons like Pharrell Williams, David Beckham and Jay-Z. The dress code would be ‘So Serge’.