Fresh from design talent competition Fashion Fringe, designer William Tempest tells Sophie Bowen about his work’s architectural influence
Why did you want to work in fashion?
I have always been really creative. When I was young I was always dressing up and experimenting with my identity. For a long time I wanted to be an architect. It’s all about straight lines and mathematical solutions, which I think comes into my work too.
How would you sum up the aesthetic of your brand?
It’s definitely characterised by glamorous eveningwear. But again, that side of my personality that wanted to be an architect comes through. I really like sculptural lines and my last collection was based on art deco. In terms of designers, I like Coco Chanel, particularly the mystique she created around Chanel when it first started. I also like younger designers such as Proenza Schouler.
Do you think there is a big difference between the US and UK markets?
Yes – just look at New York Fashion Week. It’s completely commercial; it’s all organised by Mercedes-Benz and IMG. London is a great place to be because it’s so creative. What I have found is that a lot of Americans have been showing interest in my designs. I think my pieces would sell best in Russia, the Middle East and the US, because the people there are a bit more out-there and are prepared to wear colour and print and a bit of a crazy shape.
How much pressure do you feel to be commercial?
Not that much. At the end of the day, if I were making a huge compromise just to do something commercial, I wouldn’t want to do it. A lot of my pieces take forever to make. For instance, on my ‘holiday snaps’ skirt, [the fabric] is made up of individual photos I took myself. Once printed, I then cut them out and stuck them on individually.
Where are you selling at the moment?
I am selling in Las Vegas at The Winn Hotel. Last season was my first full season of selling, but before that a collection was on sale on the internet. Just recently I have had a lot of interest in terms of private orders, most of them from the US.
You’ve designed clothes for Madonna and actress Emma Watson. How important is celebrity endorsement?
It’s great because they get so much press attention. Emma said that she could go and wear any big-name designer, but she didn’t because she wanted to help someone who needed to become more established. I think celebrity endorsement is just part of it. If you’re a designer you want people to wear your clothes and you want them to be seen and to get out there.
What do you think will be the key trends in 2009?
I would like to see more colours, because I think there is going to be a lot of black and grey everywhere.
What are your ambitions for the next five years?
Just to keep going. Something I’d love to introduce is a pre-collection each season, because I think store buyers are seeing a lot more interest in pre-collections and are spending more of their budget on it. It would make me more competitive, because if a shop gets a lot of stock from me mid season, then it’s good for the customer. Also, while at university I always did menswear projects even though I was on a womenswear course, so I’d definitely consider doing menswear.
- William Tempest is a womenswear designer who will be showing at London Fashion Week
Who is your fashion icon and why?
It would have to be Beau Brummel. He structured his whole day around getting dressed. At one point he was sent to prison, and once there he made all the other inmates become his servants. I really love that sort of eccentricity.
Born in 1778 and named George Bryan, Beau Brummel was at the forefront of men’s fashion in Regency England. Today, he is still one of the most noted figures in menswear and his name is synonymous with the idea of the traditional, well-groomed man. After befriending the Prince Regent, Brummel began to be regarded by the prince and his entourage as an expert on matters related to dress and etiquette, and he established the trend of men wearing elegantly cut clothes. Brummel played a major role in popularising long trousers as opposed to knee-length breaches, and is said to have introduced the modern style of wearing a tie with a suit. He claimed to take five hours each day to get dressed and is reported to have recommended that boots be polished with champagne.