Designer Ben de Lisi talks Drapers through his spring 11 Principles collection for Debenhams.
How has the Principles by Ben de Lisi spring 11 range moved on in the two seasons since Debenhams acquired and relaunched the brand?
It’s a learning curve. We have to see how the Principles customer evolves but we’ve moved it on enormously. I wanted to bring it back more to reflect my design principles. I didn’t want the words “high street” to come anywhere near this collection. It would be at home in a fine store on [London’s] Brompton Street Road.
It is for the woman who lives in New York and holidays in the Hamptons.
What is it that the Principles customer responds to?
They love the tailoring, the fluid lines of the quintessentially Ben de Lisi pieces. We’ve worked hard on the cut of the jeans and they like the way the collection sits together; they can get whatever they need from the range. I’m trying to keep the customers [in the concession]. There are 130 pieces in the mainline range and 80 pieces in the petite range, a significant increase on the past seasons.
How is the range presented in Debenhams’ stores?
It is in all stores in a Ben de Lisi-designed environment, like my Ben de Lisi homeware range for Debenhams. This season there are bags, footwear, scarves, accessories and eveningwear. The evening dresses are displayed in their own boutique atmosphere.
How have you evolved the cut, fabric and feel for spring 11?
The fabrications are a little bit better quality. I’ve made things a little less tricksy in terms of embellishment and flourishes.
Who is the Principles customer?
She is younger than we thought. We thought she was 45 years old and above, but it is more like 35 to 38. However, we have everyone in there buying from the age of 17 up to 70.
What are some of your favourite pieces from the collection?
The plaid mac and the evening dresses, especially the geranium floor-length gown. I love the coral evening dress with the sequin-encrusted bodice, tea dresses on the mid-calf and the silk shirt dress with the front tie.
What pieces do you think will be best-sellers?
The plaid mac, the silk shirt dress and the blue jacket. The palazzo pants are more of a filler for the press but they are great. If [the customer] gets her head around the dirndl skirt, that could work well with the plaid top and black cardie.
How is the 35-plus woman shopping?
They want [their clothes] to be a backdrop to let their personalities show. British fashion is all about breaking ground and being at the forefront, being innovative - but do real people wear it? How many [everyday] people wear big-name designers’ creations? At the end of the day, we are artists, but it’s also a business.