We meet Irish fashion designer Louise Kennedy to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the industry and 20 years at her Belgravia store
Your latest collection is in-store now – how did you come up with the concept?
This collection was developed during lockdown at the start of spring, so it certainly reflects our new challenging lifestyles of living and working in a pandemic. I wanted to pay particular attention to helping our clients to adapt, armour and express a sense of fortitude.
The overall theme of the collection is one of love and constancy and we described it by borrowing from The Beatles classic, All You Need is Love. The colours are bright and strong — reds, purples, pinks and black, best expressed in a pink sweater with hand beaded red hearts worn over a red tulle skirt.
Complex jacquards and bejewelled charm embellishments add touches of glamour and elegance. For me, the standout fabrics this season include the beautiful jacquard ‘Queen of Hearts’ used in our statement Lydia blazer (pictured above). So too the voluminous Ellie cape from the same Parisienne mill, featuring miniature woven beetles in bright lurex threads. Gorgeous little love bugs!
You are celebrating 20 years of your London store in Belgravia, how has the area changed since you opened?
Belgravia is now a very different retail environment compared to how I first found it 20 years ago. Over the years, the area has attracted some great international luxury brands such as my neighbour, Christian Louboutin. I must congratulate Grosvenor Estate who purchased the holding in 2006; they have invested very well in upgrading the area. The architecture is so elegant and despite its grandeur, it has retained a very special village-like atmosphere.
How has the pandemic impacted your business and how have you navigated those issues?
Decreased foot fall has been our greatest challenge — many of our local residents moved to their country properties. Hotels were closed and we saw zero international visitors, so it drastically impacted sales. We rely on the close relationships our retail teams have developed over the years with our many repeat clients so they can reach out directly to understand their needs this season. Also, we have never been so active on social media and now we can see the benefits of using these platforms as retail tools to reach both existing and potentially new clients.
There has also been a decline in evening-wear and event-wear. We have moved our focus away from special occasions to more comfortable and casual pieces. Business-wear seems to be almost exclusively focussed on tops for virtual meetings!
Has production been affected?
Luckily, we have manufacturing partners in different regions, so when one area suffers with delays, we can work more closely with less restrictions elsewhere. Planning in the current climate requires a strictly conservative approach with as little risk as possible.
What lessons can the fashion industry learn from 2020?
Never ever underestimate the importance of the relationship with your customer. We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support that really got us through the dark times during lockdown.
Try not to over produce and hopefully this will help slow down consumption. Reuse fabrics and upgrade designs, where possible.
Appreciate the magic moments throughout the design process be they fashion shoots in Covid times or fittings by Zoom. We are learning to be resilient. In difficult times, it’s key that the collection still has exciting must-have items. Clients will always crave beautiful clothing and will always invest when they fall in love with a key piece.
Where will you be celebrating the festive period this year?
The next four weeks will tell! Hopefully surrounded by family and friends in Dublin.
How will you wind down?
I am fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful Georgian Dublin with its iconic parks so the best way to wind down for me will be long walks with my Miniature Schnauzer, Paddy.
What is next for Louise Kennedy?
The launch of our new SS21 Collection. It’s unlikely traditional fashion shows will resume so we need to be creative launching a new collection. As soon as we can travel again, we will return to hosting US Trunk shows and we hope to launch a similar model in the Middle East. Bring on 2021!
9 W Halkin Street, SW1X 8JL; louisekennedy.com
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