Caroline, thank you for speaking with us. Tell our readers, what inspired your career?
This particular part of my career was inspired by recent travels. I spent a couple of years circumnavigating the globe and used to take a photograph from each hotel room that I stayed in. Sadly, I realised that, when seeing those images out of context, it was difficult to discern which continent they were taken in, let alone which country!
During my travels concierge after concierge tried to regale me with tales of how many Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes or Louis Vuitton boutiques were within walking distance. For me, the homogenisation of the architecture and the ubiquitous presence of these high end 'designer stores' became increasingly nauseating. Everywhere streams of non-descriptive, badly dressed individuals swarmed in and out of these places, frequently dragging ugly suitcases full of their purchases. Frankly these places have sadly become just as enticing as if I were to be given a list starting with Tesco, Co-Op, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Lidl.
After obtaining my BA in Fashion Design and Illustration at St Martins, I was fortunate enough to have embarked on an expansive and varied career in the fashion industry. I met and worked with so many amazing and inspirational characters and I had the opportunity to see the industry inside and out. Given what I have said above it may come as a surprise for you to hear that it was my love for travelling and for the infinite permutations found in nature.For example, the deserts of Arizona, seemingly arid and empty, were actually brimming with different life forms. The seahorses and mermaids reflect memories of my time spent in the magical balmy underworlds of Bermuda, the use of mushrooms is inspired by walks in Italian oak woods and frogs evoke memories of rain forests in South America but also of formal European stately home ponds!
Your love for travel is certainly inspiring, in terms of your work, which brands and designers have influenced you?
Ironically those big design houses that I mentioned earlier! I used to be in awe of the homage to tradition, appreciation of artistry, elegant ergonomics, real exclusivity and their ability to inspire but also to ensure longevity in their items and brands.
In terms of 'designers' it has to be Valentino. For me, he was the last of the true designers. He really understood and designed for his clients. He understood a woman's body (unlike a lot of his frankly, misogynistic forerunners), and shared their lifestyles, he shared their aspirations and he was a perfectionist. He created in the true sense of the word. What’s more, he wasn’t looking at anyone else for inspiration nor pandering to celebrities who were the antithesis of what he was passionate about. He had his own unique sense of style. Likewise, Vivienne Westwood. I actually attended her very first couture show in Paris and was stunned by the way in which the so-called, industry “experts” walked out in droves! They simply didn't understand her creativity. She is also a passionate individual yet she appreciates and incorporates tradition into her work. She is outside of the fashion bubble and sees fashion for what it really is and its real place in the world. Just one more, David Bowie. His uniqueness and ingenuity needs no explanation, of course.
Uniqueness and originality seem to be important cornerstones for your own works. For you, what does a luxury brand mean?
A luxury brand, to me, means something other than what it now represents. These days the word 'luxury brand' is a complete misnomer. These brands are nothing more than huge marketing campaigns with absolutely no soul. They follow and fall to the highest bidder (no matter what) to promote themselves (hundreds of thousands are handed over to Z list celebs to wear an item just once) and are run by accountants and big business.
Brands come out of nowhere as long as there are sufficient funds for one or more of the following: shops opening en mass internationally, celebrity endorsement, relentless insipid advertising using one of the usual round of celebrities who promote every other brand known to man, a proxy designer who is a child of someone famous or is already famous themselves.
Even the fashionistas and stylists don't understand what a true luxury brand is or ever was. A friend was recently asked to provide clothing for a movie starring Nicole Kidman. The character was to play a punk who grew up in Croydon. When my friend produced the creme de la creme of Vivienne Westwood vintage pieces (now worth a fortune) he was scornfully told not to be ridiculous as a working class girl in those days would never have been able to afford to buy and wear luxury brands.
There was no concept of the fact that luxury brands were born out of hard work, even harder earned reputation and expertise acquired over the years. They (luxury brands) weren't just born and launched overnight by a venture capitalist!
What I do is a luxury collection of unique designs on a beautiful base cloth, re-purposing an old fashion day accessory for the modern world making them relevant for an array of demographics.
I like to instil some humour and a small essence of appreciation for the world and its mysteries. The designs also contain more than a polite nod to the elegance of the past. Another motivation was a desire to support one of the last remaining artisanal bastions of experience and refined quality in Lago di Como where the expertise has been handed down from generation to generation where both hand finishing and the human touch are still appreciated.
A decade ago there were more than 1500 establishments which have now, sadly, dwindled to just a mere handful. Luxury with regard to my items comes in the form of lustrous natural fabrics and vibrant, unique designs which speak for themselves. They are to satisfy an appetite which is in need for real luxury items and is blissfully free of the ubiquitous big brand, mass produced b****hit!
What area of London do you miss the most?
I don't miss much at all! I'm pleased to have a break from watching mindless consumerism. I cherish and appreciate the multitude of parks, gardens, trees and flowers wherever you wander. London is one of the greenest cities in the world. I have noticed more and more historic details as I wander and the river has been a never ending resource of inspiration, I can still eat whenever I want to from my favourite restaurants and I am so thankful for our wonderful NHS. I have had to use it twice since lockdown. The essence of my London has looked after me, continued to entertain and inspired me extremely well indeed!
TLMA would like to thank Caroline for participating in our interview. For more information, and to view her beautiful range, visit https://www.carolineeves.shop/.