Twenty-three-year-old fashion designer Lucilla Gray was born in Lincolnshire and moved to New Zealand when she was seven years old.
She spoke to Sonia Sly in the lead-up to New Zealand Fashion Week about her design process, showing at London Fashion Week, and why she feels it is important to have a presence here.
Sonia: You’ve received a few accolades right throughout your study. How has this helped you to launch your own label?
Lucilla: I think it’s helped quite a lot. I did ID in Dunedin and I got an award there… I think everything really happened from that. After that I was asked to go over to Amsterdam for an emerging designer exhibition which I decided to do. Fashion is a really hard industry so when you come across these opportunities you really have to go with them.
Sonia: How did London Fashion Week come about for you?
Lucilla: After Amsterdam I got introduced to a PR company in London, so they took me on as one of their clients.
Sonia: How important is it to be represented by an agency?
Lucilla: It gets your stuff out there. They know the right people to introduce your label to. They have stylists coming in all the time, so they might spot something on your rack and go ‘that that’s perfect for my shoot', so they’ll nab it and fingers crossed it’ll end up in a publication.
Did you know from the outset that you were going to go from study to launching your own label?
I’ve always had quite a strong aesthetic. My parents have always had their own business as well, so it was quite natural for me to push to do my own thing. Yeah, I just knew it was the right move for me at the right time just because everything has been going so well, so I thought I better keep going. My parents help me a lot with the business side, but a lot of it is really hard work to be honest. You’ve gotta get stuck in and get on with it.
Why have you decided to go through New Zealand Fashion Week since you’ve been invited already overseas?
Lucilla: I think you always need to have support from your own country. I think it’s important to support your location industry as well, because that’s where I’m based, so I need to have a presence here as well as try and make a dent overseas. I’ve been invited to London and Paris. [and] I think I’m going to go to London because I had a really successful trip when I did London last time.
Sonia: What was your experience like in London, and what did you take away from it?
Lucilla: All the designers are quite supportive of each other. You’re stuck with them for the whole week, so it’s really fun. What I noticed was that everyone’s aesthetic for their collections—they’re quite different. Everyone almost has like a different niche so you never really feel like you’re treading on anyone’s toes.
How would you describe the Lucilla Gray aesthetic?
My work always has a strong feminine theme, but it’s quite powerful so I like to have quite strong silhouettes. A lot of people say it’s quite minimal, but I always try to mix in some crazy print to mix it up a bit. Collections need to develop each season and you need to keep growing the aesthetic.
Sonia: What are you showing at New Zealand Fashion Week?
Lucilla: I’m actually going to be showing my summer collection at NZ Fashion Week, [it’s] the collection that I’m getting ready for London. The colour palette’s quite summer: greys, green, blue. It’s a little bit more feminine, but has a natural feel to it. Definitely layering for this collection which will make it feel a bit more wintery. Fashion week in NZ is Autumn/ Winter 16,[but] I’ve already done my Autumn Winter collection which I showed in London, so I’m just going to show my Spring/Summer.
Sonia: What are you currently inspired by?
Lucilla: I’m really interested in androgyny and gender fluidity. I think there’s quite a big feminist movement at the moment. When you look at the catwalks a lot of the men’s collections that have just been for Spring/Summer could be girls—you can’t tell. I think that’s really interesting and I want to play on that more in my work.
Sonia: You design primarily for a high-end market, was that intentional?
Lucilla: It’s kind of happened, but I’ve always enjoyed designing a little bit conceptually using really nice fabrics and materials. I’m still trying to work out how it all fits together [because] every country’s industry is really different. My last collection, I sewed the whole thing myself. I think when you make it yourself you know what goes into it and it really puts your own stamp on it. I did about ten looks, so probably about 20 garments.
Sonia: Which aspect of the process do you enjoy the most?
Lucilla: I actually really enjoy sewing and the designing part. I’ve always been good at construction, so it’s quite relaxing to just sit at the machine and sew up a garment.
Sonia: How did you go about developing your unique voice in the industry?
Lucilla: I think it’s really important to have a very unique aesthetic. The industry is pretty saturated, so you’ve got to find a way to make your voice heard. But I think it’s always good to stay on top of what everyone’s up to, so you can either do something completely different, or be current. You’ve got to be aware of what’s going on culturally. The digital age has been really good for emerging designers [and] I think Instagram’s been huge for fashion. I’ve managed to connect with people who maybe wouldn’t have seen my work before and now are huge fans, and I love keeping in touch with everyone on there. You really create a community around your work.
Sonia: Are there any obstacles that stand in your way in the lead-up to fashion week?
Lucilla: At any point if you start getting concerned about not getting everything ready, then you just have to stay up later. I just want to do something that’s a bit magical and maybe inspire people of the potential for high-end fashion here.