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Luella's Return

15 April, 2014

Written by Sophie Seymour in Fashion Show Reports

This year for the first time since its launch in 2000, Marc Jacobs was not backstage at the Marc for Marc Jacobs Autumn Winter 2014-2015 show in New York. Instead, he sat on the front row beside Sofia Coppola, leaving British design duo Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, as creative director and design director respectively, to present their debut collection at the helm of the American brand.

Models styled with hairbands and pigtails walked the plywood skate park runway accompanied by an adaption of Danny Elfman’s composition of the theme tune for the more recent ‘Alice in Wonderland’ film, whilst wearing looks inspired by a gutsy mixture of martial arts attire, tutus and school uniforms. The collection not only earned Hillier and Bartley a standing ovation at the finale of the show, but a double thumbs up from Jacobs himself.

Consider MBMJ successfully rebranded, revived with an injection of cool from two of the industry’s fashion favourites. The pairing was greeted with overwhelming positivity, with model Laura Bailey even describing the duo of designers as a “dream team” via social media. Marc Jacobs had made the decision to focus more of his time on his main collection, stepping away from his work for Louis Vuitton and his younger, more affordable Marc by Marc Jacobs line, making way for other creatives to renew the contemporary label. Robert Duffy, the president of Marc Jacobs International admitted that the brand was “getting a little stale,” adding that the “double hire – and this collection – puts it right back on top again. Marc by Marc Jacobs now boasts two of the brightest British talents.”

The popularity of the new collection comes as no surprise, considering that Luella was christened ‘Designer of the Year’ in 2008 and has previously been described as “the poster child for London cool” by American Vogue. Having made a significant contribution to the revival of the Mulberry brand by designing their bestselling “Gisele” bag, Bartley’s innate ability to create desirable, accessible and wearable pieces has made her an ideal candidate for returning MBMJ to the spotlight.

Luella started her career as a fashion journalist for publications including Vogue, Dazed & Confused, The Face and The Evening Standard, and went on to launch her eponymous ready to wear brand in 1999. The first collection “Daddy, I want a Pony” quickly cemented Luella as a favourite of buyers and editors alike, later telling the Guardian that her intention was to create a “light-hearted” brand which was “all about individuality.” Luella’s spin on English eccentricity earned her the loyalty of celebrities such as Alexa Chung and Sienna Miller, who could not get enough of her signature heart cut-outs, bow embellishments and stand out prom dresses.

Despite an estimated turnover of £9m, the Luella brand was forced to cease trading ten years later, joining fellow fashion labels Christian Lacroix and Yohji Yamamoto as victims of the recession. Key financier Club 21 regrettably pulled their backing from the brand, halting production of the acclaimed Spring/ Summer 2010 collection, which could easily have been shown amongst the current seasons catwalk shows despite the sizable time gap. There was hope that a backer would appear to save the Luella label, but to no avail, leaving Bartley time to enjoy her life in Cornwall with her fashion photographer husband, David Sim, and their family.

Returning to her love of the written word, “Luella’s Guide to English Style” was published the following year, hosting a range of entertaining insights and advice, based upon her opinion that “English women are more interested with looking cool and interesting than sexy or alluring.” When Luella Bartley was forced to close her own label she said: “I love the Luella character and hope that after we have survived this challenging time, the Luella girl can have an exciting future ahead of her, whichever incarnation she takes on next.”

Though few would have predicted that the Luella style would make a fearless return under the umbrella of Marc Jacobs, the fashion worlds welcomed Bartley back with open arms and MBMJ is a brand worth watching once again.

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Luella's Return




This year for the first time since its launch in 2000, Marc Jacobs was not backstage at the Marc for Marc Jacobs Autumn Winter 2014-2015 show in New York.  Instead, he sat on the front row beside Sofia Coppola, leaving British design duo Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, as creative director and design director respectively, to present their debut collection at the helm of the American brand.

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