Friday, 19 March 2010

A Peek inside the Designer’s Studio: Hermione de Paula

As promised here’s an interview I conducted with Hermione de Paula, do forgive me for its tardiness. I was privy enough to be invited to see her Autumn/Winter collection during London Fashion Week (here) and also to be able to meet Hermione herself backstage afterwards. I ask her about life as a designer and those rumours of a stripper past…
Tell us about where you grew up? Did you always want to be a designer?
Designing was always a path I was naturally drawn towards. I grew up in Devon where I was always searching for creative projects. Whilst I was at school I even created my own little business customizing t-shirts. I loved glamorous and visually pleasing things; I used to make my mother add bows and bells onto me and my dresses – a signature which still sometimes creeps into my collections today!
Did you have a mentor or do you remember meeting a designer that shaped the path of your career?
I’ve had the privilege of working with so many inspiring designers and individuals (including Giles Deacon and the late Alexander McQueen), but Elisa Palomino at John Galliano is someone who really stands out. She was a great mentor and an amazing influence; she taught me so much about the spatial awareness of prints.
One of Hermione’s specialities is making her own prints. I ask her how she made the prints she used for Polly Crystalline – her AW collection and she explains a process that involved taking pictures of flowers that had been frozen in a massive freezer she borrowed from the man who owned the local shop next door (I wonder what he thought she was up to).

Polly Crystalline AW10

I read something about a stripper past… details please? Would that explain the quiet sexuality in your pieces and the illusion of nakedness?
I’m not sure I could quite call it a ‘stripper past’, although yes, I did work at Spearmint Rhino’s but as a waitress! At the time it was my way of funding my own label, and I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy the bright lights and elaborate exhibitionism! I do definitely try to translate a quiet sexuality in my work; this is more prominent in my (present) collection. I like to convey the illusion of nakedness through both my patterns and my garment designs; it adds a certain sexual yet subtle feminine delicacy.
What is it about unconventional women that inspire you?
Unconventional women have such a fascinating beauty, I find there’s an unconscious elegance which surrounds the eccentric and unconventional, a certain obscure quality which is often completely overlooked in favour of more obvious beauty ideals.
Las Venus - SS10

What is a typical day like for you?
Long! I get to the studio early and check emails then I used to work on creative stuff in the afternoon - prints/designs. In the madness running up to the show I was working closely with the pattern cutters and seamstresses and finalising show details and press pieces. I am very social so a glass of wine with friends in the building is standard. Kristin Vicari, the photographer who has art directed all my press material, has just moved in with an amazing photography studio in the basement so you can usually find me down there after hours plotting something with her!
Are there any downsides to being a designer? What is your most favourite aspect about what you do?
I don’t think there any many downsides, although it can be incredibly stressful working with tight budgets - I can’t wait to have no constraints and sew everything with gold thread… However I do feel very lucky to be able to be doing what I really love everyday and feel really honoured to have received the Vauxhall Merit as it will give me a chance to shine and hopefully the platform for my business to grow!
Who would you say is a typical ‘Hermione de Paula’ woman?
The type of woman whose motto in life is: ‘I probably shouldn’t…but I will anyway!’
If you could dress one celebrity/personality who would it be?
Grace Jones!
If you weren’t a women’s wear designer what else would you design?
Possibly mini printed dog outfits with my dog Edward as my muse!
Will we ever be able to dress our men in ‘Homme de Paula’ or will you stick to just women’s wear?
At the moment I’m very happy with womenswear but I’m always interested in exploring further creative possibilities, so who knows?  I share my studio with two great friends of mine who are in the middle of launching their new menswear label ‘Braille’, I would to collaborate and do some prints for them!
Do you have any advice for upcoming designers?
Be patient, stick to what you’re good at, and just follow your own distinct style and jump head first!
 Polly Crystalline AW10 - catwalk photo by Christopher Dadey

What are your 5 must have wardrobe pieces?
High heels, high heels, high heels, high heels…and mascara, is that 5?
(So we’ve established that we could be very good friends. But just to be sure…) Flats or heels?
Definitely heels, EVEN in the snow! I actually managed to badly injure my ankle the other day due to platform shoes a wicker basket and Mariah Carey…yikes!

With regards to movie genres; Romantic comedy or Thriller?
Both, it just depends on the mood I’m in

Name something you do when you’re alone that you wouldn’t do in front of others
Shouldn’t a girl have some kind of mystery?!

Hermione de Paula’s S/S ’10 Las Venus range is now stocked at Browns Focus on South Molton Street Check out Hermione's website:, and her blog:

All images (unless stated otherwise) were taken by Kristin Vicari for Hermione de Paula. 

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