Designer Alice Temperley on the influence of art in fashion

Words by Natasha Silva-Jelly

01 July 2020


British fashion designer Alice Temperley, MBE is admired for her romantic dresses, her signature hand embroidery and her eclectic prints and patterns. As Temperley prepares to give Quintessentially Art Patrons a tour of her West London atelier on 23rd January, she discusses her aesthetic, her artistic inspirations and why she’ll always be a romantic at heart.

Quintessentially: Describe your design signature

Alice Temperley: My aesthetic is feminine, eclectic, a little decadent, effortless and playful. I’m a hopeless romantic. The Temperley London woman is confident, individual, worldly and a trailblazer.

Does art influence fashion?

Fashion is art, and for me couture embodies this. When there are no limitations, you are free to express yourself in a way that is an art form. I love Bonnard for his use of colour, and Klimt for his opulence. Personally, I prefer a print from the 1920’s or an amazing embroidered dress hung on the wall, over a stuffy painting. Prints, embroidery and pattern-cutting are all art forms and putting those elements together to create a beautiful dress or piece of clothing is like making music - so much work goes into it. One day, I’d love to curate a show that brings together art, print and fashion.

How do art and culture inspire your designs?

If I wasn’t a fashion designer, I’d be a singer or a photographer, or perhaps a painter. Art, film, music and my travels to different countries to experience a variety of cultures – these things always inspire me. I love romantic, heady places full of colour and life: South America, Cuba, Venice, Paris. I find inspiration everywhere, from antique and flea markets, to books, vintage clothing, and my muses. I am always observing, collecting, making mental notes, sketching and taking pictures. A notebook by the bed is essential.

Which genre of art or artists are you drawn to?

I studied textiles at the Royal College of Art, so I was always drawn to printing and embroidery. I love etchings, lithographs and 1920’s posters. I find the Old Masters totally mind-blowing. Contemporary art baffles me at times.

Do you personally collect art?

I have lot of framed textile pieces and garments hanging on my walls. The art I own has a very personal story attached. I have an Anish Kapoor painting, which he did for my son in Corfu eight years ago, and which he personally signed for my son. As well as a Tracey Emin cigarette packet sculpture she made for me when we were on the beach in Lamu, some amazing Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph prints, various Norman Parkinson prints and lots of photographs by my sister Matilda Temperley.

Share the view from your studio and what our art patrons can expect to see

The atelier is where the magic happens – from sketches to storyboarding, print and embroidery designs, artwork layouts and the creation of patterns and prototypes. It’s a fascinating process.

What was the inspiration behind your Autumn/Winter 19 collection?

I was inspired by traditional and avant-garde aspects of Japanese design and culture. The emphasis is on relaxed, opulent shapes and vibrant patterns and prints. Some specific references include Katagami stencils used for dyeing fabrics, and Sashiko, a form of decorative reinforcement stitching. 1930’s woodblock prints, posters and matchboxes of the infamous graphic designer, Tadanori Yokoo also add to the narrative.

British fashion designer Alice Temperley MBE beloved for her romantic dresses, hand embroidery and vibrant prints will give Quintessentially Art Patrons a tour of her West London studio on 23rd January 2019. Contact [email protected] to secure your spot to meet Alice, discover her artistic inspirations and masterful use of colour and hand embroidery, and to preview her collections and personal art works. Discover more about our fine art advisory and consultancy service.

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