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MARGARET HOWELL Fall/Winter 2013 - Page 2

post #16 of 461
Nice, but the women's line has so much more life than the mens.
post #17 of 461
Great line, very underrated and under represented. It will catch on though especially as trends turn away from all slim everything and back toward a more regular/relaxed fit. I also agree as a collection the womens is a bit more developed than the mens. Stall great stuff happening and worth seeking out.
post #18 of 461
Wonder what she´s inspired by, any informative interviews out there?
post #19 of 461
Thread Starter 
Nice short interview by shoreman for TBS

Originally Posted by source View Post

Margaret Howell on her favourite designs

All Things Tres Bien
September 14, 2011

Inventory made us aware of Margaret Howell's feature in The Guardian on her favourite product design. We were actually in the works to do an interview with Margaret ourselves a while ago, discussing the topic of design. While it didn't become a complete interview, Ms. Howell did deliver some good answers to Pete Anderson about, amongst others, the Anglepoise lamp, which is one of the items brought up in the Guardian feature.

TRÈS BIEN SHOP: A lot of design today, in clothing as well as furniture, architecture, etc seems to favour looking to the past for influence. Does Ms. Howell have a preferred era of design?

MARGARET HOWELL: For me there is an element of nostalgia in drawing influence from the past but it is taking that reference forward which is important (to reproduce is too literal). A new design which embodies an element of familiarity can helps us to relate to it. When I began designing clothes I looked to the 1930s, an era influenced by Bauhaus principles, economy in architecture, and clothes designed for a modern lifestyle. Photographs of my parents in their youth captured a casual elegance and the outdoor spirit of the time. Now I also find myself inspired by styles from my youth—the 1950s and 60s.

TRÈS BIEN SHOP: The appeal of workwear is very current, but in your design, and in your writing, you seems to have a unique idea of what constitutes workwear—less about resurrecting old-time details and more about honest and functional clothing. What do you think of the current cultural fetish for workwear and authenticity?

MARGARET HOWELL: Like the Anglepoise lamp, workwear is the result of the function it has to perform—a truthful, tried, and tested piece of design. Its fit is comfortable and every detail is there for a reason. Inevitably worn and sometimes torn it takes on an individual character. In the 1960s it was the fashion to wear military uniforms, detached from their real function they were rich and decorative. Today’s trend for workwear is more casual, choosing workwear designed for factory or land workers. Perhaps the present generation has grown up with man-made fabrics and sophisticated office dressing and now enjoys the simple authenticity and comfort inherent in workwear. Workwear has always been there for me because it suited my active, art-school life style, and my attraction to functional honest design. So I think workwear from the past or future will always be relevant. It is timeless.

TRÈS BIEN SHOP: Is it correct that you live in East Anglia: is that correct? If so, can you talk about the decision to live there, rather than in a city?

MARGARET HOWELL: In fact I’m based in London but spend as much time as I can in East Anglia. I enjoy the pressure of work and buzz of London life, but equally I love the quiet of the countryside and being close to nature and the sea. The East Anglian coastal landscape is very flat where lines and shapes are clearly defined under broad sweeps of sky and ever-changing light. Modernist architecture sits well in such a landscape, as happily as the pastel-coloured cottages with thatched or tiled roofs.

Couple longer pieces

Originally Posted by source View Post

Margaret Howell -l- Cult Of

March 14, 2013
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
WHEN I ASK MARGARET HOWELL if she designs with a certain woman in mind, she shrugs and replies, "The modern woman, who doesn't want to be restricted." Asked for specifics, she names Jane Birkin, Katharine Hepburn and Inès de la Fressange among her inspirations. The range—across decades, looks and character types—makes me laugh, because of course that doesn't narrow it down at all, and this is Howell's gift: to see style where it already exists, and to describe a person and a purpose before she mentions the clothes.

It means that although Howell has a rigorous aesthetic—which has grown, since the 1970s, out of the simple luxury and ease of dressing both men and women in men's clothing—anyone can wear it, and does. Today, her fans include Alexa Chung, Bill Nighy, Frances McDormand and a dedicated following in Japan.

Howell is widely admired for what the fashion historian Colin McDowell describes as her "intellectual and creative integrity." Kenneth Grange—the illustrious British designer of everything from Parker pens to high-speed trains, who recently collaborated with Howell on a slate-gray shirt—says: "What makes her so unique is that she manages to flourish in a lunatic world of silly clothes for often silly people."

At her headquarters in Wigmore Street, in central London, she works behind the scenes of a deep, naturally lit shop that sells not only her clothes but also furniture and books. Ercol chairs, Anglepoise lamps and other classics of postwar British design are carefully positioned next to handmade porcelain and a selection of monographs on like-minded artists: the sculptor Barbara Hepworth or the late "cutlery king" David Mellor. Howell herself is precise and petite. There is a quiet thoughtfulness about her, and a suggestion in her demeanor that things could always be more simple. "I think clothing should have a reason for being designed, and a sort of character to it," Howell tells me. That, she adds, can be the hardest thing to achieve: "Sometimes it can just be clothing."

"Utilitarian" is by now just another look in the lexicon of fashion, but for the 66-year-old Howell, utility is both fact and inspiration. The clothes must be made expertly from the correct cloth—she has been working with the same suppliers of traditional men's shirting, for example, for 40 years. And they are often reminiscent of a specific period or practice: Soft-hanging jackets that hark back to working-men's clubs in '50s London. Her more recent second line, MHL, began with a simple cotton jersey top based on a found ex-army sports shirt. The look is so unostentatious as to be nearly invisible to the untrained eye, yet it all stems, as Howell remarks, "from a very personal point of view."

Howell's fashion career began in the late '60s. After studying fine art at Goldsmiths College in London, she hand-made necklaces and sold them. Then she made a shirt. At that time, men's shirts were either very formal or exaggeratedly "designer." Howell used traditional fabrics to produce a relaxed and quiet style. Working at first from home, she was compelled to expand operations when Joseph Ettedgui asked to stock her shirts in his then-new eponymous shop—a key endorsement that helped launch her as a designer. Howell went on to make an unlined linen jacket, and then trousers using a robust corduroy. In every case she was inspired by locally produced fabric. And women wanted to wear it too. This was the Annie Hall era, but Howell's way of wedding Katharine Hepburn to Walter Gropius—a '30s sense of modernity—has never had a problem finding fans.

This kind of authenticity has become its own form of luxury: Where else will you find wide-legged trousers made of hand-dyed tweed, or old-school shirting combined with thick cashmere and a flirty take on tartan? McDowell loves "the way she eschews dressing a catwalk fantasy figure in favor of suggesting clothes for real people who want quality—not what mainstream fashion thinks are classics but are real classics to be treasured and worn for many seasons to come." Howell herself believes this is the key to her success: "There will always be a small group of people that like the feel of the clothes more than the outward statement of fashion."

Howell was born in Surrey, England, just after the Second World War. Her two older sisters were born during wartime—three years apart—and much of what she does can be seen through this filter. "I think in those days a lot of people's mothers used to get their machines out and make curtains or clothes," she recalls. "My mother always used to say, 'If you make your own, you can get better quality because you can buy nice cloth.'" When her father returned from the war, he became a legal clerk, who rushed into the garden at the end of each day to tend the vegetable patch. "We were taught to look after things, and make them last," Howell says—wastefulness of all kinds still "goes against the grain."

Consciously or not, that period remained close to her heart. On her way home from work, years ago, she kept seeing Ercol furniture in a local house clearance shop. "At the time it was all Charles and Ray Eames, and Scandinavian furniture," she says. "And I thought, What about little old Britain, and the designers we've had? I realized that I was a very British designer."

When she opened her headquarters in 2002, it became one of the first true lifestyle stores by adding a background to the clothes. She began to put on small exhibitions of unsung British designers—the postwar industrial designer Robert Welch, for instance, or the sustainable communities designed in the '50s by Span Developments—and sold related objects.

Howell now regularly collaborates with designers from other fields. Grange says she has the highest standards of aesthetic, structural and intelligent design. Indeed, Howell might be seen to be working in a tradition unrelated to clothes, alongside British artists and designers whose works draw inspiration from the land, such as David Mellor with his Sheffield steelworks, Peter Lanyon's landscape abstractions and the organic forms of Henry Moore.

Howell still uses linen from Ireland and wool from Scotland, and says that Scottish water is "lovely and soft," so the wool is washed to a particular effect. "People who have carried on manufacturing here just have a wealth of experience; weaving and finishing cloth does rely on that built-up knowledge," she emphasizes. What she makes with these elements essentially respects and retains their character. It's what she calls "living with thoughtful style."

Occasionally, Howell will see a fabric she would never use, but longs to make it fit. "Silk organza takes color so beautifully," she says wistfully, "but it's not something that comes into this sort of collection, really." Policing this kind of thing is a full-time job: In Japan, where separate collections are overseen closely by Howell, the designers, she says, "understand, but the merchandisers can push your look off-course, like with color or something that's very pretty-pretty."

Part of sculpting designs made in her name is showing where they come from. The lifestyle aspect of the London store arose in part to help young designers working with her to understand her vision for the clothes. Now she is working on a book using sources from her archive. She thinks of that, too, as something that might guide those who work with her. Because, as she admits, "I'm probably not the sort of designer who could do a complete range just like that."

The remark is disarmingly anti-fashion, yet it makes perfect sense. From Howell's point of view, if an item of clothing is made well, you really only need one of it. She describes her clothes as "practical, active"—and, one might add, made for life. "I don't like variations on a theme," Howell says. "I like to get it all into one thing, and get it right. And when I like something, I usually like it for a long time."

Originally Posted by source View Post

The outsider: Margaret Howell is British fashion's queen of minimalism

The Independent
May 26, 2012

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Given both her stature and longevity in the industry, Margaret Howell is remarkably media-shy. She opened a store for her MHL line, a carefully-chosen capsule collection of favourite pieces, in London's Shoreditch in autumn last year, and the Margaret Howell flagship in Paris three years ago, with barely a whisper.

You won't find Margaret Howell quoted on the burning fashion issues of the day, either: who will be designing what for who and when is of no interest to her. Instead, she says, "I suppose I'm just getting on making clothes for people to wear. That's the most important thing."

In person, the designer, who was born in Tadworth, Surrey, in 1946, appears as gentle and self-effacing as her clothes. Dressed in jeans, a striped T-shirt and indigo twill cropped jacket of her own design, her look is the epitome of well-judged understatement. In a world where over-exposure is most often the story, Margaret Howell fiercely guards the quiet and very personal authenticity of her work and the manner in which it is presented. For that reason, it is as instantly recognisable and indeed reliable to those who know and love it – and there are many discerning women, and also men, who do – as the woman behind it all might wish for.

We are sitting in the appropriately modest showroom at the back of Margaret Howell's lovely London headquarters – everything is conceived, designed and sold here. Its doors opened 10 years ago. Coffee is prepared thick and strong, just the way she likes it: "I only drink one cup a day so it has to be right".

"I think it's about an atmosphere," she says of the spacious interior that houses both men's and women's collections and also homeware and found objects including painstakingly-chosen furniture and books. All British and predominantly dating back to the mid-20th century – "Ercol, Robert Welch, Anglepoise" – the latter enhance a sense of tightly edited modernity and make up 10 to 15 per cent of overall sales.

"I am very aware that we can't compete with what is happening on the high street," Howell says, "and I think what I've always had to offer is my own taste, my own take on things. It's very personal. I understand that I am known as a British designer and I do love certain British cloths [Harris tweed, Irish linen, to name just two] so I try to give it that identity. Personally, I feel very outside of the fashion scene. I've never really related to it all that much."

Unsurprisingly, with that in mind she studied fine art at Goldsmiths College in London. "I left art school knowing I wouldn't be an artist," she says. "For an artist, everything comes from within. A designer needs something to work with. It's more of a practical approach. I was brought up to think it was important to get a job and to make your own money and I'd always made things." Howell is one of three sisters: "We all looked forward to being bought our own sewing machines aged around 18." At that point they took over where their mother left off and crafted their own clothes.

Howell's work as an artist did inform what she chose – and still chooses – to wear (and went on to design, for that matter). "Going to art school you're always in practical clothes, dashing around and getting mucky, wearing jeans, T-shirts, shirts. I always, always wore those sort of things. I do also like a mix of refinement and roughness." And flat shoes: "I wear flat shoes because I walk a lot. I did wear heels, little ones, when I was a teenager but I'm athletic. If I'm dressed up I feel too restricted. It's about a lifestyle, really." Any decoration is kept to the minimum. "With jewellery I like it to be very simple, so it's more to do with the material itself..." Howell says.

In her pragmatic and instinctive appropriation of a fundamentally masculine wardrobe, Howell was nothing if not ahead of her time. "I've never felt the need to express femininity in the archetypal feminine way," she says. "When I started out, I had razor-cut hair. I used to get on the bus and people would say: 'Is that a man or a woman?' But it was just..." She pauses for thought: "One knew what one was and that was it".

In 1970, Howell came across a finely-stitched pinstripe shirt in a jumble sale. She was already busy transforming handmade and painted papier-mâché beads into necklaces and bracelets and knitting berets and gloves. She sold them to Browns in London's South Molton Street. "And then I started making my own shirts, finished with old material and braiding, until I decided I wanted to something a little bit more permanent."

Her business as it is now began with a collection of more shirts for men and, cut smaller, for women, which the visionary buyer Joseph Ettedgui was the first to pick up on. "I think I was filling a gap, making something contemporary and current in very good quality that wasn't over-designed," Howell says. She bought fabric from traditional English manufacturers and did everything herself. "I had to bind my fingers with Elastoplast because I was cutting through several layers with scissors." In France, she came across traditional workmen's jackets and re-mastered them. Soon she expanded into trousers and then a raincoat. And so it went. In 1977, and now with her own workshop machinists and pattern cutters, she opened a menswear store in partnership with Ettedgui, housing a complete collection. In 1980, her own stand-alone womenswear boutique in London's St Christopher's Place followed.

More than 30 years on and Margaret Howell heads up a company that, by British fashion standards at least, is quite an empire. She has a womenswear designer, a menswear designer and is responsible for twice-yearly ready-to-wear collections along with the rest of them. Less conventional is the fact that her own approach, wherever possible, has remained just the same. "When I was doing it all myself, it was never about working on a collection," she says. "It was just one thing, and then another, and another. A collection is something you have to see as a whole but I was always much more keen on finding specialist suppliers of things that inspired me and then working with their product to get what I wanted."

Reach out and touch Margaret Howell's grey flannel or corduroy, her linen, cotton and cashmere, and you know that it is the care that has gone into its sourcing that makes it the finest money can buy. Invest in one of her raincoats and trust that she has studied every last detail of its form and function. There may be more to a Margaret Howell collection than there once was: that is a requirement if only for commercial reasons. Her label's heart, though, lies in the classic garments that can be worn and loved for a lifetime and that come, each season, maybe re-coloured or cut in a different weight of fabric. Wide-legged trousers, trench coats, shift dresses, circle skirts, cosy roll-necks, flat leather sandals and moccasins all bare her discreetly beautiful handwriting. It can be seen in everything from the over-riding, no-frills and perfectly-proportioned sensibility, to the impeccable finish.

It almost goes without saying that sensibility has spawned more than a few imitators – from the high street to other people's catwalks – but Howell doesn't care. "There's always been the odd copy," she says, in typically self-deprecating manner, "and of course I'm aware of them, but there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. You just get on with what you do, don't you?"

I know there's also an in-depth feature in the spring 2010 issue of Inventory Mag (haven't read it), if you feel like tracking it down.
post #20 of 461
Really beautiful stuff; thank you for posting. The looseness of everything feels so well-considered.
post #21 of 461
a piece she wrote in friday's guardian newspaper:
Edited by robinsongreen68 - 9/21/13 at 1:56am
post #22 of 461
Originally Posted by brad-t View Post

Really beautiful stuff; thank you for posting. The looseness of everything feels so well-considered.

The years fly by, and Brad and I suddenly have the same taste biggrin.gif
post #23 of 461
Just because I like it doesn't mean I'd wear it :P
post #24 of 461

I had a look around the Wigmore St. store earlier this year. Its a nice space, well worth a visit if you're in the area, I liked seeing all the lamps and homeware there too.  I may be tempted to go back and try some of shirts from this season.


Originally Posted by sipang View Post

TRÈS BIEN SHOP: Is it correct that you live in East Anglia: is that correct? If so, can you talk about the decision to live there, rather than in a city?


MARGARET HOWELL: In fact I’m based in London but spend as much time as I can in East Anglia. I enjoy the pressure of work and buzz of London life, but equally I love the quiet of the countryside and being close to nature and the sea. The East Anglian coastal landscape is very flat where lines and shapes are clearly defined under broad sweeps of sky and ever-changing light. Modernist architecture sits well in such a landscape, as happily as the pastel-coloured cottages with thatched or tiled roofs.


I like this quote, having spent the past week traveling around the East Anglian coast. I can see how that landscape might be an inspiration for her designs.

post #25 of 461

I've been looking at her some of her suiting, and I was struck by how much the shape of the shoulder, the fabric and even the stitching was very similar to the two vintage suits I have that were made in London in the early 60s. So I wasn't surprised to read her comments above on being inspired by the 50s and 60s. I wonder who makes them...

post #26 of 461

Oi Polloi

As ever, Japan gets a great range of exclusive products. Margaret Howell JP
post #27 of 461

the texture on the saddle crew looks superb

post #28 of 461
Originally Posted by brad-t View Post

The looseness of everything feels so well-considered.


^ Yes. 


Pretty much everything she does is perfect. 


One of the best out there right now. 

post #29 of 461
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by FlyingMonkey View Post

I've been looking at her some of her suiting, and I was struck by how much the shape of the shoulder, the fabric and even the stitching was very similar to the two vintage suits I have that were made in London in the early 60s. So I wasn't surprised to read her comments above on being inspired by the 50s and 60s. I wonder who makes them...

Based on the info accompanying the FW2013 campaign I posted earlier, the suits are made in Filottrano, Italy. Not sure if it's brand own factory or if it's the place that also makes the Lardini & co. suff
post #30 of 461
I have an awesome cashmere navy shawl collar cardigan from a year or two ago from south willard when all you fools were sleepin. Have a couple of her shirts from before that are ok.

Don't like the mhl shit though. Of course sw was the first to carry both lines in the states as she didn't sell to anyone before that.
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