15 minutes with… fashion designer Louisa Parris - Christchurch Creative

Louisa Parris’ eye-catching designs have graced the pages of Elle and Vogue and her vibrant new AW18 collection has just dropped at Fenwick. We caught up with this talented fashion designer to find out more about her creative process. Louisa also explains how she blends art and architecture with design. And you can find out why she loves experimenting with bold colours and geometrics. So read on to find out more…

Fashion designer Louisa Parris

Where do you get your eye for fashion?

I come from a family of creatives, so I’ve naturally grown up surrounded by creativity. I must admit, this is such a wonderful blessing! My mum studied fashion at Central Saint Martins and went on to work in interiors and painting. Meanwhile, my dad was an interior architect. My sister Georgia is a film director and the rest of the family are incredibly creative too. In fact, our family consists of a collection of actors and filmmakers ! But we’ve also experienced the highs and lows of the creative process and we never take it for granted. Nor could we do what we do without the support of our family network.

You’ve worked for Donna Karan, Mulberry and Ghost. What was it like?

I studied a four-year fashion and marketing course at Central Saint Martins, which gave me a year in the industry. I undertook a series of internships, including a three-month internship at Donna Karan. It was incredible to intern there and I was living in New York by myself. In reality, I got to see how a huge brand worked from the inside. I was also lucky to get the chance to design as an intern. In fact, some of my pieces went on to be made and sold! The experience of living in another country made it even more special. But that’s not to say it was all easy. It was incredibly hard work and it drained my funds!

fashion designer Louisa Parris scarf

What’s the story behind your fashion label?

Deep down I’d always wanted to start my own label, perhaps off the back of my family being so independent. My husband Chris and I moved to San Francisco when I graduated in 2004. There, it felt like a natural thing for me to develop my own work, while also teaching and working for brands. I was working with a pattern maker, which was expensive and time consuming. So I started to look at what I could design on paper. I won some money in a competition, so I started working on my Louisa Parris website and from there created some key pieces – it was a gradual progression.

Where did you hold your first launch and how was it received?

I designed six scarves for my first launch. We gathered them in a photography studio in San Francisco and threw them in the air, with a camera rigged from the ceiling to capture them. We also sent a number of handwritten notes to journalists and we ended up being picked up by Colette in Paris!

What brought you back to London?

My husband and I had been in California for seven years and we reached the point where we had to decide whether we were going to stay there or come back home to London. We felt like we’d had a wonderful time there, but given our closeness to our families, it was also time for us to return. I ended up buying my parents’ old flat in Clapham – the home I had original moved into when I was 14! It’s a beautiful grade II listed building above a chemist and a really special place. We’ve been there ever since.

Why do you think colour and geometrics feature so strongly in your designs?

I’ve always worn black in general, but colour gives me so much joy! I’m massively inspired by the 1920s and 1930s, and love to explore how to make these influences more contemporary, such as placing hydrangea blue next to peppermint green and adding a touch of orange. I’ll then finish these designs off with black brush strokes, so they have a polish and order to them. As a fashion designer, it makes me happy to see these shapes and line ordered on paper – there’s an organisation to my chaos!

What’s your design process?

Once the primary research and initial designs have been completed, we then convert them into digital files and send them to printers who will print the designs onto fabrics. I then check the colours against what I’ve designed and will send my corrections and tweak any colours – this may take a couple of revisions. For a fashion designer, getting the colours right is key: the fabrics have to work with the colours. We then send them off to be printed and the fabric is then sent to our factory in Finsbury Park where we’ll fine-tune the shapes of the garments and work on the stitching, hemming and print placement. Every one of our dresses is made directly from a scarf – so I can tell you how many scarves make a dress! 

What’s the secret to your success?

In all honesty, I’m still figuring it out! What I do know is that you’ve got to be extremely passionate about what you do, and success doesn’t come without working hard. It can also be incredibly tough. Honestly, it’s a case of putting one foot in front of the other and loving what you do!

How do you juggle your family and work life?

It’s a combination of receiving a lot of help, late nights and working weekends! Working as a fashion designer is a real challenge, and while one of my children is now at school, it’s still a 24-hour job and there’s never an off button.

Any tips for a wannabe fashion designer?

Draw, collect stuff and be a magpie! And do what you love – if you’re true to yourself, you’ll find a market for it. Also, try not to let trends distract you. It’s easy to become sidetracked by how other people are doing things or because someone has told you to do something a certain way. There’s so much inspiration out there, but we’ve become so accustomed to looking at our computers and phones that it can be easy to overlook our instincts and passions.

Have you got your heart set on wearing black to a party but want to move away from the classic little black dress? Read our fashion editors’ guide on the alternatives this season by clicking here!