Fashion Designer Alice Temperley MBE, the founder and Creative Director of Temperley London swept onto the stage at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – a vision of wild hair, flowing skirts and abundant, tinkling jewellery.
Wearing an edgy, embroidered leather jacket over one of her intricately patterned dresses, she had the type of glamorous but rock’n’roll vibe I’d expected given her designs and brand reputation.
Regularly worn by the likes of Kate Hudson, Madonna, Penelope Cruz & Eva Mendes – Temperley London was launched by Alice Temperley in 2000 and is known worldwide for creating luxurious fabrics, embellished with exquisite hand finishing. They regularly dress the Duchess of Cambridge who was wearing a dress by the brand to debut her baby bump last month and they also dressed her sister for the Evening Reception of The Royal Wedding.
At the Festival to promote her second book, English Myths & Legends that was published last month – a large and very beautiful volume with over 250 pictures of her decadent designs – Alice Temperley was interviewed by Hilary Alexander OBE, a fashion journalism superpower who is renowned for her wisdom and in-depth knowledge of the industry.
The book is said to give an intimate view of her creative world, revealing details of her artistic process and the essence of how she works as a Designer. When sitting down to write the book Alice Temperley apparently thought about what the ‘pillars’ are which hold her brand together, of which she decided there were 5, so they became the chapters of her book: ‘Holy Grail’ which is her materials and print themes; ‘Shire’ which is about her connection to nature having grown up on a Cider Farm in Somerset; ‘Myth’ for her bridal collections which are when she says she can go as crazy and opulent as she likes with her designs; ‘Alchemy’ about how all the different elements of design, fabrics and embellishments are put together and finally ‘Escape’ which is about how she finds her inspiration.
Events at the Literature Festival are always particularly enjoyable because the organisers manage to retain a cosy setting and a friendly, village festival atmosphere in the Montpelier gardens where it’s located.
With a small stage housing just two leather sofas and surrounded by soft, dark lighting the venue was designed to be as relaxing and intimate as possible but despite this, Alice Temperley seemed a little nervous and guarded throughout her interview as Hillary led her through the chapters of her book.
People are often keen to ask Designers about the celebrities they work with but it was clear gossip of this sort was not on the agenda and Alice Temperley was both unforthcoming and nonchalant when asked about people such as Madonna – whose pictures of her riding into her recent birthday party astride a horse wearing Temperley went viral worldwide – and countless other celebs whose stylists regularly reach out to her team to wear their creations – and that I really respected.
The audience were entertained with tales of fashion faux pas and narrow escapes – particularly one when preparing for her very good friend Sophie Dahl’s wedding, for which she had created a stunning bespoke bridal gown and as Alice Temperley reached up to take the dress off its hanger, it fell forwards onto her face smearing bright red lipstick all over it – just moments before Sophie Dahl was due to wear it. Miraculously she managed to get the lipstick off and dry the front of the dress without the bride-to-be realising and apparently didn’t dare admit to her friend what had happened until long after the wedding!
So it’s clear that Alice Temperley is well accustomed to both working and socialising with those in the public eye. Having left Somerset to be based in the UK capital ever since starting to study fashion, she graduated from the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins having sold her handmade, flamboyant fabrics in markets such as Portobello for years to finance her studies. Apparently to this day, all of the Temperley London prints are still designed and created in-house and although Alice Temperley regularly travels the world to find the finest silks and materials, they never buy patterned fabrics.
Despite having famous friends and a pretty glamorous Notting Hill based lifestyle, throughout her talk Alice Temperley continually cited her Somerset cider farm family home as both an escape and somewhere that keeps her grounded and it was a nice moment when she then discussed receiving her MBE, which she was awarded in 2011, and recounted how she was absolutely convinced her PA was playing a joke on her when she was told the news and really didn’t, and still doesn’t, feel worthy of the title. She frequently talked about her ‘Muse’, a young woman she pictures escaping to different exotic locations around the world which she then uses to create a vision and story to build her collections around.
A bit of exclusive news which came out of the evening is that Alice Temperley is currently working on a range of Interiors products and I think that’s extremely exciting because with her love of print and texture, I imagine it will be a luxurious, colourful collection with that glamorous, modern-bohemian edge her fashion designs nail so well.
After the official event had ended I had the opportunity to meet her for a more casual chat and it was during this time her eyes really lit up and a vivacious personality shone through. I wanted to know what she wears on her days off because I couldn’t imagine anyone not succumbing to their PJ’s from time to time like the rest of us? But no, in fact she looked quite aghast that I even questioned she would ever wear anything other than her own designs! She said unless she is on the farm in her overalls, she never wears anything other than her own creations and has a huge wardrobe of samples and designs from over the years to choose from. Interestingly, she also said she believes if the national press ever saw her in another brand, she would be publicly shamed. So, even behind the closed doors of her Notting Hill home on a lazy Sunday morning, you will apparently find her wearing her decadent designs!
I really enjoyed hearing about Alice Temperley’s life and work as an Artist – because let’s face it, with her level of talent, that’s what she is. Her book is as stunning and beautiful as her designs and I’m putting on my list for Christmas!
It would be a fantastic present for any fashion or design lover and look fabulous on a coffee table. It’s available here. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alice-Temperley-English-Myths-Legends
I found Alice Temperley an intriguing person to meet, she is clearly an extremely creative, sensitive soul and a day dreamer … when I listened to her talking about her Muse, this free spirit who constantly wants to go on adventures and escape the modern world and who has been with her right from the beginning of her journey as a Designer… I couldn’t help but wonder if her muse was indeed Alice from Somerset.