Whenever we stumble across a brand that shares our values of slow fashion, ethical manufacture and unique style, our eyes light up. And when we met Cecily Blondel's Brighton-based label The Emperor's Old Clothes it was love at first sight.
New to Godiva this summer, The Emperor's Old Clothes' one-of-a-kind dresses have already gone down a storm with our customers who are looking for a piece of clothing with character. We caught up with Cecily to learn some more about her label...
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Cecily Blondel and I am the owner, designer and maker behind the Brighton-based label The Emperor's Old Clothes.
Do you design and make your clothing yourself? If not, who else is involved in the process?
I design and choose the fabric for every piece but I have a small all-female team that help me create each item from scratch. I also offer a one-to-one bespoke tailoring service (as well as a custom dress service) in Brighton which means I don't always have time to sew every item of our ready-to-wear line by myself any more.
My team includes the amazing Louisa Wild, a really talented freelance seamstress, my lovely intern Ella who currently works on our accessories but is about to start training on our clothing too, and the wonderful Charlotte my marketing assistant who runs our social channels and online shops.
Is the manufacturing process important to you? Does it influence your designs?
The fact that our items are all 100% handmade on site in our Brighton studio is central to my label as a whole. Every piece we create is hand-cut, sewn and finished with a hand-stamped label.
This process, coupled with our almost exclusive use of vintage and end-of-roll remnants, ensures that every piece is not only of the highest quality but also completely unique with its own personality. We rarely make more than one of each design in a particular fabric so you know you're not going to see anyone else strutting their stuff in the same outfit as you!
Did you always want to be a designer?
I have sketched items of clothing since childhood, and tried my hand at making the odd garment including my own prom dress in my teens. But it wasn't until after I finished my (unrelated) degree at Sussex that I began going to one-to-one sewing lessons to learn how to follow patterns that I really got started. I really enjoyed it and before long I was experimenting with pattern-cutting and creating my own designs - so I sort of fell into it really. I was commissioned to make a few pieces for friends and realised this is what I wanted to do full time.
How would you describe The Emperor's Old Clothes?
We're a label that focuses on creating new handmade pieces inspired by classic styles. An antidote to the mass market and casual fast fashion of the high street we offer carefully constructed tailored pieces for both women and men in beautiful, often vintage, fabrics that are totally one of a kind.
Our bi-annual collections showcase our love of the whimsical and how the everyday wardrobe can be reimagined and transformed. Whether it be ready-to-wear, custom dresses or bespoke tailoring we offer quality, character and comfort.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I get a lot of inspiration from the amazing fabrics I use, especially the vintage remnants. They feel like they already have their own story and being made into a garment and is simply the next chapter…
I’m also really influenced by vintage fashion and film and television. A perfect Sunday morning for me is a cup of tea in bed and an hour or two pining after vintage dresses on Pinterest.
Can you tell us about your creative process? What does your typical day look like?
I like an early start so will often be at the studio by 8am ready to plan the day and get a head start on cutting out fabrics for new pieces, pattern-cutting for the next collection or working on a bespoke item for a client.
Other members of the team will arrive by 10am and we’ll have a quick discussion about what's happening that day. From then on its usually a hive of activity punctuated by the whirr of the sewing machines, customers popping in for fittings and preparing items to go into the shop upstairs (Flock Brighton) or to be shipped to customers/stockists. All the while Charlotte is snapping and filming away for Facebook, Instagram and the Emperor’s blog and planning the next photoshoot.
We have a really friendly and highly productive working atmosphere fuelled by cheesy pop and r’n’b playlists and endless cups of tea. It’s really important to me and to the label that every part of the team enjoys and takes part in the creative process, so we’ll always discussing which fabrics will work best for which designs and coming up with ideas for upcoming photoshoots together.
By 6pm we tend to have added to the ever-changing rail of newly handmade/tailored items ready to be modelled, photographed and shipped the next day.
If you didn’t make clothes, what would you do for a living?
I think I would probably have tried my hand at illustration or architecture - I find lines and structures really satisfying and spend most of my time when on holiday wandering around looking up at all the beautiful buildings rather than concentrating on where I’m walking… It would certainly be something in creative design.