When and what inspired Catherine Walker & Co.?
I founded Catherine Walker & Co in 1977 with my late wife Catherine Walker.
I had been a lecturer in design theory for ten years at Chelsea School of Art before we met and Catherine Walker had studied aesthetics at the university of Lille and Aix-en-Provence. When we met in London in 1976 we decided to start a fashion design company combining our academic skills.
When the company started it was very private, not unlike a ‘member’s club’. We enjoyed creating the highest possible standards we could achieve in couture techniques for a select group of high profile women. The Princess of Wales brought our work to the world’s attention in 1981 and we had the honour to dress her for the next sixteen years. Our company is much larger now but we have maintained a size that we feel is optimum for a couture-only house.
Over the years we’ve built a skilled team of crafts people – ranging from skilled cutters and hand embroiderers to Savile Row tailors. Of the 30 people at the atelier today, many have been part of the team for more than 25 years.
Catherine Walker has been a favourite with the Royalty. What would you say attracts the high-end clientele to you?
For the past 37 years we have enjoyed the patronage of several high profile clients. Away from the public eye we also have many professional women among our clientele, who value the fact that our studios are clustered in Bury Walk around our showroom in Sydney Street central Chelsea. Here seamstresses and tailors work alongside the design and sample team. It makes for a very special experience but it also means that we can personally oversee every stage of the couture process. We make nothing abroad, not even outside Chelsea!
For nearly four decades we have combined sharp precision and fit, with a poetry and romance that has typified the house’s handwriting. We so often hear our clients say how the designs fit and flatter so perfectly that they feel they can face the world with fearless confidence.
We are also aware more than ever that clients cherish their purchases from Catherine Walker & Co as investments, even heirlooms. Some of our evening dresses are on display in museums, and some are occasionally sold at auction for sums greatly exceeding their original price.
We are particularly proud that Catherine Walker & Co is independently owned – this leaves the design team free to focus on what we know and do best without the need to satisfy shareholders or other investors.
What is your advice for a new comer to London?
Our museums and galleries are some of the best in the world such as the V&A Museum.
What lies ahead in 2014 for Catherine Walker?
We thrive on adapting traditional, specialist techniques and applying them in progressive and inventive ways. We embrace ‘slow fashion’ in it truest sense –the finest fabrics, fine lace, exquisite handwork and intricate detail are all used to produce pieces that are timeless rather than of-the-moment.
Each season we archive anything that we believe has reached a level that we would find difficult to improve, and clients return time and time again to these archived evening and tailored day pieces because, quite simply, they work.
To find out more about Catherine Walker & Co, please click here.