As the spring/summer 14 collection hits stores, founder of Lily and Lionel Alice Stone tells us what makes her scarves so special.
What makes a Lily and Lionel scarf stand out?
The Lily and Lionel name has really become famous for its cityscapes. They’re these really beautiful images from all over the world and the scarves are really big which makes them easy to wear. We recently did a Coachella scarf using a photo taken from the festival last year and it’s so lovely. The idea behind the photographs is a big reveal, when you’re wearing it you’re the only one who knows what it is and when you open it up other people can then see your little secret.
They’re all hand produced in Italy and we’re very careful about the fabrics we use because some are slightly more hairy and the images simply wouldn’t come out as well. With our really fine cashmere we can get an incredibly sharp print, we’ve actually had some people frame them and hang them on their walls because they’re so clear.
How do you start designing?
I’m just naturally inspired by what’s around me. It could be going abroad or walking in the park or anything, so when I sit down to focus on the new season I bring all that to the table with me. I think the beauty of the product is that we can do anything from urban city scenes to florals or completely abstract patterns.
We have a lot of classic designs that we bring back each season because they’ve come to mean something to our customers. For example, with the cityscapes, your husband might have proposed in Paris or your baby might have been born in New York so those scenes become very personal to the people who wear them. We hear so many stories like that which is so lovely for us because it makes them far more special and not just throwaway pieces.
That seems to sit well with you naming the brand after your grandparents.
My grandparents both worked in fashion. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress, she’d make all kinds of things just from looking at a photograph with no formal training. My mother had the most amazing gowns growing up which were all knocked up on the kitchen table. My grandfather never wanted my grandmother to work so she had this sewing machine nailed to the table and it would fold away underneath so you couldn’t see it.
My grandfather looked after production for the high street stores, checking for absolute precision in button placements and things, whereas my grandmother was much more interested in beautiful garments and creativity. It made sense to name it after them because we are creative and let our imaginations run wild but we always come back to the fact that it’s luxury and it has be perfect and really great quality.
Do you have a woman in mind when you’re designing the scarves?
Yes, I think so. It’s funny because a scarf is so broad. Our age range is probably 25-55 but they all want something playful, fun and a bit different. If a woman wants something classic and monogrammed and rigid then she wouldn’t come to us, we know our customer wants something unique and romantic. We have mothers, daughters and grandmothers who have all bought each other the scarves and completely love them.
Why did you decide to specialise in scarves?
I think you’re either a scarf person or you’re not and I just always was. When we launched our first collection was 60% scarves but we also had some accessories and jewellery and a few other pieces because I felt like there was no way we could just sell scarves. We went to show the collection to the buyers at Matches and they just pushed everything else to one side and said ‘We really like these scarves.’ From then on we decided to put our time whole-heartedly into scarves and it’s been completely the right decision.
You set the company up right in the middle of the recession; that must have been scary.
Yes, it was a complete emotional rollercoaster but it always felt like just the right time. To launch something that people want to buy and is the right price for the luxury market just worked and I don’t think we had any resistance despite all the doom and gloom in the papers. In times like that people just want something nice to talk about and something bright and colourful to cheer them up and make them feel good. At the time I was a naive twenty-something who didn’t really care because if it all went belly-up then at least I’d tried but in a way it was good because we rode it out and now the only way is up.
What advice would you give to other aspiring designers?
I’d always say that having people around you that know things and have done things is invaluable. I had worked in PR so I was used to having to talk to people who weren’t my friends and make contacts really quickly and that gave me the confidence to reach out to people and ask advice when I needed it. Winning the Walpole Brand of Tomorrow has been so great in this respect because my mentor is Jonathon Heilbron (the CEO of Thomas Pink) who has just been so incredible. We’ve also got to know people like Michael Ward, the MD of Harrods, and Sarah Elton, who set up Smythson. They’re amazing people who are so willing to give their time and help you which has made a massive difference to our business.
Copy courtesy of harpersbazaar.co.uk