London Fashion Week is fast approaching and as part of our celebration of British fashion designers and brands, we have the next instalment in our interview series. Editor Natasha talks to fashion designer Emma Kempton of luxury British label A-MM-E on her inspirations behind the brand and gives us an insight into the fashion industry.
Emma, give us a little insight into your creative background.
I made clothing for myself (self taught) and then began to sell them on stalls at Camden, Portobello & Kensington indoor market to make money. Later on, after graduating, I became a costume designer and performance artist working for companies such as Gifford’s Circus as costumier, designer and mime magician; alongside working on fashion shoots and shows backstage. It was a hobby that just sort of took over (my degree was in European Studies – Literature & Philosophy at UEA 93-96). I took time off for a few years to have babies in Devon and Italy, and am now back playing again in my studio.
What was your influence when you started A-MM-E?
Everything Italian- climate, architecture, renaissance art, marble quarries. Italy feeds my soul. Also a slight London thing as that’s essentially where I’m from. I was a part of the East London party scene in the early nineties and that must feed into my work on some level, but I have also spent many years in the hills in Devon and Italy. Contemporary art. Performance and mime. The Victoriana silhouette at time. I am a yogi and that feeds my work – not a yogi as in being good at strange bending positions, but a kundalini yogi which is more about meditation, mantra and spiritual consciousness in each moment, looking deeper at things and being present.
Tell us the key inspirations for your design and concepts?
All the above with the colours of browns, camels and golds. I like gold against brown. My husband is an artist so I spend time at gallery openings, but we also spend a lot of time barefoot in the hills – be it the hills of Devon or the mountains above Pietrasanta where the marble quarries are.
Describe essence of your label?
Understated, natural style with a hint of gold bling and trend. I describe it as “Made in Britain, inspired in Italy”; a blend of Italian classics with a bit of London. Individuality is a key word – but natural individuality as opposed to forced ego driven individuality. Being oneself.
Why does your brand stand out in this competitive industry?
Subtle variations and edges that only someone with an eye, who knows what they are looking at, would notice. I am not interested in standing out particularly but in just doing my thing and creating quality stylish clothing.
In your opinion, are there enough opportunities for emerging designers to showcase their designs and enter this competitive industry?
There are opportunities but they seem to cost a lot – for instance, there seem to be many alternative Fashion Week exhibitions popping up, but it will cost you and often it may not be worth it. If you have been to a good fashion college you will have more opportunities, but still you need money behind you. The more established fashion funders such as Fashion East or the Fashion Council are very competitive and would only consider someone from good fashion schooling, or who is in the scene. There are more boutiques arising that represent emerging designers. This is amazing and I hope to see more and I hope to see designer boutiques take on more and more emerging designers. When I buy clothing this is where I go – just one sale makes a difference for an emerging designer, whereas in established places it means little. Plus you get something unique.
Is the fashion industry campaigning enough for boutique labels and recognising emerging talent?
It is more than it was. Plus, the ethical age we live in now means more people are considering where they shop and who they want to buy from. I really hope this continues to grow. There are some amazing people who are really making a difference – people like Livia Firth are raising questions about the process of fashion, and boutiques like Wolf & Badger are really supporting new talent and making it possible.
Who is A-MM-E’s ideal customer?
She is natural, understated yet if you look closer she has glamour, style, personality and a true and strong sense of self. She is a strong individual without having to shout about it. Able to be completely herself like the individuality and creativity of a Frida Kahlo at peace without all the emotional ego driven mess!
What has been your most memorable success to date?
I only launched A-MM-E earlier this year so it is early days. But in my previous fashion work it has to have been designing, devising and performing my mime acts, magical props (which I made) and costumes, at Gifford’s Circus.
What has been the most challenging stage when bringing your fashion label into the industry?
The ideas are easy, finding the fabric, the right makers, buyers – this is all a challenge and continues to be. I have already had issues such as stock not arriving in time, that can be really stressful and frustrating.
Outline your fashion label’s signature style?
The Victoriana Riding Coat is the key item – everything from the silhouette and drape, along with the finish from the leather buttons to the crisp cotton lining, form the A-MM-E style. Seriously stylish, yet understated, yet unique and wearable, and adaptable, from anything from heels to trainers.
What are the key images you want to portray when people see or hear A-MM-E?
Soul. Digging deep and being oneself. In summary from above – Italy, barefoot in hot piazzas and church bells and renaissance art and a well cut victoriana drape coat and gold ear cuffs. Natural Individuality, understated style with a hint of something interesting, luxurious, someone truly themselves. Browns with gold.
The brand name A-MM-E = BEING YOU. The MM is a symbol for the Mother Mary and I collect images of her. I am not a catholic but a yogi; and for me she symbolises the Goddess across all religions – the essence of the power for woman – a priestess – the empowerment of women.
On a personal note, how would you describe your style?
Just being me. Natural. Somewhere, of course, is a hint of bling.
Tell us your hope for the future of the label?
To grow slowly in a way that I can manage with the children. To be able to play and have fun – get more hands on in the studio – be creative with the images and filming – bring in some of my previous performing art choreography. Just to sustain it so I can enjoy it.
British Style Bloggers would like to thank Emma for taking the time to give us her insight and thoughts on her own label and the industry. Please do check out her collections at www.a-mm-e.com.