Fun Fiesty Fashion

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For Kelly Townsend and Philippa Thackeray, meeting each other through their husbands was a moment of serendipity. “We continually talked about setting up a new brand together as it felt like the perfect partnership,” says Philippa, “I still pinch myself that it happened.” What followed was the creation of PAPER London in 2011, a brand that is cool and contemporary. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the two dynamic women on what it took to create the chic brand.

Kelly’s journey began when she was just 11. “I told my mother that I wanted to be a fashion designer and that I had to study at Central Saint Martins. I dove into the world of womenswear with knitwear,” she says. She took her extensive education and channeled it into the design aspects of PAPER London to become the Creative Director.

When you began creating the brand, what was your vision?
To create a cool, contemporary womenswear brand.

Where do you draw inspiration?
I take a lot of photos on my phone of random things that I see and colours that work together unexpectedly. I love looking at what people are wearing on the streets of London and always find it interesting and inspiring to travel on the tube and see the different cultures and fashion combined. I love architecture, old and new, as my father is an architect. I was brought up surrounded by amazing buildings and wonderful books. I also love visiting galleries in London and the library at Central Saint Martins, which has the best collection of art and design books.

What is your design process?
My favourite part of the design process is the research. I spend a lot of time in the Central Saint Martins library looking at art, architecture, modern design and other inspiring books before I start to draw anything. I also love going to the amazing art galleries in London. The fabric fair ‘Premier Vision’ in Paris is also great for sourcing new luxury fabrics and to select the correct colours for the season. Knitwear is the second most important part of the process and happens to be the part that
includes the most pattern and colour. The rest of the collection evolves from that.

Describe your relationship with Philippa?
We have always had a great friendship, but it has become even more special since embarking on the incredible journey of PAPER.

What are your hopes for the brand?
I’d love to expand into homewear and menswear. We have also just created our first childrenswear range starting with mini horoscope jumpers, which will be launched this November. We are also working on a
sunglasses collaboration for SS16 which I’m really excited about.

How would you describe the PAPER London woman?
For me a PAPER woman is of any age, she embraces colour and has a good sense of fun.

Who is your ultimate style icon?
I have a few. Grace Jones, Talitha Getty, Debra Harry, Peggy Gugenheim and Frida Kahlo.

If you didn’t work in fashion, what would be your ideal job?
Most likely an art curator or something within the art world. It has always been a passion of mine and artists or particular piece of art often influences me in my designs.

Philippa’s passion lay in fashion and design but her career began as a lawyer. “I worked with fashion and retail clients but I knew it wasn’t enough,” she says. Taking this corporate background with her,
she joined Kelly as the Managing Director of PAPER London.

What was your vision for the brand?
Kelly and I had very similar visions, to create a modern brand with a very clean aesthetic. We wanted to make clothes which make a statement yet are flattering at the same time.

How did the idea for the brand name come about?
The name PAPER kept reappearing in our brainstorming sessions, at first as part of a longer brand name. In the end, simplifying it to PAPER fitted the aesthetic perfectly, clean, graphic and sharp. Paper is a blank canvas on which to express yourself, just as clothes represent a means to do this.

What has been the most challenging moment with regards to creating and sustaining the brand? How have you overcome it?
The business has grown much faster than we anticipated. At times we had to play catch up to make sure we had all the right structures in place to manage the growth. We are now much more forward thinking in our preparation so that we can avoid this.

Describe your relationship with Kelly?
I think Kelly has described our relationship perfectly! It’s been an incredible journey and occasionally we manage to take the odd minute to reflect on what we have done. It’s very special.

What are your hopes for the brand?
To be an instantly recognisable global brand with standalone stores in NYC, LA, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai

How would you describe the PAPER London woman?
Strong, confident with an international outlook and a great sense of fun. Someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously.