Giles Deacon on why going off-script is one of the smartest things you can do

It’s been quite the year for Giles Deacon. First the New York City Ballet, and now a new creative partnership with Aspinal of London. We caught up with the Brit couturier...
Giles Deacon on why going off-script is one of the smartest things you can do

Since taking his final bow on the London Fashion Week catwalk in SS16 to concentrate on couture, British designer Giles Deacon’s bespoke creations have caused quite a stir.

I think we were on the front page of every important newspaper in the world, which was phenomenal

Take Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress as a case in point. “Lovely Pippa,” he exclaims fondly. “She was a wonderful client to work with. I couldn’t have been happier with the end result,” he recalls of the pearl-strewn lace confection he designed for the ceremony in Berkshire last year.“We got back to London that night, exhausted, then woke up on Sunday morning to friends in Australia sending through pictures from the front pages of all the Sunday newspapers, which continued all the way round the globe. Bar The Observer, I think we were on the front page of every important newspaper in the world, which was phenomenal. It brought a fantastic amount of global recognition, and I really admire the way that both Pippa and her sister really champion British design, and are really great ambassadors across all of it. And long may they do so.”

And it was another one of his high-profile couture clients that led to costumes by Giles being pirouetted the New York City Ballet Fall Fashion Gala. “Sarah Jessica Parker is the Chair of the New York City Ballet Gala and asked if I could get involved.

Working with Marc Happel, who is the director of the costume shop for the New York City Ballet, was such a wonderful experience. It was like having two ateliers to work with – one in New York and one in London. Then I was paired up with Kyle Abraham – who’s a brilliant, visionary choreographer who has this wonderful dance company called Abraham in Motion. We all got on like a house on fire. The end result was brilliant. We had these incredible James Blake, Kanye West and classical crossover elements in the music, with Kyle’s choreography, and the costumes by me, and even though I do say it myself, we brought the house down in the opening gala.”

By now, it’s apparent that Giles has amassed a coterie of couture clients that’s as interesting as it is influential, and it was a conversation with another designer – Mariya Dykalo, Creative Director of Aspinal of London – that started a chain of events that led to Grazia enjoying a civilised afternoon tea with Giles to celebrate the launch of Giles x Aspinal of London.

I went to the store and to the factory, and I thought they had so many fantastic existing styles that I could do my thing to

He explains, “I’ve known that brand for quite some time, and Maria has been a client for about two years, trotting up with gorgeous bags and what have you, and one day she said, ‘How would you feel about doing a holiday capsule collection?’ We had a bit of chat about it and thought ‘let’s do Aspinal through my eyes.’ So we got together, I went to the store and to the factory, and I thought they had so many fantastic existing styles that I could do my thing to, which didn’t require reinvention of new bags.”

The result is a wonderfully whimsical collection of mini trunks, clutches, totes, micro hat boxes, purses, scarves, card holders, passport covers and luggage tags, all with Giles’ signature sense of quirkiness. “I thought it would be a wonderful place to do some illustrations and to invent some mutually interesting characters who were globally inclusive,” he adds.

“I love characters, and Aspinal is one of those beautiful character brands,” he reveals. “It’s very much about a quintessential modern Englishness, which is based around quality, hand-craftsmanship and a real British playfulness, and a sense of fun and beauty that I relate to and always try to get across in my own work, as I do here.”

The measure of the collaboration’s success is that following the capsule collection, Giles was invited on board as design director for the brand soon after. “From doing this initial capsule, we all worked very well together and Mr Burton, the founder of Aspinal, suggested some further involvement, and the role of design director worked perfectly for me.” He concedes, “I couldn’t commit full-time because I’ve got all the couture to look after. This position means I can come in from the workings and understanding that I’ve learned of how the business is over the last year and offer my design experience and thoughts from the last 25 years. To see where I can add some value is what I’d like to do, and continue the journey.

The thing that really attracted me to it wasn’t about going in and doing a whole creative reinvention, there isn’t that need to do that. It’s to do some tweaking and some potential expansion into new areas, and help push it into lots of new territories globally, which is a big part of the strategy, so I think I can bring quite a bit to that.”

Does he miss his heady catwalk days? “It works for some people, but I felt I could offer the design world something more. We’d built up a really interesting private client business from doing all the show pieces over the years, and the important thing about concentrating on couture was really targeting those clients. What became clear to me is, yes, while you do get a good percentage of clients coming to Paris or London for Fashion Week, that top 10 per cent of really super-high-net-worth individuals? You go to them.”

With clients from Manhattan to the Middle East, what defines a woman who wears Giles? “One thing that’s continual the world over is that people want uniqueness. That’s paramount. I have a bit of a concern for lots of brands when they all start looking like each other or trying to fit into a certain homogenised time. One thing that nobody wants now is anything generic.” And no-one could ever accuse Giles of being susceptible to that. 

Photos: Supplied and Getty Images