Emilia Wickstead hit the West Coast this week to celebrate her new collection for Matchesfashion.com, stopping in San Francisco on Monday, where she and Matches cofounders Tom and Ruth Chapman mingled with Gwyneth Paltrow (who recently opened a Goop pop-up shop in the city), The RealReal chief executive officer Julie Wainwright, and Gagosian San Francisco director Anna Garavazzi.
On Wednesday, Wickstead and the Chapmans hosted a tea at Eric Buterbaugh’s gallery for Los Angeles style-makers including Jennifer Meyer, Angelique Soave and Petra Flannery. It marked the designer’s return to the city after her introduction via the British Fashion Council two years ago. On Thursday, she went back to Chateau Marmont to host a client lunch alongside Matches’ vacation-themed pop-up shop.
Amid the hubbub, Wickstead took a time-out to sit with WWD in Buterbaugh’s garden, which was fitting given that her eight-piece capsule features floral cotton prints, retailing from $660 to $950. “I’ve never seen Emilia in jeans. She’s got a very uptown, polished vibe,” noted Ruth Chapman, who was the first retailer to buy the designer’s debut collection. Over a cup of herbal tea, Wickstead opined about San Fran vs. L.A., Cali “cool girls” and Sloane Street’s new hipsters.
WWD: How did California play into this launch and this collection?
Emilia Wickstead: I loved San Francisco; the women seem very casual but that perfect balance with professional. I think L.A. is more about those throw-on pieces that are effortless but you look picture perfect almost. It’s really what this collection is about. When I go away on holiday, I actually don’t have Emilia Wickstead pieces to wear because I don’t have anything in cotton, so Ruth said, “There you have it. That’s the piece of the puzzle you’re missing.” When I was designing the collection, we were saying you could wear it to an event in the evening, or I could be in Venice Beach in my bikini with one of the little skirts on, riding a bicycle in my trainers. So that’s how L.A. came into play with this, and we thought it would be the perfect place and climate to launch the collection. There’s something youthful and flirty about the pieces and that’s how I see L.A. Everyone’s fun and fresh and cool.
WWD: Your floral-clad mannequins look lovely set in this garden. Was that the inspiration for the prints?
E.W. Floral is floral, it’s part of English tradition. What I loved is these were very chintzy. It’s kind of old world, it could be wallpaper or Sixties or Seventies vintage floral, but it’s very fresh and modern. My favorite flower is the hydrangea so I wanted to put that in the mix too. I’ve always loved using upholstery fabrics for clothing, so now I’m using upholstery prints.
WWD: The silhouettes also seem very representative of your main line, ladylike in that Duchess of Cambridge way.
E.W. It really is for every woman. We wanted to offer things our clients really love, like long sleeves and a ladylike neckline, along with a flirty spaghetti strap and a bodice that can be worn closed or unhooked a bit. I believe I could be an 18-year-old in Venice Beach but I could also be a 60-year-old wearing this at my home and entertaining.
WWD: We loved your striped skirt with the beaded eyes that Brie Larson wore to the Oscars lunch.
E.W.: Quite a few people put that on hold, but I think she’s so wonderful. She is an amazing actress. [Upon learning that Larson had been acting for 19 years before winning her first Oscar.] Well, that gives me hope. Maybe after 20 years in this business, people will recognize me.
WWD: Will you continue this collaboration or bring it into your main line?
E.W.: We’ve only ever done two collections a year but starting in June with pre-fall, we are doing four collections. The pressure’s on. Behind the scenes our company’s gone from being a one-man band to now really making key hires and that comes with growth.
WWD: Speaking of growing, what’s your new London store like?
E.W.: It’s on the other end of Sloane Street, near Sloane Square. It opened Feb. 20, the day of my show, and I couldn’t be happier. We’ve got pink velvet walls, pink terrazzo floors and, of course, chintz sofas. It’s by Chloe and Anya Hindmarch; the area’s really changing from uptight and fancy to youthful and chic. There are a lot of butcher shops, cafes and flower shops going in so it’s quite a renaissance and I’m excited to be a part of it.
WWD: Are you headed back there tomorrow?
E.W.: Yes, but I never want to leave L.A. I want to buy a [midcentury-style] house like this, with a pool, and sit in the sunshine.
WWD: Are you sure you’re from the U.K.?
E.W.: I’m part Polynesian, and when I saw the floral leis that Eric put on the mannequins, I thought, That’s one way to do it. I now have summer vacation on my mind.