To mark ten years since the launch of Alice Temperley’s Somerset collection, the designer reveals its new direction
A decade is a long time in fashion. Trends come and go, but Alice Temperley has never strayed far from the design signature that has made her a go-to name for royalty, pop stars (J.Lo has been seen wearing the brand more than a dozen times) and brides alike. Whether it’s through fairytale gowns or sequinned separates, Temperley’s singular vision evokes a quintessentially British brand of bohemia. And it’s this distinctive outlook that drew John Lewis & Partners to embark on a collaboration ten years ago with the launch of Somerset by Alice Temperley.
This anniversary felt like a good time to revisit the values of the partnership. ‘We’ve gone back and looked at everything we’ve learned, and we’ve made the next phase into more of a little sister range to the main line, to have more synergy between the two, which is really exciting,’ explains Temperley. That might mean an intricately embroidered cardigan from her catwalk line being thrown over a Somerset sundress. ‘I want to look at both ranges and have them complement each other, with one ethos across everything,’ she says.
Having launched her eponymous label in London back in 2000, bringing her designs to a wider audience still holds huge appeal for Temperley. ‘It’s wonderful to be able to make clothes for everyone that can simply be popped in the washing machine and are easy to look after,’ she says.
Temperley presents her painstakingly crafted, ready-to-wear designs to press and trade insiders during London Fashion Week, and has just revealed a collection dubbed ‘double-edged cowgirl’ (so we can bet on a poncho or a waistcoat landing for next season).
This summer will mark the launch of the biggest Somerset range to date. The idea was to create the perfect holiday wardrobe, so there are floor-skimming maxi dresses in mesmerising snake prints and smock-waist midi dresses in bold tangerine hues. They should be accessorised simply with large sunglasses – and a cocktail in hand! ‘It's effortless, loose, fun and the prints are really pretty – I can imagine putting a lot of them in a suitcase,’ says Temperley, who calls out the banana-leaf maxi dress as one of her favourites.
But it’s not all heatwaves and holidays: bow-cinch jumpsuits and button-down midi dresses offer elevated daywear whatever the weather. As well as calling on responsibly sourced fabrics, such as FSC certified viscose, recycled polyester and sustainable cotton, there is what Temperley calls greater ‘diversity’ within the silhouettes. ‘There are different volumes and lengths, more variety, and more tailored pieces,’ she says. ‘But we’ve kept the best-sellers, such as the classic shirt dress and jumpsuit, so there really is something for everyone.’
The name of the collection still very much applies, as Somerset-born Temperley, who grew up on her parents’ cider farm, relocated to the county during the pandemic. ‘I still have an office in London, but my work-life balance was insane so I moved back to the country, which I’ve always considered home,’ she explains. ‘It's been great to have my archive together. I wear a lot of Somerset pieces day to day and they are really easy.’
Her measure of success is the same as when she first started out 22 years ago. ‘It’s people feeling happy in your clothes and creating a sense of escapism and enjoyment they can have when wearing them,’ she says. ‘It's about designing beautiful fashion that people can wear and wear and wear.’ She still gets a flutter of delight from spotting someone in her creations. ‘I love it when it catches me off-guard – often, it will be a woman in the street or in an airport lounge or on the beach,' she explains. With Temperley's new range, we predict the beaches of Europe will be peppered this summer with carefree and stylish Somerset-decked women.