I fell in love with Lyell’s creations in Sydney and since then have had to physically close my mouth every time I see their garments. Designer and creator Emma Fletcher was very kind to share her passions and thoughts with me for her beautiful label Lyell.
I first came across your garments at Bloodorange boutique in Sydney Australia, which I was instantly drawn to. Each garment, to me, held a sense of story or movement around it. What are some important philosophies and concepts behind Lyell ? Why did you feel a need to create from this?
My main goal is to make very beautiful wearable clothes. I want these clothes to make women feel royal, but more in a 70’s sense where girls are running around in silk velvet psychedelic fantasy. That mixed in with a subversive sexy primness. Ideally I strive for each piece to be perfect and stand on it’s own. Having said that though, all the season’s pieces fit together. I think the need to create has become very automatic for me at this point. Everything I see is connected to it. Lyell is also about basic beauty and feeling like a women, romance and love.
Someone told me that you are an Australian, what was it that made you decide to take your label over to NYC? When did you make this move?
I moved to New York long before I started making clothes. Lyell label was started here in NY with the store on Elizabeth St. in December of 2003.
Tell us about your background in fashion. When did you first start creating/designing garments? What does the name Lyell mean to you?
I started a label called Holmes & Lyell in 1997, which was my training label, I am self taught. I started bathing suits at first and moved into a full line that was represented by Steven Alan. It was more basic back then. Around the time of September 11th, I decided to take time off from fashion. A couple of years later when my son Fletcher started school, it was time to get back into it and opened my store. Lyell is my mothers maiden name. It’s the middle name I always wanted.
Your store in New York looks so beautiful. Dark and mysterious but with a vulnerability and softness of grace that every woman should hold. What sort of attributes does a Lyell ‘lady’ have?
Sincerity and subtly.
I love all the locations that your look books are shot in. Can you tell us about the importance, to you, of your garments being seen in the ‘perfect’ location? Where do you find some of the interior locations?
I think sometimes the clothes seem a little precious and need to be shot in a contrasting environment. I love photography and to see it all come together, which really happens in the lookbooks. I feel like it works better if I shoot in a very real and personal environment with some soul that I can draw from.
With the last two main lookbooks, Spring 09 and Fall 08, this is my friend and hair dresser, Gerald Decocks apartment on the top floor of the Chelsea hotel. He has painted and decorated this location over 15 years. All the colors and the bohemia of his world is perfect behind lyell clothes – especially in these times.
The house that is like grey gardens (spring 08) was an empty run down house in Long Island that the photographer Larry Bercow knew of. It was on a large estate and this was the original farm house with a late 60’s renovation, then left in disrepair. It still had the history of some past elegance.
The other great location that I have used is the 1960’s loft in soho for fall 06. My friend Owen subletted the apartment and has kept in perfectly in tact from the previous tenant. She was a dancer and artist who is now in her 70’s and lived there throughout the 60’s up until a few years ago.
When do you know when the garment is ‘right’ or ‘finished’?
The design studio is actually a very small office in new yorks garment district. For Fall 09, everything is based on one scallop shape that has inspired every piece heavily. It was on one dress in Spring 09 and I guess I got carried away with it. It’s on the handbag, wool shorts, coats – all of it. My process usually involves a lot of trial and error, constinently revising, and not stopping until I feel like it is right. This was a lot harder for me when I started because I didn’t have the training or experience to know how to have anything executed. Now though, I work with an amazing pattern maker who has made it a lot easier to turn an idea into a reality. Now I can get to the end result more directly.
It’s a significant evolution. I relied heavily on vintage inspiration & details at the start. Fall 09 has no vintage references. I work off bodies from the season before, old Lyell pieces morphed into something else. With my experience I can execute something in my head more directly. The first few years it was slower and harder to arrive at a result I wanted. I feel that my vision has become stronger and narrower now. Before I was experimenting and interested in doing more basics, which I have gotten away from.
I think the thing that I have had from the beginning and is Lyell’s strongest point is subtly and fineness. That has always been there with me even when I was learning.
What is your day to day outfit?
Lyell mix.. a little vintage… orthopedic shoes .. Mayle handbag.
What is the best thing about New York city? What keeps you there? What area in NYC do you spend most time in?
I like that it is boiling, freezing, harsh, beautiful, motivating, mixed culture, tough and fancy, never boring and it embraces people that do what they wanted to do.
My life is here more than in Australia because of the time I put in here as an adult. I had my son here, he is an american. My boyfriend is here. My work is here.
What is your long term outlook for Lyell? Do you wish to expand your retail operations?
My long term dreams for Lyell are to do exactly what I want, when I want to do it. I am very uninterested in following the fashion schedule, I don’t believe it allows for much creativity. I am off of it now, and spending my energy branching out. For Fall, we are making shoes, bags, furniture, etc. I would love to open another store in New York and to make the biggest collage all over every surface of the store.