Amanda Wakeley is the founder and Creative Director of the eponymous British luxury womenswear brand.
First launched in 1990, the label is internationally renowned for its easy-glam aesthetic based on clean lines, impeccable fit and a sports-luxe sensibility, providing stylish wardrobe solutions for the multi-tasking woman. Encompassing everything from ready-to-wear pieces, luxury handbags, small leather goods, evening gowns and a bridal collection, Wakeley has dressed some of the most admired and respected tastemakers, from the late Diana, Princess of Wales to Queen Rania of Jordan, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and Beyonce.
Recognised as a leading force in the fashion industry, Amanda was made an OBE for her services to British fashion in 2010. She has also won numerous accolades including the Natwest Every Woman Award and three British Fashion Awards. Since 1996, Amanda has co-chaired the committee for ‘Fashion Targets Breast Cancer’, raising in that time over twenty million pounds to fund vital research.
Tessa Packard [TP]: Where did the inspiration to launch your eponymous luxury label stem from?
Amanda Wakeley [AM]: I had a glamorous mother and growing up I remember being fascinated by her wardrobe. Then I started to intuitively create and craft. The first piece I designed was my costume for our school play when I was nine. I was barely tall enough to use the sewing machine and made my costume out of my mother’s cast offs.
I decided that when I left school I didn’t want to go to university, I was always in a real hurry to grow up and be an adult, so I took myself off to America aged 19 and lived and worked there for four very formative years. My time in NY was a wonderful journey of discovery working in the fashion industry. I always think of my time in America as my University education.
I returned to England at the end of the eighties. I was getting stopped in stores like Browns and the sales assistant saying to me “where did you get your black suede duster coat from”, and well of course I’d made it. In that youthful confident way I thought there must be a market for my style. And so, I created this little collection of my favourite pieces and started selling them to friends and friends of friends. It just hit the mood of the moment.
[TP]: How would you describe the face of British luxury today? Do you feel that the concepts of ‘luxury’ and heritage’ have been challenged somewhat in the last ten years?
[AW]: I think the words Luxury and Heritage have been so overused they are almost meaningless which is a shame. However the word Luxurious still has real resonance and always talks to me about how something FEELS which is a word that is fundamental to me and the Amanda Wakeley brand.
[TP]: What is your favourite collection to date and why?
[AW]: It’s hard to pick a favourite… each collection has its own story whilst evolving and reacting to what came before. As a designer you are constantly striving to make the next collection even better which is what drives us all in the design team.
[TP]: Is there one garment or accessory that you most look forward to designing each season, for example the statement dress or staple trouser?
[AW]: Interesting…. we have been working really hard on our trousers so that everyone can find their perfect pant shape with us. I love to gently evolve The Wakeley Wardrobe each season to allow our woman to find perfect wardrobe staples year round and then layer on all the statement pieces of the season which are much more trend driven and great fun to design.
[TP]: Who are the names you most respect within the fashion industry?
[AW]: Tom and Ruth Chapman of MatchesFashion.com – what they have created in 30 years is awesome. I love their beautifully curated site with outstanding customer service.
[TP]: Tell us more about the Wakeley Woman and how you set about designing your various collections?
[AW]: When designing the collections, I try to think about the woman that will be wearing my clothes. I hope that my clothes make them feel confident and beautiful. My aim is to be the destination that these women can rely on, no-matter what the occasion, to make them feel like the very best version of themselves.
[TP]: You’ve won a series of impressive awards over the years. What do you attribute your success to?
I think it comes down to having a passion for what I do and really understanding the women who wear my clothes. I aim for my collections to be timeless and love that my customers range from their twenties to their seventies. It is all about the way a garment makes you feel: beautiful from the inside to the outside.
[TP]: Aside from your own, which young luxury brand are you most excited about; and in turn, which heritage British brand do you wish you founded?
[AW]: Malone Souliers – I think their shoes are really beautiful. Nyetimber – the story behind this vineyard is so rich
[TP]: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
[AW]: Next on my list is heli-skiing in Japan…. My partner Hugh and I are very active and adrenalin junkies at heart. I also like big open spaces and other-wordly scenery, so Namibia and the Antarctic appeal too.
[TP]: What are your favourite things to do in your spare time to unwind?
[AW]: I’m a passionate cruising and racing sailor and in the winter love to ski-tour in the high mountains where the scenery is breathtaking. Being active and outdoors in the elements really helps me unwind.
ON THE SPOT
Town or Countryside? Both! They each have their unique qualities and I would rather not be restricted…
Favourite city? London. It is the most incredible and diverse city…but I still love the sheer romance of Venice…
Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? Everyone probably says the Dalai Lama but the privilege of being in his presence and hearing him talk would be amazing…alternatively James Corden …laughter is SO important in life and I do find him incredibly, stupidly funny…
If you could time travel to any era it would be…? I wouldn’t mind a sneak peak of 2050…we are evolving so rapidly, yet destroying our planet in the process…will there still be life as we know it or will we have somehow self-combusted?
The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? A truffle tasting menu at Les Crayeres Hotel in Reims, France – each course was matched with the most delicious wine – we were on our way to Switzerland and spent the night there.
The one essential you can’t leave home without? My silver pencil given to me by my father (he was passionate about pens)… I use it all the time.
Pet hate? Negative or mean-spirited people
Biggest extravagance? I’ve got lots… but I believe in quality over quantity. I love dark chocolate, but it’s got to be over 90%!
Favourite book? I like biographies or novels which are descriptive about different cultures, in particularly Asia, which I find fascinating…I love the luxury of time to be completely enveloped by a book (rare, I must admit)…I also like inspirational coffee table books on design, interiors, architecture, travel and nature as well as fashion.
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