designer feature: Debbie Huntley & L.2.Mae

L.2.MaeThis is the latest collection from the L.2.Mae look-book.

l2mae2Every now and then a designer just grabs my attention. Be it their use of colour, materials, their website and look-book. In the case of designer Debbie Huntley and her label L.2.Mae it is her intelligent use of bold colour, simple shapes, and down to earth northern charm which I warmed to instantly.

A graduate from the University of Huddersfield gaining a 1st class BA honours degree in Fashion Design with Manufacture, Marketing & Promotions with internships at Paul Smith and our other ChicFantastique favourite Alice Temperley. Debbie launched L.2.Mae in 2011, and presented her first collection at London Fashion Week SS12 at Future Gallery. A dream come true for a rare few.

Debbie’s LFW debut collection titled ‘Infused Beauty’ was classic, wearable and purely feminine. Colours were rustic plums, reds and mustard. Her current collection is completely different. Still a very feminine shape, but a lot more experimental with bursts of bold colour, perhaps an Atzec influence, and a return to a pop-Art influence. Debbie is very hands on with her creations, from the illustrations to overseeing the manufacturing – she just loves the whole process of design, and is in love with her label. And so she should be, as there is a lot to be proud of.

See the ‘Infused Beauty’ Collection here…

It was wonderful to see you present at London Fashion Week SS12 so soon after the creation of your label, will we be seeing you there in February AW13?
I will not be showing for this February although we got close to being included within the schedule. But as a small independent label it is not right so early on in the business. Hopefully we will do something for September as I am currently re-structuring elements to make it a tighter and focused label as we develop.  I would like to do a presentation and give people time to take a look at the pieces with a future aspiration of a catwalk show.

Do you think that finding a suitable venue during LFW is difficult?
I think it is difficult because it you’re not based within Sommerset House or literally a stones throw away or within Fashion East etc, it is very hard to get people in to see your stuff…I know myself.
What fabrics do you insist on using for your designs?
I love working with leather and silk which happen to be two of the most expensive fabrics about so I have to try to stay away from them also! I am always excited at finding new fabrics and discovering the new developments within them. I have visited Premiere Vision Paris a few times which is like a sweet shop for any designer. Their fabrics are amazing and I would advise anyone to go there, even if the fabrics are not within budget, as most aren’t, it’s an inspiring place to be.
How important is to you to keep design and manufacture here in the UK?
I do produce my collections here in the UK, and UK manufacture is back on the rise and it’s important to support it. I love nothing more than going into a factory and seeing the process happen. I prefer to be in those environments as I love the whole process of sketching, then the  pattern making and then seeing the piece been made up in front of my eyes.
And how about Paris and New York – would you like to see your British brand on the catwalk there?
Oh, Paris and New York is definitely a place I want to show. I actually got accepted to show at the big buyers show in Paris Pret-a-Porter Paris which was a huge compliment but too expensive at such an early stage…big budgets! I dream about moving my work to New York. I would jump at the chance to show in New York. I am actually thinking of going out there at some point this year for a few weeks to network and try to show people the label so I can spread my wings a bit.
Family play a big role in keeping your inspired. L.2.Mae is a collaboration of your Grandmother’s initial with your birth date – clever and keeps it close to your heart.  Does your family have input into the designs that come into fruition?
Everyone loves the whole concept to the name when they discover what it is about! I am close to them (my family)  but I’m a Taurus so very head strong, so the final say always comes down to me. They’re always interested in my stuff but my friends are like family too so it’s like a constant PR team around me with people telling their friends about what I’m doing etc., which is lovely but also embarrassing at times. One friend in particular I think is worse than my Mam!
You interned with Alice Temperley, and we are huge fans of her designs too. Would you like to see your own label available at the likes of John Lewis or Selfridges?
I would love to be stocked there, it’s on my list of places I aiming to be within at some point in the near future. These stores are so diverse and I love the history behind the shop (Selfridges) as well. Selfridges in particular is a really comfortable place to shop – you know, no hawk-eyes, or hard sell. I really don’t like the boutiques which make you feel uncomfortable when you shop.
What do you think of the idea of combining your collections with an accessories designer for those ravishing finishing touches?
I love working with accessories from other people as I love designing them myself and hope to one day develop into them. I worked with such brilliant designers on my recent look-book which and it was like we had all inspired each other. Love it!
With the economy still being held together with a band-aid and a few strong stitches, where do you see the role of British fashion design and manufacture going?
I think from a personal level it is something the British designers can almost stick two fingers up to as we’ve created fashion out of nothing through the decades and others have followed in our footsteps. I myself want to be more free within my designs, which you can see in the huge change from the last collection. You have to just let go and offer people something different. If it is pricey it will be worth it as they can’t find it else where. I think the manufacture industry will find it hard too but they have to adapt their pricing and structure and hopefully they will loosen costs a bit to help small labels, especially those who only want to ever produce within the UK. I would love L.2.Mae to have their own factory in the future like Burberry and Mulberry, except mine would have to be in Yorkshire to support my roots!
Speaking of Burberry, you have strong Northern roots, just like the lovely Christopher Bailey – do you think that bringing a bit of the north into a brand gives it accessibility?
I adore Christopher Bailey and was fortunate enough to attend a talk with him whilst at University. I do, because it’s the Northern charm aspect! We’re a bit more approachable and want to let people in and see people develop with the brand. Plus being Northern we’re prone to have back bone which is needed in this industry where one day you can be the best there is and then the next you could have the worst collection made in someone’s opinion.
What would you like to achieve for 2013?
2013 is a very focused year for myself! I said this is the year to knuckle down and focus on myself and the label. I would like to acquire a couple more stockists, and on the schedule for September LFW, and have visited New York or Paris to network and branch out. I love my label and want to develop it but I also love a lot of other designers so would always jump at the chance to work with others too.
Debbie has set herself goals that will see her very busy for the year ahead, but her no-nonsense attitude and clear focus, and utter love for what she does and wants to achieve will see her reach the top of her game, and probably some more. It was a pleasure meeting and speaking with Debbie. Stay tune because over the coming months, ChicFantastique will feature Debbie’s collections here and on The Chic Boudoir.

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