Emilia Wickstead, is the New Zealand designer who is famous for dressing the Duchess of Cambridge, she socializes in high society London circles and is good friend with Alexia Chung. She is a businesswoman and a mother of two. Speaking with Victoria Tait we hear about her career, new collection, and how to look sexy whilst still covering up.
It is not every day in New Zealand that we get to meet with fashion royalty. Emilia Wickstead, could not be more charming. Immediately putting me at ease with her large smile and easy manner. She looks classically beautiful in a pink geometric-print wool dress from a previous collection, she tells me that she saves a few favourite pieces from each collection and this wool print dress is one of her favourites. She wears minimal eye make-up and a bright red lipstick with her hair pulled back into a classic sleek ponytail.
Born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand Emilia moved to Malian at the age of 14, with her mother, the designer Angela Wickstead, this is where she said her fashion inspiration came from “Malian played a huge part in my decision to study fashion” says Emilia. Her Italian background can be seen in the interpretation for many of her designs, having that sleek effortless look. And with her dark hair and olive skin she could easily be mistaken as an Italian belle.
Emilia studied fashion design with marketing at Central Saint Martins and then spent her final year interning at prestigious fashion companies including, Proenza Schouler, Narciso Rodriguez, Giorgio Armani and US Vogue. It was through her internship with Giorgio Armani where she learned how to create commercial collections and take clothes from the catwalk into retail stores. Emilia talks modestly about her early days as a fashion student and says that there were many designers who were much better than she was. It was her mother’s teaching and understanding of the construction of garments that really gave her the lead.
Breaking into the fashion industry is not for the faint hearted and at the age of 24 Emilia started her business in the living room of her London home, by browning 5,000 pounds from her then boyfriend (now husband). She had a dream to start her own business, but at the time could not image how successful this was to become. One story she shares is when she phoned Vogue’s fashion editor, pretending to be Leila, Wickstead’s assistant. Convincing the editor to look at her website she loved what she saw, and gave Wickstead a half-page spread in the internationally acclaimed magazine.
The fashion editorial worked and now Emilia Wickstead has a store in London fashionable Sloane Square and number of celebrity followers. To her credit, Emilia is tight lipped about her celebrity clients especially the Duchess of Cambridge, whom she met at a mutual friend’s wedding.”We do have a lot of personal relationships with people who will come to our store or showroom.” She tells me “The minute that a celebrity wears your clothing that gives you international exposure and the best advertising you can get.” Some of the big names that have been seen in Emilia’s clothing are Kate Middleton, Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brie Larson and Alexia Chung, Alexia is a “really dear friend”. “She’s cool and very sophisticated, and she’s one of my favourite people to dress. She embodies the brand”.
Her current collection has just shown at London Fashion week, where Alexia was in the front row. The collection was inspired by the 1939 film The Woman, by George Cukor, featuring denim and jersey “Athletic wear is a new thing for me – it’s my take on the gymnasium.” When I asked her for advice for Christchurch woman in regard to our big calendar event ‘The Races’ her advice in how look sexy was that you can be sexy without showing too much, red lipstick, minimal make-up, pulled back hair, is a sleek look “Sexy can be covered up and beautiful. It’s about being effortlessly chic, looking effortlessly cool and sophisticated.”
I think her description of the Emilia Wickstead woman, sums up perfectly what woman should be aiming for. “She’s the most modern woman in her circle. She wants to walk into the room and be the best dressed and the most noticed. She’s confidant… and smart and sassy. I’m dressing 22-year-olds and a woman who has just had her 100th birthday.”