If you’ve suddenly developed a mild obsession with star-print jumpers, chances are that you're under the influence of Chinti and Parker. Cousins Anna Singh and Rachael Wood created the label in 2009, with the aim of designing the perfect T-shirt.
Since then, the brand has evolved into a label with fans followings in the highest of high places (hello, Malia Obama). So, we took a tour of their super chill W1 offices to talk fashion, personal style, the breakneck path to success. What we turned up? Truly inspiring.
Photographed by Georgina Martin
Tell us how you started in the fashion business.
Rachael Wood: “Sort of got thrown into really. Our families are both in fashion and we’re cousins, and our parents are all in fashion. So I guess it was a natural path for us to take. Neither of us took degrees in fashion but I worked for Browns when I left University and started off in their Buying department and then they started to grow their web team. So it was a new and exciting place to be and Anna was in Pout cosmetics before and so we both found ourselves free at the same time. Anna had finished Pout and I’d left Browns and we both always loved American basics brands like a James Perse or a Vince and we were always on the hunt for the perfect t-shirt, whenever we went to the States we would come back with James Perse pieces. We thought we don’t we do our own basics collection but with a bit more of an English, European twist. That’s how it started but we’ve always loved fashion.”
Anna Singh: “We very much have the same aesthetic. We go shopping separately and come back with the same thing. In the morning we wake up, get dressed and Rachael picks me up to go to work and she’s wearing the same outfit. We’re cousins, we’re like sisters, we work together, we don’t seem to get enough of each other, bar the odd fight, it’s pretty good.”
Anna wears A.P.C denim dress and Isabel Marant sandals.
What is your design philosophy?
AS: “As Rachael said, the brand started as a basics range, but we really focused to start of with on everyday essentials. It has changed and developed since then, we’re four years old this year. The strongest part of the business that we are recognized for is the knitwear, so I guess whilst knitwear is predominant, we are moving into more of a ready-to-wear line and its still has some of the essential aesthetics that remain but I guess what we’re trying to do now is to create luxury pieces that will endure and last. We’re not fashion forward. I would happily take out a Chinti Breton top that we started with three years ago, looking very of the moment and they don’t date.”
RW: “At the core of everything we do is a classic piece but we always like to add an extra detail – a twist or a quirk. Our brand never takes itself too seriously so I think there is a sense of humour in the pieces we do. Although we’re always classic there is also an air of something you haven’t seen before. It keeps it fresh.”
Rachael wears Chinti and Parker top, Isabel Marant shorts, Lanvin pumps, and Michael Kors watch.
How would you say your designs have evolved since your started the business in 2009?
AS: “They’re definitely more complex. We’ve challenged the brand and we’re moving into a new season, we’re using new fabrics and branching out into new product categories. To start with we only used organic cotton and a bit of cashmere. Now we use knit, wool, blends, and next AW we’re going to start using silk so it’s always really changing and growing, from price point to categories we’re growing and evolving. We’re also doing our first pre-collection in SS’15 and lots of collaborations so it’s always growing. We also do exciting collaborations and exclusives every year. We do two exclusive collections for Net-a-Porter every year, as well as exclusive collections for Matches Fashion and Collette in Paris. We also have created an exclusive collection for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. So we like to keep ourselves very busy.”
Do you have a specific woman in mind when you design?
AS: “It’s a little bit wrong but it’s kind of us. In the office we “fit” on everyone in the office. I don’t mean this arrogantly but it is our aesthetic. We design this label with a woman called Caro and another lady called Amanda and it is almost like “design by committee” which sounds a bit strange but we have diverse tastes within the group but someone within the group has to love and want to wear it. We can’t design for anyone outside of the group, not in an exclusive weird way, just because that is our seal. I was reading an article on Isabel Marant and I was quite reassured as she said the same thing that it is her seal of approval too, if she won’t wear it, it doesn’t go into the range.
Anna wears Isabel Marant black dress and Miu Miu shoes.
RW: “The lady that buys Chinti varies quite dramatically, from regions in the U.K. to broadly worldwide. The lady that is going into Colette is definitely buying more trend related, exciting pieces and maybe the London customers are more like that too.”
AS: “All over the U.K., I imagine our regional customers to be wearing Chinti in a more pared down way – a pair of jeans and Converse trainers as opposed to a London customer who might dress it up and have a little more of a nod towards fashion.”
Rachael wears Patternity and Chinti and Parker jumper.
How are you inspired by your customers?
AS: “Interestingly, we crave contact with our customers as we don’t have a store.”
RW: “We have a great relationship with out customers as the girls on our e-commerce side of the business quite often are having conversations with them and we do, do the odd pop-up event and our customers come to those events and it is the only opportunity for us to have those one-to-ones. We know people by name and they come up to us to tell us what they love. They ask us for things in specific color ways. Of course, we listen.”
Tell us about your studio; why did you decide to come to W1 to work?
AS: “It mainly started because we’re were in a little hole, an office that someone had lent us some space, on the other side of Oxford Street and we decided to bring our sales in house and we needed more space. In this office we share a boardroom which means in selling season, that becomes our selling space, so we had to find somewhere central and easy to get to.”
RW: “We love it. Marylebone is just around the corner, there’s a Wagamamas on that corner. It’s perfect.”
Your collaboration with Patternity seems to have been a fantastic success. What are your other favourite collabs you’ve done so far?
AS: “Net-a-Porter is always our most important collaborator as they really gave us our first big opportunity. We were in a couple of small boutiques and Net-a-Porter were looking for a brand with a heavy organic presence and they came to us.”
RW: “Our most exciting is probably Goop, that allowed us to become better known in the States and working with someone like Gwyneth is quite fascinating, you get to experience another world.”
Rachael wears Patternity and Chinti and Parker jumper, River Island jeans, and Whistles heels. Anna wears Chinti and Parker t-shirt and jumper, Cos jeans, and Charlotte Olympia heels.
Ethically sourced fashion is at the heart of your business — how did you arrive at that principle?
RW: “We felt that we live in a world where you have to be mindful as an individual in the way you live your life. So we choose to buy organic food, buy fairtrade and everyone started to be conscious of this. When we started our business, it was only natural that we applied the way we live our lives to the way we run our business. Anna and I always say we will do what we can, where we can. When we started it was much more difficult to make the clothing in an ethical way, certainly with the fabrics. Organic barely existed back then but as more people become aware, it is becoming much more readily available. It is becoming easier. We’ve had fabric made from bamboo; we’ve had fabric made from seaweed that apparently allows you to absorb the nutrients and make you feel happy.
Which Chinti and Parker celeb sightings have been most exciting for you?
AS: “Yes, so many. Last week, Malia Obama was pictured coming out of Airforce 1 wearing one of our alphabet jumpers. That was pretty exciting as you can imagine the conversation. If I was wearing a jumper with a big A on the front, my dad would ask me where I got it from, so I hope that conversation did happen. That’s probably the highlight for us.”
Anna wears Cos jeans and Charlotte Olympia heels.
Is there anyone you’d love to dress in Chinti and Parker?
RW: “There’s loads of like fashionable people that we’d love to see wear our brand.”
AS: “Alexa wears our stuff and she’s everyone’s fashion dream, which we’re thrilled about.”
AS: “Alexa wears our stuff and she’s everyone’s fashion dream, which we’re thrilled about.”
RW: “Kate Bosworth and Diane Kruger have both worn our stuff but those sorts of girls with their own sense on style are cool”
How would you describe your personal style? And how has it influenced the design aspect of your business?
AS: “Rachael is far more wackier than I am.”
RW: “I would say that I am a classic with a twist [laughs]. I’m still feminine and I like to mix it up. I don’t want to be too much of “a thing.” So if I’m wearing pretty shoes I want to balance it with a bit of denim.”
AS: “I’d say you wear Chinti probably 80% of the time but the rest of the time, you’d wear more of a designer twist to it. Definitely more high fashion than I would carry.”
RW: “Equally I go the other end as well, I definitely go high street as well.”
AS: “You love a bit of Zara. Whereas I’m a touch more…I don’t really like the word, conservative. More on the classic. Very denim focused. Love a flat or a brogue and I’m probably a bit more boyish as well. I dress like a boy most of the time. A shirt, a jean, a sandal, a trainer. I love a trainer. Again, I’ll do high street. I like Cos and I’m a dedicated Marni fan too though I buy a lot less that I used to as I wear Chinti most of the time.”
What's up next for Chinti and Parker?
RW: “Our first pre-collections, which is pretty exciting for us. That’ll be happening next year.”
AS: “We’re branching out into silks, which is a really exciting category for us. As a luxury brand, we think it will sit very well with the cashmere. We’ve also working a small capsule collection for Liberty London in the pipeline too.”
What is your favourite part of this studio space?
AS: “Our design area.”
RW: “We quite often all gather around this table and we have chocolates all over the place, and we squabble about what we think should go through. This is where all the creativity happens.”
AS: “We do all of the fittings here. Everyone’s wandering around in their undies.”
Where do you go when you’re looking for inspiration for your next collection?
AS: “It’s generally around food. We love to eat. Joking aside, we don’t get much time out of the office.”
RW: “You have to keep your eyes open all the time. You may see a child walking along with a lovely detail and it makes you think how you could work that with knitwear. Inspiration is everywhere. It’s all around you.”
AS: “I always walk through Portobello market, as my kids go to nursery there and I’ll always go back that way and pick up an old sweater.”
If you weren’t designing, what would you be doing?
RW: “I would probably do something medical. I know it’s weird but I always wanted to do that sort of thing but I never went down that path. I think Anna would do something with interiors.”
AS: “She’s right, I would.”