It’s amazing, then, that the trio — all formerly of Marni, add a Fashion Director post at British Vogue for Chambers — manages to find a consensus to create Colville's distinctive, unified aesthetic to create the type of clothes you can stare at, searching for a feeling or waiting for them to say something.
When the mid-luxury ready-to-wear label launched earlier this year, praise was modest. An expertly designed and curated selection of asymmetrical and multilayered dresses, beanies inspired by balaclavas, modern jewellery, and trousers garnered attention outside of its founders’ celebrity. With “out there” prints and patterns, Colville is fun, but it’s restrained, too, as seen in its cuts and finishings. Chambers, who left her long-held post at British Vogue and now works on Colville, notes how organic the entire process has been.
“There’s always room for good ideas,” she begins. “Nobody needs another handbag, nobody needs to buy another shirt — but if it’s a beautiful handbag and a beautiful shirt, then why not?.” She likens the birth of the brand to having a child: “If you thought of everything that goes into it and everything that could happen — every ghastly thing that could go wrong — the world would stop spinning. I think you go into ideas with a real optimism. I’d even go in strategically and think about … putting things into building blocks and doing it in a very organised, careful way — but I don’t think that was our way at all. None of us are really like that anyway.”
The name comes from their favourite area in West London, which coincidentally happens to be David Hockney’s alleged hangout spot of the 1970s. (They’re fans of Hockney’s paintings, too.) Chambers insists the name is neither masculine, nor feminine; it’s simply neutral and looked good graphically. Colville sold its debut collection only via e-tailer Matchesfashion.com; a bold, limited-run strategy that helps the brand retain its exclusive, boutique-like vibe, and sets it apart from the global-brand masses.
Talking with Chambers about the potential of Colville sounds like organised crime — the plotting, the controlled execution — but they say they’re not out to dominate the industry globally. For now, Colville is a passion project. Forss and Molloy still take design gigs and Chambers still styles editorials. “We’re kind of like an old startup,” Chambers says. “It feels like every decision we make is super careful because we have budgets; everything we do has to be spot-on and with so much consideration. But that feels right for this time. It feels like we shouldn’t just be doing ten white shirts. We should be doing one beautiful shirt.”
At Marni, where they previously worked together (Chambers as a stylist, Forss and Molloy as designers), the trio saw themselves working on up to eight collections per season. “Now, it’s small — it’s like the perfect jigsaw puzzle. It’s very different in that respect. It’s so full of thought and thoughtful.” Now, it seems like Colville drops when it wants to and Matchesfashion.com is where you can find it.
Colville is the brainchild of women who know clothes on a cerebral level, which is why when it comes to operations and administration, tapping into the right side of their creative brains doesn’t come so naturally. And it’s for the better. “I think we grow with our hearts, not our heads,” Chambers confirms. “But I think somewhere in there is a very good head because we’ve all done it for other people really successfully. We didn’t think of any implications. We just love designing clothes, so, that was a good place to start as any.”
On the business side, Colville hasn’t sold out just yet. But a covetable second collection is on the way and suggests solid staying power. For the time being, they’re sticking to what they know: designing good clothes, obviously, but also clothes they want to wear. It helps that the women are as stylish as it gets: they take inspiration from the world around them, and use Instagram as a cross-cultural moodboard. In short, Colville is for anyone who knows the transformative and emotional power of clothes — be it a T-shirt, a trouser, or a rare texture.
But perhaps the best summation of the Colville collective is Chamber’s take on the meditative process behind getting dressed: “If I ever bought something in the past and thought that would be really useful — I never wear it,” Chambers explains. “I don’t want to wear anything that’s useful. I want to wear something that makes your day feel fantastic. You want to make clothes that you really fall in love with; that are unusual, and strange, and interesting — and yeah, a little bit challenging.” If that’s what being anti-fast-fashion feels like, deal us in.