Maria Grachvogel (MG) has been designing since the tender age of eight and with countless seasons of collections, shows in London, Paris and New York, and a new addition in the form of a flagship store (with decor and design fit for an art gallery) in Chelsea, the UK based designer is only gaining more popularity.
It has been said that when wearing a MG garment, it feels like wearing nothing at all. Clients know this is not the case in terms of compliments received, as women in the designer’s creations are wearing something; something that is created specifically to enhance a figure, whether dress, trouser or blouse, and something that is unique to any other brand.
With Angelina, no last name needed, Victoria Beckham and Kelly Rowland in recent X Factor fame all wearing the luxury brand, it is hard to miss the impeccable designs on the red carpet and in the media. A boutique addition in Singapore and Shopbop.com e-tailing are just a few of the recent headlines in the Maria Grachvogel camp.
One thing must be known, the designer is just as sincere as intelligent and aesthetically creative. Getting to know a bit more about the brand and its evolution was captivating.
Beginning to design at 8 years old is quite impressive. You obviously knew from a very early age you wanted to be a designer. How has your brand evolved from beginning?
I would like to say that my ethos kind of has remained the same. From a very young age, I started designing and sketching.
Around the age of 12 I actually started cutting and making things and at that point i started to get really excited about the idea of how cut can contrast can the form a woman.
We are all a bit body conscious, especially in our teenage years. Sometimes with a certain cut and a certain fit you can create something different and look much more smaller, maybe the way you imagined yourself to be. And i started to experiment with those kinds of cuts and started to come up with new ideas of how I might cut around a woman’s body. I came up with this sort of new block around the age of 13 or 14 and it is something that I base some of my designs off even now. It is about putting seams in certain places and that creates shape and kind of playing where seams actually go and considering the actual shape of a woman’s body we can create that. In a way that whole ethos has remained the same, but what I would say is that I have developed obviously much more sophisticated cuts over the years.
When I was younger there was a lot more form fitting clothes, but I always design from a place of feeling: how a woman is feeling inside. And I realised that we don’t always feel the need to show out bodies and sometimes we just want to cocoon ourselves; we want to feel protected, easy, comfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean in tracksuit bottoms. And sometimes we want to feel dressed, glamorous and like a woman. So, the collection has evolved from form fitting, sexy bias cuts into something that encapsulates something much more into a woman’s wardrobe for everyday still giving her that opportunity to feel gorgeous and glamorous when going to the office or even when I am personally running after my child.
You have a very unique printing technique. Can you describe this process and your creative inspiration for the signature designs?
The print is an expansion of the cutting techniques, and as far as positioning seams to sculpt the body I started to question if I could also do this with print. After working with a pattern making software company, this opened up the possibility to do this work. I started to work within the shapes of the garments to create something really special and really different and use the shape of the garment as well as the shape of the body to come up with ideas. In terms of how I do that it is so much an instinctive thing. It’s not something I ever go out and research. I’m very like that as a designer in total, so when I start a new collection I feel colors. I think I then become inspired by the shape of the garment and how I want to feel as a woman when I am inhabiting that garment. I call them artwork prints because they feel, to me, like an expression of art on the body. It seems to grow season by season and we always seem to have new ideas. I don’t know where they come from, I just feel the colors.
Your line has expanded far beyond the UK (her latest store opened in Singapore in October) with both local and international women seeking your architectural approach. Can you describe the Maria Grachvogel client in one sentence?
I think the key thing is that she has a strong sense of herself and she wants to feel, look and be the best she can be. She is not a slavish follower of fashion, just someone who has her own sense of being and wants to look amazing.
You say that you want your collections to be comfortable and make women feel fabulous, beyond your designs, what do you find fabulous in life?
Well my little boy of course. He’s rather fabulous. He is become another big focus in my life and I love having that time in the weekend to hang out with him as he grows and develops. There's always something new.
Numerous high profiled celebrities name Maria Grachvogel as a go-to favorite with Kelly Rowland donning one of your dresses recently on the red carpet. How does it feel to see your creations in the media?
I think I’ve always been the type of person who is really happy to make a woman feel gorgeous. It’s a funny thing because if I know that she felt amazing in that dress (Kelly Rowland), it would mean the same if you sent me a little note telling me that you felt the same in that dress. That’s my nature. Those kinds of things make me proud, but it would make me more proud with a note or something from anybody.
That’s what makes me a designer.
This past September you opened your flagship store here in Chelsea. What made you decide to choose this area?
There's a mixture of things really, the main motivation for moving from Sloane Street here was to have more space as a business. We have grown quite substantially over the years and I like to have all of my business in one place.
I was really looking for this, a building that has the retail space plus room for my atelier office. We came across this little gem and fell in love with it. It also suddenly felt a lot more intimate. It feels like home, and clients can change and play around here. After 10 years, you evolve and realise what it is to have a store and that’s your message to the world.
We did a lot of things differently with the intimacy, bringing the prints into the space, and then practical, simple things like having angled mirrors in every single changing room. I don’t know about you, but I love to see how I look from the back as well as the front. All of those little details are things are from years of retail experience. All of those things make it a more beautiful and inviting sort of space, I suppose.
King's Road is just around the corner, do you find yourself there at all? If so, what are your favorite spots?
Well it is literally around the corner, so I am always popping over. I like that we have Pret right around the corner! You can walk around the corner and literally get anything. What else do I love..there's this amazing little pizza place which is cool. Apart from that I live in my office and paint and sketch.
You have a trouser bar here at your flagship store with the renowned ‘magic pants’. Can you explain to readers how they received this name?
It is very much the seams, but its the cut really. We didn’t name them the ‘magic pants’. It started off when we started wholesaling the trousers and began getting calls to reorder the trousers again and again. And they kept saying. ‘ya know, the magic ones’. Every single woman who put them on bought them. They knew as soon as they got a woman in the changing room they would sell. That's how they are still in the collection after all these years. We tried to take them out one season, and that did not work out. That’s when we decided they would stay in the collection forever, well, until women get bored of them.
SS12 is quickly approaching, can you give Kings Road a sneak peak for the upcoming collection? What inspired the color palette?
For spring, in terms of cut, I did a lot of volume, almost giant ‘kaftany’ shapes with gorgeous bright aqua green and raspberry pink. I then put those sketches on the back drop of neutrals, gorgeous clay color sand. I did three different prints for spring which were a lightning print, which was quite strong, a softer deco flower print which was softer around the body, and then a snake print which was inspired by the shoes.
The Maria Grachvogel brand has gone beyond garments and now offers accessories, shoes and handbags. How did you decide to embark on this journey as well?
Clients kept asking what shoes, bag and jewellery to wear with it. It was really about giving them options and have something that would really work with the collection. We started with jewelry first and chose to work with Erickson Beamon Jewelry. Its been incredibly successful. Then shoes we started last season which will come in the spring. We shall wait and see, but I am quite excited about them.
You are a self taught designer, creating your first collection at 14.What advice do you have for young designers trying to get their start in the industry?
I would say it depends on whether they want to do something on their own or apart of another organisation.
Get work experience within a company. If they want to go it alone, they need to get business skills. The fashion industry is tough and you have to have those skills to stay standing as a designer in the early years.
You have had over 15 impeccable years as a fashion designer. What do you credit your success to, and what do you see happening to your namesake in the future?
I think it’s being very organic, not one particular thing.
I guess passion, determination, and the love of what I do and the will to carry on even when things are tough and there have been many of those times over the years.
Without that passion and love, things would get crazy.
In terms of going forward, I would love my brand to be in more places for more women because I thoroughly enjoy seeing that transformation when a women wears the clothes. We have just reached America on Shopbop, which is an online retailer, so ya know, the experience of the retail experience is a new way of working. It’s not the same feedback from customers. It’s the direct feedback for me, you only know if it has worked if the client is happy. It’s the experience of the customer having that experience...if that makes sense.
I’ve always said for me the greatest compliment is ‘wow you look amazing in that dress, not what a great dress’. It should always be how you look in the clothes and how you are.
Every inch of Maria Grachvogel’s creative empire makes sense and it is obvious that the possibilities are endless.