Earlier this year whilst we were enjoying a rare spate of warm weather, Ally Capellino's AW 11 look book dropped and instantly reminded me just why Autumn is my favourite season. It instantly transported me to those mornings from late September through to early December where you can layer, wrap and protect yourself in an assortment of comfortable and practical fabrics; wool, tweed, cashmere, waxed cotton and anything else you can get our hands on are all layered on to envelop and comfort. With their roots in decaying industrial buildings and institutions, the colours of the collection were shadowy and dark and the perfect antidote to a hit and miss Summer. The much loved waxy group had grown and was especially strong in a WW1 warm khaki colour. whilst soft olives and browns predominated, but there were rich reds and putty colours to balance the collection. Alongside a new addition to the waxy group in the form of a handy rucksack, my eyes were drawn to a parka in matching Autumnal hues. With the product now in store, I just had to follow up and take another lustful look at it whilst talking through the design over a cup of tea and a biscuit with Ally Capellino's very own Alison Lloyd.
Now, when I think of Ally Capellino my mind is full of covetable bag classics for men and women, satchels made from canvas and leather with names like Vanessa, Lionel and Jeremy. All timeless and modern. However, the accessories line that I am most familiar with was not launched until 2000. The label has a past spanning twenty years that I had absolutely no idea about until I explored the impressive thirty year retrospective at the Wapping Project. As I walked around the wonderfully well curated space I followed the progression of the label, right from it's first womenswear collection in 1980, to the launch of Hearts of Oak in 1983 to designing Girl Guides and Brownie Uniforms in 1999. The area that obviously interested me most though is the launch of its menswear line in 1983. At the time, Alison Lloyd declared "I'm very proud of the men's clothing that we did at Ally Capellino between 1985 and 1995. Our reputation for tailoring started by breaking rules blossomed under Juno's careful skills. Our fabrics were subtle in colour and cut and he always wore them well. We began with five button jackets and anchor sweaters and worked through linen shorts, suits and shirts."
Having built up a strong accessory offering over the course of the last decade, Lloyd has slowly been reintroducing a few key apparel pieces into her collection over the last couple of seasons. Dipping in to her archives, the aptly named Parker is the perfect example. "When we offered clothing previously, we almost always did them. I took one of our old one's from the 1980s, I could tell you the exact date of it now but pictures of it were included in the exhibition last year. It was white and I think it was shot for Vogue Traveller. I took it and graded it down for today. Garments were so much bigger in those days. Arm holes in the 80s were way down there and it was huge. For the pockets, I've reproduced this Swedish army storm pocket." Intently examining the sample and picking out aspects which were improved for the final design, Lloyd took another sip of tea and was satisfied.
This generous waxed cotton parka comes in two sizes for men and women. There are draw string ties at the waist and on the hood. A weather proof button fly covers the zip-up opening and there are two capacious front pockets with storm flaps as well as an inside breast pocket. The instant attraction of the Parker is its waxed cotton foundation of British Millerain. "It is exactly what we used for the bags this winter, the greasy wax. It needs to have those tiny touches of leather to tie it now. It should age beautifully and it would be nice to see it hanging on the back of the door in twenty years time with a few cobwebs." The Parker would certainly age better than I will.
Having slowly evolved the range of bags, accessories and collaboration over the last ten years, she is drawn to the challenge that clothing presents. "The way in which clothes are constructed and the fit of them is a great deal more interesting in a way than bags. There's a limit to bags, it doesn't have to fit anybody other than a shoulder or a hand. Clothing is more of a challenge and therefore more interesting to me again." Lloyd is approaching the addition of garments to her offering in much the same way as she would a new bag. "The reason I have kept away from clothing is this idea of creating a total look. If I were to do clothing again, I would like to do it like this, it is items instead of fashion, I don't want to make a collection for the catwalk anymore. I used to love doing it but I've done that and I'm not after a fashion trend. Classics are more interesting to me now." Lloyd will no longer be rushed by the expectations and demands of fashion. It is all too easy to be sucked in to the cycle of fashion seasons but having done it all before, the designer is ready for a change of pace. "I think it is because we have slowed down and because our bags change in an evolutionary way rather than themed collections. There are of course influences but you have to be rather subtle with bags. As we have slowed down we can perfect things. I can stay satisfied with items much longer than I used to which means they get better rather than discarded for something new. This is precisely how the clothing will work." I look forward to the fruits of Ally Capellino's sartorial evolution.