On his whistle-stop tour to Dubai, L’Officiel Arabia’s Lucy Wildman caught up with Giles Deacon to talk all things Aspinal of London, his debut collaboration with the legendary British luxury brand, and why Giles x Aspinal crackers are the only ones you’ll find on his dining table this Christmas…
How did this collaboration with Aspinal come about?
‘Well, the lovely Maria Dykalo is the wife of Aspinal of London’s founder, Iain Burton, and also a couture client of mine. She would always arrive at my studio with these incredible vanity cases and hat boxes, and obviously I knew the label, but one day, she said ‘How do you fancy doing a capsule collection with Aspinal to come out in the autumn?’ That was about a year ago, and I was like ‘I think it could be a go-er Maria - let's do it!’
So it was a real no-brainer?
‘Absolutely! The synergy between the two brands is that we are actually in different worlds, but we both have that idiosyncratic, British quirkiness. I like to think of it as accessible eccentricity - that’s a nice way of putting it. Everyone likes something a bit different. No-one wants the same things as everyone else. And what I find really charming about Aspinal and their history is that they just do things on their own terms, and they can do nice, gorgeous, bonkers things like the perspex trunks in their main line, which is phenomenal, as well as those classics too. And then they have the ability to create printed leather trunks, with beautiful coloured linings, and all of these things that are fun and charming, which I think is what's missing in lots of design. Things can get very serious and overbearing, and I think at turbulent times like these, I want to create desirable, gorgeous, non-confrontational, useful objects. Basically, just really nice objects to have! And they've got a certain timelessness to them too. They're always going to be appealing when you're in the mood for one of those fun pieces. Something to lift the misery when it’s all too much. And without the need for a manual to operate them. I can't bear complicated bags and accessories like that, it’s just not my thing.’
So how did you come up with the concept of the collection?
‘I thought about what this collection could be, and how it could come to life, and I decided to go with 'Aspinal through my eyes' as a starting point. I love what they have in respect of their heritage of shapes, their structured hat boxes, trunks and the gifting, all of those elements that are really unique to them, and I didn't want to go in with a whole load of new shapes. It’s not a reinvention of their work, it’s just about putting my stamp on the existing pieces and giving them a Giles twist.'
'Being a prolific illustrator, I thought it would be the perfect place to create some Giles/Aspinal, globally-inclusive, cosmopolitan girls and women and get them wearing and carrying my designs. The design process for me always begins with the character – it’s who’s going to be wearing the piece and where she’s going. These are quintessential English girls, zooming around and having a good time in their frocks. They love the town and the countryside, they love fashion, quality and a bit of quintessentially English playfulness.’
Who are the Aspinal girls based upon?
‘They’re are based on a whole host of people, not one person in particular. They're friends of mine, private clients of mine; not from a visual perspective specifically, more like characteristics I’ve tapped into. So some like to dress a little bit more uptight, prim and tai!ored; others in a more eclectic way. Each of the girls has a sense of playfulness and fun and whimsy; some historical, some real - a whole mix of things. They were really good fun to draw. They’re full of life, and that's the way I wanted it to be. I love that kind of emotiveness. I think that's one thing I really try to get across in my design work; to get that intuitiveness, that pit-of-the-stomach thing thing that makes you just love it so much. You don't need that over-analytical thought process to get it. You either love it or you don't.’
What's your favorite piece from the collection?
‘Today its fluctuating between the all-over printed trunk and the moiré hatboxes which I love, because normally that would be something that we would do in silk. But we got this tannery to emboss moiré on the leather and then in the metallics, which I think has come out really beautifully. And they have proved to be very popular…one of our best sellers in fact. They are such a classic Aspinal shape as well, and to have the chance to do them in such different fabrications and materials was really nice.’
And the heritage factor of these pieces is dreamy….
‘Can you imagine if you got one handed down to you? You’d be over the moon, wouldn't you?’
The festive part of the collection is also a lovely touch..
‘The Christmas crackers? They’re just divine, aren’t they? I was like ‘200 pounds for a box of crackers?’ But I was then told that's very reasonable, which, upon further investigation into the luxury cracker world, is actually very true! I was obviously a cheapskate in my house when it came to crackers. But these are very much worth the price tag, with the beautiful print on the wrap on the outside, a very good ‘bang’, and a nice, timeless joke inside it, which I didn't write, incidentally. But we discussed what era they should come from. And we decided they should be more like quips than jokes. A bit Noel Coward-esque. And then inside each cracker is, without giving it away, is a lovely tan luggage tag with different motifs on. So we have a playing card, an illustration of one of the handbags, a whole host of very beautiful things. So if you win when you are pulling the cracker at lunch, you get an extra Christmas treat. Oh, and they have very nice gold crowns in there for your paper hat. All in all, it makes for a very glam cracker indeed.’
Your work obviously had a big impact upon the brand, because you are now Aspinal of London’s Design Director...
‘Yes, I've been invited on board, which is super! We'd been working through everything this year, and then Iain suggested doing a more permanent role, and I said ‘Yes! I think Design Director would be very good!’ Maria is a very wonderful and able Creative Director, brand ambassador and knowledgeable handbag maker, so I knew, even considering my existing commitments with my own business, that the role would be manageable and something I could do that would really add value to the brand.’
So what’s next for you at Aspinal of London?
‘We have a new collection coming out in February, and then I'm overseeing the existing collection and working on pieces personally, which will be launched in February and available in May, around cruise time. Another capsule follows on from this one, but has its own identity, which is all looking lovely. Then we’re just working flat out for September on things like fabrics and skins, and hardware, you name it. It’s all go!’