LF Markey

We caught up with women’s luxury work wear designer LF Markey, who is also one of our lovely neighbours here at Hackney Downs Studios. Providing staple items for the workingwoman for several years now, Louise Markey is known for being able to create staple pieces that are elegant as well as practical.

We talk about her SS15 collection, surfing inspirations and how photo shoots seem to arise when you’re least prepared for them…

So how long has the LF Markey brand been about?

It has been around for, it’s been around since I did my MA at Saint Martins actually. I graduated, I can never remember, I think 2008 or maybe 2007. One of those two. (We checked, it’s 2007). But I was doing like catwalk-y stuff and fashion stuff for a while after that and I was consulting for other labels as well. So I’ve kind of only been doing a sales collection for the last, this is third season. So SS14 was my first proper sales season. I was doing some shirts, work shirts, before that. But this is a full collection.

Like the Oscar style shirt…

Exactly. That and the long sleeve version called Thomas.

Yeah. So you define the brand as practical and elegant. When you are designing items, how do you embody the two in what you’re designing?

I kind of go with shapes that are, well like clothes that I want to wear now in terms of the volume. For example now big culottes, and now I could work that into what I do. But then I’d layer on top of that a real work wear aesthetic. So utility pockets and the fabrications would be maybe silks or something really fluid so it’s like a hybrid.

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So structurally smart but also making it graceful.

Exactly!

Is there a reason you made the Oscar shirt, could you see a gap in the market for it?

I guess so. I like to dress in work wear clothing. I always dress like that. But you can buy that stuff vintage so there’s no real demand. And there are brands that are doing that. So what I do is like a dressed up version of that, a ladylike version of the same look.

When I was having a look, I loved the Lawrence skirt! And obviously it’s quite a traditional style. But is there anything you would always do to a piece that makes it an LF Markey piece? Like putting your own staple on it.

It would be hardwearing utility pockets and things like that, I quite often put on to something more luxurious, or evening. Or go the other way and take something that is quite work wear esque and maybe put it in a crazy print. Like big mental prints, I might put that back on. And sometimes, to be honest, there’s pieces in there which are just a bit of a wild card.

Something unpredictable! And is there any other designers or artists that you take inspiration from?

Not so much that I take inspiration from, brands I think I would sit along side are for example APC, Margaret Howell and on the upper end of it maybe Stella McCartney. That’s my kind of scene I guess. I think I take more inspiration from the street, like what I see. A lot of Australian surf graphics from the 80s at the minute. It always changes!

When I first left my BA I worked in Mambo, it’s like a surf company. So I think that’s having resurgence.

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Coming back around! Is that what these pieces of art are from? (Referring to pictures pinned up around her studio).

Actually that big dog up there is taken from a 1980s surf fanzine. So I’ve just been looking at loads of those kinds of things.

What about music? Do you take any inspiration from music?

Not as much. Well maybe not directly. I do listen to a lot of music. But I just pinch my boyfriend’s music. He’s got a good ear for it.

Are there any musicians, or other people that you would love to see wearing your designs?

Oh that’s a good question. No one springs to mind.

I know if I ever designed anything, it would always be Alexa Chung…

Yeah. I can’t think of anyone specific who’s a complete muse for it, no. But yeah, people like Alexa Chung and Tilda Swinton.

Did you catch much of London Fashion Week?

Unfortunately no, this is a very busy time for me so I’ll go back and have a look what went on.

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When does your SS15 collection hit the stores?

It’s just here actually; it’s just being sold. So this will be in store in January.

What is the key theme throughout?

So basically, I was inspired by Mexican tourist jackets. You know those embroidered crazy tourist jackets so I did my own version which is completely bonkers.

At which point Louise pulls a creamy coloured jacket off the rail with loads of random patches and pom poms that is an attention grabber to say the least. It’s also beautiful…

So I did sweater versions of those as well. And a dress. So really 90s slip dress style. Then there’s surfer prints. And I always have the basics, these work wear bit and bobs. Tencel denim from the 90s. loads of 90s stuff actually!

Yeah it’s made a bit of a revival hasn’t it?

Yeah. I’ve also got these tees, kind of mystic faux spirituality prints.

Is there anything you have planned for the brand in the distant future? Like, where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I would like to be possibly opening a store. Possibly.

Where would your dream store be?

In London. Probably around the East somewhere I would say. But I’d like to see it wholesale as well as internationally.

Dreaming big!

Words: Eliza Frost

Photography: Ellie Smith