One of the many things I miss about working at House & Garden is going into Vogue House; although I never felt glamorous walking through those doors (dungarees five days a week won't help), what always gave me a little pep were the people you shared the lift with. I simply adored seeing the men and women who understood fashion step their well-clad foot in that lift. They never shone with labels, but you could tell by the cut of their jacket or a smart turn on their trousers that the items weren't from Topshop. No one gave me more joy than this week's Tete a Tat, Lucinda Chambers.
Lucinda Chambers has one hell of a CV, but I want to start a bit further back as ever. She grew up in West London, brought up by her mother Anne. Anne was the sole breadwinner and funded the family by flipping houses. As Lucinda puts it, Anne was 'Literally doing them up – I mean, physically. My mother could knock down walls and rebuild them. [When I was] a child, we moved every 18 months. Although always on page 58 of the A-Z.' The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. By the time Lucinda was 13, she was grafting and helping her mother bring money in. The two of them would find ways to make sure the family looked their best: 'We would go to Harrods, and I would try everything on, and she would have a tape measure in her pocket, then we'd go home, and she would make me a snakeskin tunic.' When Lucinda was 18, she decided to become a secretary but quickly realised the considerable cost of secretarial school and had to re-think. There were very generous grants for going to art school, so Lucinda and her mother both enrolled to art school. Lucinda went to Hornsey and Anne became a specialist in Decorative Paper, writing ten books for Thames & Hudson.
Lucinda soon realised Hornsey wasn't for her. She did not want to be an artist. But one thing she did discover was the perspex room. Here she made jewellery which she began to sell, and to her amazement it sold pretty well. One pair of earrings got into a magazine, and that for Lucinda was a lightbulb moment. She left art college, bought a Black & Decker and made it on her own. We know the story doesn't end there, although I can imagine Lucinda would now be one of the top jewellery designers in the UK. Instead, it opened up her eyes to the world of fashion, with jobs following at Topshop and preparing costumes at the Edinburgh Fringe. She also had to take the occasional office job to make additional money. In fact, she was working at the rubbish department in Paddington when she called Vogue to see if they had any jobs going.
Off she went to have a meeting with the head of HR. During the interview, Lucinda was asked who she knew at the magazine, a prerequisite at the time. Lucinda's answer was 'no one'. This would usually be a black mark; but the interviewer liked Lucinda and told her to go away and learn to type. Three weeks later, Lucinda could type and got the job as assistant to the lady who dealt with Vogue's expenses. This was the start of Lucinda's 36-year career at Vogue, where she has since worked with the biggest names in the industry; Marni, Prada, Chanel, not to mention the countless celebrities and models she has styled. Her styling is iconic and creates a fantasy around the pieces. As she so smoothly puts it, it is 'a story I want to tell not a dress that I want to sell', which is oh so important for those of us reading the magazine. We may not be able to afford the pieces on the page, but as long as they inspire and delight in the narrative and photography, then we can all garner something from it. Since her departure in 2017, she has kept herself incredibly busy. In 2018 she set up a clothing brand, Colville with Molly Molloy (previously Design Director at Marni). As they put it, 'Colville is the antithesis of fast fashion: our passion lies in designing clothes that have individuality and longevity, that appeal to the eye, to the imagination, to the conscience and to the heart.' If that wasn't enough, 2019 saw the launch of Collagerie, a company she started with Serena Hood (previously executive fashion editor for Vogue). It is an online platform that helps one ''buy less, buy better' by cutting the fat off all that's available on the internet, and offering an editors' edit of the best things to buy now'. It has helped me add several things to my wardrobe, my favourite being an electric blue mac which I love dearly and gets me a compliment every time it is worn. I can't thank Lucinda enough for doing this. It's a real treat, and my dungaree-wearing lift self is doing a little jig.
Favourite Tube Stop/ Line?
I like Hammersmith and City, because it's often above ground and it takes me to Portobello Road.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I definitely believe in presence of ‘others’, and spirits, yes for sure. What form they take I think can be really varied, often depending on how receptive one is, keeping an open mind.
I’m a huge reader and very catholic in my tastes which means I like to read a lot and by many. But basically anything from David Sedaris and Ben McIntyre…I’m always in the queue for them, willing them to write just one more!
What is your favourite day of the week?
I do love a Saturday
Do you like poetry?
I’m just starting to dip into poetry, mostly because Simon, my husband is reading a lot of it and I’m always curious about what he’s curious about. But also, because when I do, I love it, and it makes sense.
I think I would say our farmhouse in France. Near Toulouse. It’s where family and friends come to stay the most. I can really switch off and just swim and fiddle around with stuff.
Any good advice? Who gave it to you?
Try things Out…my mother and also, she used to say, tell me what they boast of and I will tell you what they are afraid of, it works every time. Scarily telling.
Best Moment in your career so far?
There has been quite a few where it's been a pinch-me moment, for which I feel incredibly grateful. It was everything from my first Balenciaga show to building scarecrows with Jack Davison to starting Collagerie. And when Natalie Kingham said she would buy Colville for Matches…I mean, really really lucky.
What would your autobiography be called?
Hold on, I haven’t finished
Huge thank you to Lucinda - To Follow Her Click Here!