LUCIE / CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF LUCIE HALLEY / SOUTH WALES UK
Meet Lucie. She’s a talented designer who moved to the US with nothing but a portfolio and a dream. Fast-forward and she’s killing it in the corporate world and somehow making time to launch the high-end, unisex Lucie Halley collection that puts sustainability first. Lucie is honest, fearless, and has fought hard for her success often without resources and emotional support while maintaining a contagious humility and grace. So keep your eyes open, folks, Lucie is Blooming!
How will you Bloom in the next year?
My new collection has just been shot, and the look book is currently being printed. I can’t tell you the excitement of seeing my collection finally being photographed! In the next year I will Bloom by showing my lookbook to buyers, and the dream is to have my collection sold at Barney’s. I want my online store, which is currently selling my diffusion line, to bloom and I want it to get more exposure in America. I also want to find an investor and to be able to give more time to my business.
What do you mean by “diffusion line”?
At university I was always interested in printmaking, I focused every project around the digital prints I would make using my photographs and playing with them on the computer. I was always inspired by natural, random patterns, I had a really moldy bathroom in my apartment at the time and I wouldn’t let anyone clean it because I was so inspired by all of the different patterns. I would turn these moldy patterns into prints and designed my final year collection around them, but digital printing was expensive and I didn't have any money. My parents didn't have any money. I realized that I couldn't do the collection I had planned because of that.
My year group [in university] was full of students whose parents were investing anything up to twenty grand on helping them launch their final collections. I couldn't afford any of it. I literally could not do what I wanted to do so I started to dye my own fabric to try and copy the prints that I had been designing on the computer. I would chuck salt, leave fabric out in the rain, I even used metal spoons and attacked the fabric—I did anything I could to achieve this look. It turned out that what I was organically creating out of this was way better then any digital print I could have ever created. The prints were real, they were unique one off paintings which I had created myself, no moldy bathroom needed.
My final collection mixed new bold, clean silhouettes with these dirty raw prints. My collection made it to Graduate Fashion week in London, walked the runway, and I received fantastic press coverage. As a thank you to my boyfriend at the time who shot my lookbook, I dyed him his very own T-shirt, using my now trademarked technique of spoon throwing mixed with rain dancing. I started to dye more, even branching out into sweatshirts and hoodies. Through Facebook likes and shares, I soon had random people requesting to purchase my designs. Suddenly I started having interviews with magazines and having my items shot for magazine stories. So I call this collection a diffusion line because I diffused it from my first, original final exam runway show.
I want these prints to become known as “Lucie Halley” prints. A dream of mine would to one day to collaborate with brands like Adidas originals, mixing my prints with shoes and sportswear. I have a few collaborations in the pipeline so we will see where this goes!
I really want people to understand when they see the line, that it is not just that I’ve dyed a t-shirt. I’m sourcing beautiful fabrics and using organic cottons. I want this line to be Earth-friendly. Sustainability is huge to me. There is no point in creating a new business if it’s not going to be good for the environment. I am a big believer in global warming and that we need to be living our lives differently because of it. I want people to see this as a big deal. I don’t want to make money and then have bad chemicals, bad cottons, and bad labor. I want it to be a thing. I want people to see my organic pieces and think that it’s cool! People think of organic clothing as very plain, simple, not really much going on. I want people to understand that organic clothing can be beautiful and high fashion.
Now I’m focused on my new collection. I want it to be bought and loved but more than anything, I want people to “get it.” These are staple pieces that I want to keep running continuously from season to season. I want people to see my silhouettes and know who made it. Cutting patterns and designing pieces in a way that no one has seen before is exciting to me. I want people to see my product and say, “Oh, that’s a Lucie Halley sweatshirt because of the cut.” Further, since it is a unisex line, I want men and women to be able to share and swap the pieces with one another. I want to take down any boundaries that are associated with gender being a label of what you can wear.
How did you get into fashion?
If you want to go way back, I was really bad at school. I was uncomfortably bad. I was the naughty girl and my aim every day was to get kicked out of class. I wanted to get in trouble every day. I was so rebellious. I loved skipping class. School was just my giant playground. I was really good at home and good to my mother but when I went to school, I was able to let out my anger that I didn't want to let out at home.
I was also really dyslexic and had no idea. I wasn’t being given the right schooling because I needed to be learning in a different way and this contributed to my frustration which resulted in rebelling. My home life had so much drama and I wanted to be away from home all the time. I would always be out of the streets or at friends’ houses. My family had no money. So I was 13 and I had this job that I would work every night after school and weekends because I couldn’t ask for money. If I needed schoolbooks, a coat, or shoes, it was up to me because my family didn’t have anything and I didn't like to ask. So school was just a joke; the rules felt so far from what real life was really about. I felt like it would never get me anywhere.
Eventually, rather than me sitting outside the principal’s office everyday, as I was banned from classes, my school put me in a program…I guess for the “troubled kids”. It really helped me. I calmed down. I had adults talking to me in an adult way and they helped me to start talking about some of the things that were happening at home. I owe a lot to the two women in that program because it made me start to work my ass off so that I could get the grades to get out of Wales.
My mom was an artist. I was brought up in this creative environment and if I wanted to paint, sew, or dye anything, she was very supportive because she was amazing at it and she wanted to help me. I thought photography would be what I wanted to study after school but then someone told me that I needed to come from a rich family to do photography because you have to invest in a lot of cameras. So I was instantly like, “Well that’s out the window, what else can I do?!” [laughs] It’s ridiculous that that’s what changed my decision.
I got into an art and design program across the bridge in England, this program touched on all aspects of art including fashion. I found that fashion combined drawing, photography, 3D design, sculpture, color, and everything that I loved about art. It was the first time I’d ever thought about clothes because growing up, I was on hand-me-downs from my brother and sister. I never had new sneakers…it wasn’t a thing for me. My friends would be like, “Have you seen the new Adidas trainers?” and I was like, “No! I’m wearing my brother’s shoes.” [laughs] I never had the luxury of the interest in fashion, but it turns out that I was bloody good at it and had a real natural talent.
So I entered the field purely for the creative and artistic side. To this day, looking at the new Chanel bags never interests me and I don’t think it ever will. I’m doing this because it’s my art. So when it came time to go to Uni, I really gravitated towards Kingston. The vibe was right. I felt like I could start painting in the hallway and it would be okay. I just loved it. It felt like home. That’s kind of how I did it.
Tell me about an obstacle that you’ve overcome personally and professionally.
Personally? It would be that coming from no money makes everything really hard. When I was at Kingston, it felt like I was surrounded by these wealthy kids and for the first year, I was convinced that I wasn’t supposed to be there even though I was doing a good job at my work. I felt like I could never be anything. These kids had this “I can do anything” attitude and it came from the money difference. I didn’t feel like a normal kid. At college I was working all the time. I worked so much just to afford to get to school that I was getting in trouble constantly. My college was mad that I was late because I was at work and my work was mad that I was late because I was at school. I could never balance the two. I was like, “Why am I always having to work and sacrifice?” I felt like I had to work ten times harder. Of course, you never know what anyone else is actually going through but for me it felt like I was always fighting to stay above ground.
In my final year at Uni, it was the same. I had 900 pounds to make an entire collection of 6 looks including shoes. Kingston pushed us to get the collection professionally made so that the presentation was at a professional standard which was another added cost. I don’t know how many emails and letters I sent, but I wrote my life story to everyone I could think of to see if I could get a sponsorship. I was so open about my background and what I wanted to do. It was horrible. I didn’t want people to know that I wasn’t “of the standard”, if you know what I mean. I wanted to fake it but I couldn’t. I had to be brutally honest with everyone and with myself that I needed help.
I exhausted myself but this one woman at Burberry heard about me and wrote back. She was so wonderful and sweet and willing to do anything to try and help me. She put me in touch with a charity where Burberry sends all of their unused fabric and while I didn’t get financed, I got even better, I got to go to this wonderful supply warehouse and pick fabric. I got white cotton to dye and create my prints. I got leather. I crafted my collection around this amazing warehouse of scraps.
I made most of the garments myself and if I didn’t know how to do something, I would teach myself so I could make as much of it as I could. I learned how to use a leather machine so I could make shoes. I was really thrifty and it came out amazing. I wouldn’t redo it in any way
Professionally? It’s hard to get a job after university. The industry is flooded with hungry students looking for work, especially in London. I had been working on my own brand, which at this point was my only source of income, whilst looking for work in London. In my first year at college I went on a trip to New York and since then, I had told myself and anybody else who would listen that I was going to be a fashion designer in New York City one day.
This dream only got louder as I looked for work in London…so I literally spent my last bit of money on a plane ticket to NYC. I brought my portfolio with me, did couch surfing and stayed in a broom closet in a stranger’s apartment. I knocked on doors until someone would see me, which they ultimately did, and I was offered a job designing womenswear for a large fashion house on the spot. Within a few months I moved over [to NYC] and I haven't looked back since. I literally went out a grabbed my dream by the balls. That was pretty fucking cool.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business?
You have to be really hungry. In whatever you want to do, whether it’s corporate design or creating your own business, you must be hungry. You must accept that the hunger will take over everything. There are so many things that I have sacrificed to stay working. If you don’t have that drive, you’ll lose out and get depressed. You can’t think that any of this is easy. My advice is to work your ass off and stay true to what you want to do.
You have to be strong. Be wise, be hungry, and be nice!
People say that you have to be mean or bitchy to work in fashion. That’s not true. Be nice, honest and respectful.
Do you describe yourself as a feminist? If yes, from where do you get your feminist values?
I was having an argument with someone about this a few months ago. What it boils down to is that I believe that I am equal and I can do whatever I want to do. My mom has always said that the rules have never applied to me. If someone says, “Don’t sit there.” I’ll sit there. If a feminist is feeling like you’re equal to men and feeling like you can be whatever the fuck you want, then fuck yeah! Yeah I am a feminist!
I believe in empowering the women around me and I surround myself with women who do the same. There this idea that feminism as a word is somehow, I don't know, anti-man. I don't see it as anti-man, I am pro-man, men are fantastic, strong creatures, and so are we. I have so many wonderful and inspiring women and men in my life.
What is your best lesson from your mom?
To be fearless. It’s funny that I say that because my mom always tells me that I’m so much more fearless than her but growing up, I saw this Woman. I saw this strong woman. She was sexy, beautiful, strong, independent, and she didn’t need anyone to help her. She raised three kids. She took us from homeless to housed in two weeks all on her own. She made the most out of what we had and always kept her ability to believe in better and most importantly she kept her humor.
From seeing that, I’ve taken it and I’ve become what I thought she was. I, of course, now know how hard it was for her and how scary times were but she gave me this example and now I can be fearless. People who meet me say that they don’t think I’m scared of anything. Frankly, I don’t think I am, or if I am, I don't let it stop me. And I know it’s from her. So be fearless.
Lastly, what do you want to be remembered for?
To have an inspiring fashion label to continue as my legacy. And I want people to remember me for my humor and fearlessness.