Monday, 20 July 2009

Turning real women into goddesses for 15 years

It's July and Fashionista is in holiday mood, enjoying the long days, warm summer evenings, al fresco dining, and the height of "wedding season". What better time to wear a floaty flattering summer dress, and who better to design such a dress than Maria Grachvogel, who this year celebrates the 15th anniversary of her brand.

Adored by fashionistas everywhere (of both the "celebrity" and the "fabulous in her own right" variety), Maria Grachvogel's designs - at once classic but original - are sure to stand the test of time. The brand was established in 1994, and since its first showing at London Fashion Week in 1995, has gone from strength to strength.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary, Maria Grachvogel is launching a limited edition collection called 15 Pieces in November, signed and sold with a certificate of validation, based on Maria's favourite pieces from the last 15 years. Readers will know that Fashionista has gone green and applauds fashion houses and designers who care for the environment and who give something back. Fashionista was delighted to hear that Maria Grachvogel falls firmly in this camp, and that a proportion of the sale profits from each 15th Anniversary Collection piece will be donated to ActionAid to support women in Kenya - a project Maria has dedicated much time and energy to support. Maria has separately designed a t-shirt for PoverTee Day to further support ActionAid, adapting a print from the new season's collection: so not only is it spot-on-trend, but it is for a good cause - what better reason to shop? Fashionista also has inside word that 15 Pieces will be modelled by high profile celebrities, photographed by high profile photographers...but that's all she can say for now!

For the Fashionista-at-Law Birthday Q&A, Fashionista was lucky enough to speak with Catherine Thomas, Commercial Director at Maria Grachvogel, who explained:

(1) What is the MARIA GRACHVOGEL brand?

Maria Grachvogel is synonymous with creative luxury. Her hand printed fabrics and elegant tailoring, timeless daywear and couture collection flatter the female form using precision cutting and beautiful textures. Maria designs for real women, to make every woman feel like a goddess. From the cut of the fabric, to the way staff are trained to treat customers in store: the Maria Grachvogel brand is all about the goddess experience. The brand ethos: "turning real women into goddesses".

(2) Who is the MARIA GRACHVOGEL customer and how has she changed over the years?

She is every woman: young; old; local; international; celebrity; busy juggling families, businesses and hectic social lives. She is the lady looking for the perfect pair of trousers, dubbed the "Magic Pants", or a unique print or a personalised service which many luxury brands simply do not offer. What they all share is an appreciation of elegant timeless pieces that make a real difference to their wardrobe, and how they feel about themselves. How many stores can you go into and say "I would like that dress in a different colour please", or with sleeves, or a different length, and have it customised for you? Provided that Maria agrees and is happy to put her name to the customised design, she is happy to work with her customers to create their ideal outfit - approximately 50% of our business is for special orders.

(3) What inspires MARIA GRACHVOGEL - the designer and the brand?

To a large extent, her experiences. Maria uniquely hand paints a limited number of prints which she then translates onto garments - each size requiring a new print to ensure that it fits the garment perfectly. Maria created the beautiful Meteor print (shown above on the Meteor dress) after a holiday in Arizona, during which they spent a night in an observatory, looking up at the stars through a telescope and photographing what she saw. Maria then interpreted one of her photographs into a digital screen painting, and the Meteor print was born. It is experiences and influences such as this which make Maria's brand and designs so personal, distinctive and unique.

(4) What does the future hold for the brand?

We are very excited to be showing at New York Fashion Week later this year. This is a big development - and a natural progression - for the brand, and goes hand in hand with our launch in the US. We already have stores in Greece, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the UK, and are furthering our international presence by expanding into the Middle East due to demand from clients who want the goddess experience on their doorstop and not just in London.

New categories will include handbags and shoes, fragrances and gifts, lingerie and eyewear. We are also re-launching bridal wear, and the future is likely to see the creation of an online store - although this doesn't compare to the experience of coming in store and playing dress up with the clothes. The clothes are such beautiful creations, and the cut and feel is so wonderful. You can't recreate the enjoyment of trying on clothes and living the goddess experience without entering the store.

Fashionista wishes a very warm 15th birthday to the Maria Grachvogel brand - which is only 1 year older than Maria was when she took her first collection to London Fashion Week to show to journalists and designers. Bought in 2000, this particular Fashionista still has her stunning Maria Grachvogel taupe bias-cut dress, which is as current today as it was then and does exactly what it was intended to do. For the hours Fashionista is wearing her Maria Grachvogel dress, she certainly feels less "real woman" and much more of a "goddess"...