With a passion for designing Clothes that are unique, creative, beautifully created & have longevity, Colville founders Lucinda Chambers & Molly Molloy are true visionaries. After forging their own careers in fashion, Lucinda & Molly established Colville in 2018 determined to consciously create forever pieces for the modern woman that are fun & bold while also collaborating with local artisans & craftspeople, fusing traditional techniques with new & innovative ideas. X Files speak with the co-founders about their successful careers, pursuing careers in Fashion, the Colville aesthetic, collaborations & sustainability & of course, what is next for the aspiring duo.
Please explain your career journeys.
Lucinda: I started in fashion by making jewellery when I was at art college and selling it on a stall in Camden Market. A pair of earrings worked their way into a magazine and that's when I was hooked....I went on to work at Vogue becoming Fashion Director for 25 years. Along the way I worked for many years at Prada and then Marni.
Molly: I studied at Saint Martins in the 90’s and from there went on to work with Bella Freud and Betty Jackson in London. Lucinda called me for an interview at Marni in 2005, I then spent 12 years working alongside her and Consuelo as Design Director. I co-founded a magazine in 2012 called Parterre de Rois, this introduced me to the art world and gave me an insight into running a business.
What led you to pursue careers in Fashion?
Lucinda: I think fashion pretty much encompasses everything that I'm passionate about. Photography, textiles, prints, colour, travel, cinema and people. It's a wonderful and varied world where so many things can converge and collaborate. No day is the same and that is a real privilege.
Molly: At art school I couldn’t decide between studying sculpture or fashion, I was equally interested in both but in the end my clothes obsession won. I also fell in love with the idea of going to Saint Martins and studying in the heart of London.
How have your career backgrounds influenced the direction of Colville?
Lucinda: What is really great is making real friendships and connections along the way. One of those really important ones was to meet Molly. We worked together very happily and successfully at Marni for many years. We have different tastes and are very different ages (Molly being much younger than me!) but in the important things, ie the way we interact with people, the approach to fashion and our passions we are extremely similar; and I think that's not only rare but it also provides real encouragement when it comes to designing or producing products for Colville. I think we make each other more daring, braver and bolder. It's great to have a partner that always makes you that bit stronger!
Molly: I would say fundamentally, the small business’s I worked in in London, gave me an insight into how a fashion business is run, I learnt things then that I am still using today. Working in Italy for so many years also introduced us to incredible suppliers, craftspeople and the skills that exist in Italy. It’s the reason why we set up the office here so we could stay close to the people we’d worked with and the relationships we have built for so many years.
Where did the name Colville originate from?
Lucinda: Molly came up with the name and as soon as she said it, it felt absolutely right. On a personal level it resonated as I live very much in that area of London, and for Molly I think it came from a period in art that she finds greatly inspiring, Hockney, Ossie Clark and the world that they inhabited.
Molly: Colville came from the terrace in London’s Notting Hill. David Hockney used to hang out there in the 70’s we loved the connotations it holds. We also loved the way the name looked, and it didn’t sound either masculine or feminine.
Pictured: Molly & Lucinda
Please explain your differing roles as founders.
Lucinda: We do very different things, Molly is absolutely the driving force of Colville as it is based in Milan and I am in London, and Molly is also Creative Director. I am there, as I would say, her wing man. Always talking everything through, making decisions together and putting through projects that we can shoot, products that we can make and working together on collaborations. We are each other's sounding boards. I think it must be quite lonely to head up a company alone, one of the things that is important to both of us is that Colville is bigger than either of us. It's a world and a brand that lives beyond us, it's made up of people and elements that come together in this very cohesive and dynamic way. We know exactly what we mean when we say 'This is really Colville'.
Molly: I’m in the office every day with the team, coordinating all the collections and projects we have. All the big creative decisions Lucinda and I make together, we are in daily contact on WhatsApp and Zoom. Lucinda will come over several times during the season for creative days which are absolute fun and heaven!
Parlour X is very excited to be launching Colville exclusively in Australia. Can you please explain the importance of expanding Colville internationally & why is Australia an important market?
Lucinda: Australia is such an exciting market and one of the places that is on our bucket list to visit! Both in terms of fashion and homeware, both seem to take centre stage equally in Australia. As a continent, it has always been so outward looking, so ready to embrace and develop outsiders' creativity whilst having such a strong visual language of its own. Tell us when we are able to visit and we will make a plan!
Molly: We are really excited to be launching in your establishment, Parlour X has been on our radar since we started Colville so we feel really privileged to be with you. Launching internationally and opening distribution within new areas, is our natural next steps. We want to address many different women in many different countries, it’s also exciting for Lucinda and I to understand and work with other climates and various customers while maintaining the right brand image and ethos we curated, along and in partnership with top designer stores globally.
Describe Colville’s Aesthetic.
Lucinda: Colville is first of all about innovative design. It's for a woman who is confident, embraces change, loves colour and wears clothes that expresses something very fundamental about herself. She has spirit and is independent. Colville is vibrant, full of surprises. From the textures to the cut of a dress to the weave of a bag, everything is made with an open mind and with the utmost care. And is both life enhancing and life affirming.
Molly: Our aesthetic is eclectic, and we mix up all our skills and passions and wardrobes all in one collection, so you get a vibrancy and a uniqueness, we all dress very differently from each other. What we end up with is a great mix that addresses many different women.
Explain the importance of sustainability for Colville & elaborate on key approaches. Where do you source & produce each collection?
Lucinda: Sustainability has been a huge part of Colville from the start and it has been really wonderful to see how this has grown and is a vital part of the business and influences all the decisions that we make, both day to day and season to season. From the fabrics we choose to the women's groups we support, to the artisans we discover and champion, sustainability and social projects are at the very heart of Colville.
One of the first things that we upcycled were 80's shell suits. We made them into very beautiful sleeves that could be worn over t shirts to evening dress. They were a brilliant start for us and it has continued to expand.
The main part of the collection is made in Italy in family run factories that really care about the quality and fit. Other parts of the collection are made with partners around the world, supporting and championing villages from Dakar to Mexico. This is also a vital and growing part of Colville and one which we enjoy very much.
Molly: We take sustainability seriously and aim in every decision we make to be as sustainable as possible. We cannot as a young brand ignore the effects that the fashion industry has on the planet. Everything is made in Italy at historic factories that we know and trust to work in a fair-trade way. All our fabrics are sourced and printed in Italy, we also work with artisans in Colombia, Mexico and Turkey, supporting communities by keeping dying crafts alive and at the same time giving them an income.
We are also committed to upcycling, in each collection you will find several repurposed pieces, AW21 has upcycled puffer jackets reworked to make patch work gilets which we love.
Pictured: Colville Arts & Crafts Polo Dress from Parlour X.
You have collaborated with some fantastic artists & creators on various Colville collections. Can you elaborate on the importance of collaboration for Colville?
Lucinda: This leads us on. Molly and I love meeting people who have a point of view, a way of making things, techniques we didn't know about, this is all part of the excitement and what keeps us driving forward. Also, we shout out our collaborators, from Valeria who makes our jewellery to Mateo who designs our shoes, to Danny who has been designing with us from the beginning. In this way Colville feels like a very modern collective. Like minded people coming together to create something beautiful and special. And that can come from anywhere, if you keep an open mind and have your eyes wide open as well, people and collaborators come into your life!
Molly: We love to collaborate! The collection isn’t just about Lucinda and I, we have a fabulous team around us who’s contribution is equally as important as ours. Collaboration is what makes Colville, we spoke about a community, a collective from the very beginning and being able to give a shout out to the people we work with. It’s what keeps and what will keep Colville fresh and relevant, we include a mix of tastes, cultures and experiences in each collection.
How do you continue to creatively evolve?
Lucinda: I think creativity is quite restless. That doesn't mean it's dissatisfied it's just that as Diana Vreeland said "the eye has to travel". And this means you are constantly dreaming and thinking up things that you want to create. It can be from a bed, to skirt, to a lamp. Nothing is beyond us and everything interests us. The challenge to keep moving and evolving is not tricky for us, it's how to reign it in most of the time!
Molly: As we grow, we are honing our craft, we are really getting to know our customer and how we can evolve with them, also growing enables us to experiment more. We were restricted at the beginning as we were on a super tight budget which was also an interesting way to work after being in a big luxury company for many years. However now we have a bit more flexibility so we can try a few more things out, develop our own fabrics and allow ourselves a few more mistakes along the way which is what will keep Colville evolving.
What is the inspiration around the launching AW21 Collection at Parlour X?
Lucinda: AW21 felt like a real shift for us. We were bolder with shapes, but we also challenged ourselves to make simpler things, that could stand alone. The colours, from the stripes to the modern flower felt very impactful. Clothes that are made to last and also that you fall in love with. It feels like a very vibrant and confident collection. And Parlour X feels like this too. When we were taking a deep dive into what we could do for a pop up, we were so inspired by the look and feel of your shop we immediately wanted to do a magical installation!
Molly: We really wanted to work with a local artist and create a strong vibrant window. We came across the art director Marsha Golemac who is based in Australia, we had our first brainstorm with her and she totally got us and where we were coming from. It’s going to be exciting to see what she comes up with!
Pictured: Molly Molloy & Lucinda Chambers
What role does Social Media play in Colville’s Identity? How do you think Social Media has affected the way we consume & respond to fashion?
Lucinda: Social media is a wonderful tool. Both for connectivity and but also for giving our customers and clients a snapshot of what Colville is about. It's a way of engaging with people that's so immediate, spontaneous and impactful. Also, particularly so during this pandemic. One of the first things we did (without much forethought!) when Covid struck, was to reach out 'Calling All Knitters'. We asked everyone if they could knit a square for us, to make into a huge blanket, which we would then auction for a women's charity in Milan. The result was incredible. We had squares from all around the world including Australia! We were able to make 5 beautiful blankets, works of art, and auctioned by Sotheby's. So that's the power of social media for good. Used in the right way, to communicate and share ideas, it's a brilliant way to cut through and express these, as well as championing all the artists and people we work with, passing on their talents and hard work.
Molly: Lucinda and I have been very careful about growing our social media platforms and how we use them to communicate our ethics and design philosophy but also sell products in a subtle way. It’s been an important tool for us, we both enjoy creating content and Lucinda working with photographers and set designers that inspire her, it’s a digital magazine dedicated to Colville.
What’s interesting is the consumers have become contributors, they are involved and responsive which gives us first-hand experience into who’s buying and how they consume. The broad section of women and men that buy Colville is inspiring and I love being surprised by who’s buying what.
How would you describe the Colville woman?
Lucinda: As I said the Colville woman is strong and independent. But what I love about Colville is that the woman can be many things and at different times. It can be chic and simple, just the cut of a coat or drape of the dress saying it all quietly and effortlessly. But the Colville woman can also be noisy and vibrant and idiosyncratic. You can very much make it your own. And individual. I think the Colville woman likes to try things out a little, push herself and her style, being a little fearless. The Colville customer also really appreciates and knows the importance of quality. In the fabrics and in the make, quality is key to Colville.
Molly: Our customer is all of us, she’s someone who loves clothes and design, and dresses for herself or himself as we have men buying Colville too.
Please detail your personal styles. Has this influenced the aesthetic of Colville?
Lucinda: I like to change things up. Sometimes I want a uniform, mine is very norm-core. I love a huge pair of trousers with a T-Shirt but I also love putting on a skirt and heel and feeling very feminine. I'm never without a pair of earrings, that would just feel all wrong! And I am a huge sock wearer. So I suppose my style is eclectic and having Colville at my side I can now indulge all my loves.
Molly: Basically, Colville is both mine, Lucinda’s, and the team's desired future wardrobe. We are constantly asking each other if we would wear it, so definitely our personal styles are mixed up together in every collection.
Pictured: Colville Hi Low Panel Jumper from Parlour X.
Which piece (included in Parlour X’s order) is your favourite & why?
Lucinda: The Friday Night Dress is one of my favourites! The shape is really easy and flattering, and the print is just so great. I love that it's bold and neutral at the same time. You can dress it up (as it's name suggests!) but also it would look equally great with a pair of trainers.
Molly: For me it would have to be the upcycled puffer gilet. I just find it cool over a dress, or even jeans and a sweater. I think it’s also good to know each piece is handmade and curated in a couture way and at the same time helping the planet.
What is next for Colville?
Lucinda: What next....that's the great thing about working for Colville, is that it could be anything!
Molly: There is no stopping us! We have so many ideas and have to really practice patience and not run too fast! Our Colville home is growing and that’s exciting for us, we will bring everything together and present in April next year at the Salone Del Mobile in Milan, a first for us.
Shop Colville Exclusively at Parlour X.