Last Friday night was a huge night for Birmingham fashion. Harvey Nichols, in the fabulous Mailbox, hosted a very special fashion show that showcased the amazing talent of the label Philip Armstrong. I was lucky enough to be able to grab a bit of time after the show with Philip and Tony Burke Armstrong, the creative force behind the label, and to ask them a few questions. They proved to be friendly, approachable and funny – as gorgeous as their designs.
Q. You are famous for dressing celebrities, which celebrity have you most enjoyed working with?
A. Alesha Dixon, she’s a real style icon. A lot of designers aspire to dress her and we just love working with her. She’s very easy to relate to and work with and we seem to aspire to the same aesthetic. But saying that, all our good clients are a joy to dress. We treat everyone the same regardless of whether they are a celeb or non celeb and have incredibly loyal clients.
Q. You use lots of unusual fabric combinations, like teaming ultra feminine lace with sporty neoprene – can you talk a little about that?
A. We do a lot of research into fabrics, we just love the idea of contrast. The neoprene style has been so flattering, helps to cinch and stretch the body in. All our fabrics are chosen for a reason and it is something we really work hard on. We tweak the combinations and mixtures of fabrics each year if we think they work, we don’t just abandon concepts and ideas just to move onto the new season – we work with them.
Q You also mix colour combinations like the sleek black dresses with the neon zips that just pop…
A. The neon is funny because you can’t really see the full effect of the colour in the studio, the fluorescence, but then under the lights you get the amazing pop. That said – we love zips – Just zip mad!
Q Who Haven’t you yet dressed who you would love to dress?
A. Blake Lively from Gossip Girl – would love to dress her…and maybe Charlize Theron…
Q I was thinking Kate Middleton would look great in some of your more demure pencil skirt designs?
A Yes, would love to dress Kate Middleton. The designs would need to be demure, longer or 3/4 sleeves, but one of our designs, the Cella does make me think of Kate.
Q One of your points of difference is your couture service, tell me a little bit about that.
A The couture service is really how we got started, we done this since day 1. If you can build up a customer base, then customers will keep coming back for maybe 2/3 dresses each season. We are hoping to develop this sort of atelier service through Harvey Nichols through the personal shopping option. You will be able to come into the store, have your measurements taken for the dress you choose and then the dresses should be with the customer in a 7-8 day turnaround.
Q The new (resort) collection is amazing, what was the influence behind it?
A Roman Holiday, the Audrey Hepburn film from the 1950s. We imagined the heroine, this Italian Princess travelling around incognito, unidentified. That is why all the dresses have Italian style names. There are lots of references to 1950s style – we were imagining this princess rushing around the city.
Q And finally…You’ve dressed Dannii Minogue, Kelly Rowland, and just last week Tulisa, a lot of the X Factor ladies. Are you a fan of the series?
A Love it! We do a lot of socialising on Thursdays and Fridays, so Saturday night is the night in. We chill out and watch X Factor!
Q…and a winner?
A James Arthur, we really like James Arthur.
With huge thanks to Philip Armstrong and Tony Burke Armstrong, and Harvey Nichols, Birmingham.