I hate to admit this but until last season Maria Grachvogel was completely unknown to me. Having taken an eight year gap from London Fashion Week, the last time she showed her collection - which is often well known for Victoria Beckham's appearance on the runway - I was still dreaming about working in fashion whilst worrying about what was going on in the playground at high school. Last season was the first time I was introduced to her designs and was instantly taken by them and last month, when I was lucky enough to meet the woman herself, I left even more charmed than the first time we'd met.
Having interviewed my fair share of designers over the last few years, not many have been as charming as Grachvogel or quite frankly, appealed to me so much aesthetically. Arriving wearing one of her own printed dresses - one that I already had my eye on -, the designer completely embodied the essence of her brand and looked amazing doing it. "I focus on designing clothes that make women feel good," she said. "Clothes that appeal to the moods of a woman like feeling relaxed, or clothes that make you feel protected, sensual, womanly or dramatic."
Since watching her Autumn/Winter collection last season, I've always considered her as my best kept secret but considering the fact that only last month she appeared in British Harper's Bazaar's September issue and is often referred to as the go-to designer for a legion of fashion editors internationally, it's safe to say that what I once thought was a best kept secret is a pretty bad one.
Even during our interview at her Sloane Street boutique, she politely apologised and greeted a customer who regularly comes to the store and asks the designers for advice. "She's become a good friend," she said. But this isn't a rarity. Similarly, a petite Asian woman came to the store and didn't want to try something on based on the assumption that it wouldn't suit her until Grachvogel advised her to try it on, she told me. The same woman has come back several times since. It's this dedication to each individual customer that instantly had me convinced and is so apparent in the garments themselves and is why anyone can wear her designs.
"My ideal customer is all women," she said. "I don't use a fit model. You can have five models that are size 10 but they are all different so designs need to work alongside different body shapes." The same sentiment is applied on her signature 'artwork' prints. "They can't really be mass-produced - sometimes it's all about art," she said explaining that each print is adapted according to the size of the garment. Therefore, a size 8 will be adapted on the same dress in a size 18 to make sure that it is still as flattering. But would she ever use plus size models in her shows? "This is something I've considered," she said but knowing Grachvogel, if she were to make that move it wouldn't happen just to be controversial.
if you were wondering what you can expect from Grachvogel's Spring/Summer 2011 offerings, we come baring bad news. She wouldn't spill but what she did say is that she will continue working with prints and focusing on evollving the thread of her collections as opposed to following trends. "I always want to push new boundaries, " she said. "I'm more interest in cutting and sculpting garments around the body in ways that I've not seen before [as opposed to following trends".
And interestingly, fashion success aside, it's talking about her son - who she gave birth to after fashion week last season - that puts the biggest smile on her face.
Maria Grachvogel, 162 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9BS